U.S. News Now Ranking Online Degree Programs

For the first time, U.S. News and World Report has published rankings of online degree programs. In the past, U.S. News has been primarily known for ranking brick-and-mortar institutions. But it seems that it has taken notice of the growing student population that is opting for an online rather than on-campus education.

U.S. News has been ranking colleges and universities for more than 25 years. Across the country, people look to these rankings each year to see which graduate program, public university, liberal arts college, or business school comes out on top. Often these rankings help prospective students decide which institution they should apply to, program will look best on their resume, or where they can go for the best value education.

Release January 2012, the Top Online Education Programs rankings examine 196 online bachelor’s degree programs and 523 online master’s degree programs in five disciplines. Rankings for online bachelor’s degree programs pooled all undergraduate programs together, integrating data from all disciplines regarding three indicator rankings. These indicator rankings include: student engagement and assessment; student services and technology; and faculty credentials and training.

At the master’s level, the publication separates the rankings into five popular graduate disciplines – business, education, nursing, engineering, and computer technology. Each discipline was examined by four indicator rankings, including student engagement and accreditation; student services and technology; faculty credentials and training; and admissions selectivity.

Rather than the typical overall program numeric ranking, U.S. News presented the top schools for each surveyed area in an online programs honor list. For example, schools that made the honor roll for bachelor’s degree programs were the ones that ranked within the top one third of the three indicator rankings. Schools were ranked numerically within each indicator ranking regarding faculty, students, and services and technology. For master’s programs, the rankings were separated by discipline with the top schools for each program making an honor role, with the exception of computer information and technology. Additionally, schools were also ranked within each of the four program indicator rankings.

Honor roll schools within the rankings included University of Florida, Pace University, and George Washington University. Noticeably absent from the honor rolls were some of the for-profit institutions that are most popularly associated with online education and are among those with the highest enrollment in online programs, such as University of Phoenix, American Public University, and Devry University. However, all three of these schools ranked among the top 25 within individual indicator rankings, along with several other well-known for-profit schools such as Post University, Jones International University, Herzing College, and Walden University.

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