U.S.News & World Report, the news magazine that produces one of the most popular annual rankings of universities, released today its first-ever national rankings for online education. Fort Hays State University was among the leaders in most of the categories.
The news magazine evaluated online higher education in six categories: bachelor's programs generally, and master's programs in business, education, engineering, nursing and computer information technology. Bachelor's programs were evaluated according to three criteria: 1. teaching practices and student engagement; 2. student services and technology; and 3. faculty credentials and training. The five master's categories were evaluated by similar criteria plus a fourth criterion, admissions selectivity.
Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, talked about the results at a news conference this afternoon. "Out of the many hundreds of universities in the nation that offer online education, we were one of only 40 that was placed on an honor roll, which is the highest designation in the rankings," Dr. Hammond said.
He listed the categories and criteria in which FHSU was ranked:
· Teaching Practices & Student Engagement -- sixth in the nation
· Student Services & Technology -- 10th in the nation
· Faculty Credentials & Training -- 35th in the nation
· Business (MBA), Student Services & Technology -- fifth in the nation
· Business (MBA), Faculty Credentials & Training -- 30th in the nation
· Business (MBA), Teaching Practices & Student Engagement -- 106th in nation
· Business (MBA), Admissions Selectivity -- 29th in the nation
· Education, Student Services & Technology -- 14th in the nation
· Education, Faculty Credentials & Training -- 15th in the nation
· Education, Teaching Practices & Student Engagement -- 22nd in the nation
· Nursing, Student Services & Technology -- sixth in the nation
· Nursing, Faculty Credentials & Training -- 19th in the nation
· Nursing, Teaching Practices & Student Engagement -- 15th in the nation
FHSU was given honor roll status in the Graduate Education category, which means it placed in the top third of at least three of the four evaluation criteria. It was among 14 universities that received honor roll status in that category. Those 14 universities were listed alphabetically, not in a numeric ranking order.
"These rankings confirm what we already knew, that FHSU has taken the right path in providing affordable and high quality education online," President Hammond said. "Our Virtual College enrollment could not have grown to 4,504 in the fall 2011 semester if the courses were not high quality, because people will not compromise on quality when it comes to something as important as their college education."
The confirmation of quality tells only half the story, however. The president pointed out that about a dozen FHSU online programs have been recognized by GetEducated.com in recent months as among the most affordable of their type in the nation. For example, GetEducated.com ranked each of two programs -- Master of Liberal Studies with a concentration in Justice Studies, and Bachelor of Science in Information Networking & Telecommunications/Computer Networking -- as No. 1 in the nation for affordability. Four other FHSU online programs were ranked second most affordable, and a fifth program was ranked third most affordable.
"FHSU offers online education programs that are among both the best in the country and the most affordable in the country according to independent evaluators," President Hammond said. "There is simply no better choice in the nation than our Virtual College for anyone who is looking for an online degree."
Dr. Larry Gould, who as provost heads up the academic division of FHSU, talked about the importance of today's U.S.News & World Report announcement. "One key to growing any distance education program is capturing the attention of potential online learners by enhancing your brand and disrupting the competition," he said. "Institutions that have been offering online programming for many years are now looking for ways to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. There is no doubt that this new set of rankings will go a long way in helping the Virtual College differentiate its brand and stand out as a leader among distance education providers. Equally important for me, this announcement is an affirmation of the excellence, care and commitment our faculty and staff place in the online delivery of affordable and unique next-generation learning experiences."
Dennis King, director of the Virtual College, noted that this latest recognition came on the heels being named Military Friendly in November. "Also, while we are celebrating these results, we are preparing to launch another major initiative to improve the quality of our online offerings," he said. An announcement of the new initiative is scheduled for April.
President Hammond also commended the faculty, staff and administrators who work hard to create the excellent online environment for learning. "FHSU's entrepreneurial, forward-thinking culture is being recognized around the world," he said. "This recognition should serve as proof to Fort Hays State's graduates, and its current and future students, that they made the right choice for their education."