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UND Online Education Receives High Marks
North Dakota Ag Connection - 01/21/2019

Over 30 percent or more than 6 million students in the U.S. took at least one distance-education course in 2016, the latest data analyzed by Babson Survey Research Group indicate. Year-to-year, the tally grew by nearly 6 percent, a spike that largely transpired in public universities.

In an interconnected world, it is safe to assume that distance -- predominantly online -- education bodes the future. And, the University of North Dakota keeps at the fore, as its 2019 U.S. News & World Report online rankings, released today, demonstrate.

The University placed in the top 25 for online graduate business programs and, compared to last year, advanced five slots in the MBA rankings, to 31st in the nation. Most remarkably, in online bachelor's degrees, it has leaped nearly 140 spots since 2016 to rest in the leading 20 percent of institutions this year.

To compile the rosters, U.S. News assessed over 1,500 online programs along key indicators such as student engagement, faculty credentials and technological support.

"I am very happy to see a progression toward a recognition by our peers and by how U.S. News & World Report teams evaluated our data that we are moving in the right direction," said Jeffrey Holm, vice provost, online education & strategic planning.

UND caters to some 3,500 exclusively online students seeking degrees in over 80 fields, Holm said.

As noteworthy UND's online programs are, one segment truly stands out -- the offerings for active-duty military personnel and veterans.

To assemble the best online programs for this demographic, U.S. News evaluated only universities from the top half of its general selection.

The rankings, hence, not only showcase UND's rising national profile in online education; they attest to the University's successful execution of its strategic goal to serve the military.

Catering to military members' needs, UND holds a top 50 position in online undergraduate options. In online graduate education degrees, the University comes in 21st, while it seizes the 12th rank for online graduate business programs.

"It is wonderful to see that the work we have been doing to become military friendly is all coming together," said Sherry Lawdermilt, director of application and integration support and part of the team implementing UND's military-focused objective.

Since Fall 2017, when the goal rolled out, the number of UND's military-affiliated students, both graduate and undergraduate, has risen by 5 percent, to over 1,200 last semester. Excluding ROTC and dependents, there were 100 active-duty students and over 700 veterans, as of the first month of Fall 2018. Combined, nearly three-quarters of them pursued bachelor's degrees.

To assay a higher-education institution, U.S. News demands at least 25 veterans and active service members to be enrolled in online undergraduate programs and no less than 10 in online master's degrees.

Most of UND's active-duty students earn diplomas online, said Holm. But so do veterans. Post-military considerations such as growing families and civilian jobs make on-campus enrollment not only less appealing, but often unfeasible.

"We have a breath of online programs that make what we have to offer to military members and veterans more attractive," said Holm, pointing to collaborations such as with the U.S. Air Force's Air University that allows active airmen and women to complete online courses from UND.

For them -- as well as all other active-duty learners -- UND has capped undergraduate tuition at $250 per credit, with the exception of differential charges for aerospace and engineering programs.

This model not only corresponds to but extends above U.S. News' criterion that public institutions offer in-state rates, which currently amount to a little over $360 per undergraduate credit at UND, to active-duty troops residing beyond state borders. UND's GI Bill assistance for veterans meets yet another ranking paragon.

"I have a real appreciation of what our service members do," said Lawdermilt, who herself served in the Marines over two decades ago. "We want to support them in any way we can."

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