By David Miller
In its second year of operation and first year of rankings eligibility, the University of Arizona has landed in the top quarter of all online bachelor’s programs. The 2017 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs rankings by U.S. News & World Report placed UA Online at No. 81 out of 312 programs, or in the upper 25.9 percent.
“Long recognized for the quality of education in its STEM, business, social science and liberal arts programs, the University of Arizona has translated these educational opportunities to an online learning experience that is equally enriching,” said UA President Ann Weaver Hart. “I am very pleased that the UA is being recognized for this accomplishment on such a prestigious national platform and very proud of the outcomes these programs are creating for our students.”
“To reach this echelon in our first year is a great achievement for the University,” said Vincent Del Casino, vice provost of digital learning and student engagement. “We’ve had a long history of success in our on-campus undergraduate educational programs and have fully translated that to the online experience. This year, we expect to accelerate our accomplishments as we scale our model and launch more degree programs and graduate an even larger number of our students.”
At the core of this rapid ascent is UA Online’s unique educational model. Unlike other universities around the country that rely on third-party outsourcing, the UA built its online platform from the ground up, entirely in-house. This crucial differentiator gives the UA a level of quality control that allows it to deliver the same faculty, courses and degrees as those on campus. UA students, in person or online, can count on a world-class education no matter their learning format.
In addition to the 30 undergraduate degrees offered, UA Online offers 40-plus graduate degrees and certificates. UA Online also has launched a number of successful undergraduate academic ventures this past year, including the General Education Academy, which allows students to complete their pre-major requirements entirely online.
UA Online also signed corporate partnerships with employers such as GEICO, Caterpillar Inc., Cox Communications and Salt River Project to invest in their talent. Most recently, the UA took the major step of launching the UA Online Science Academy, one of the first programs in the country to bring a comprehensive suite of STEM courses, including labs, to the online space.
“When we set out to develop our online platform, we identified a market need for a quality-first, student-first model — a model that would build upon our academic standing as a Research 1 university combined with the dynamic benefits of a virtual experience,” said Melissa Vito, senior vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and senior vice provost for Academic Initiatives and Student Success. “Our online platform has opened up new pathways for students from all walks of life and also helped us build new relationships with corporate partners looking to invest in their workforce.”
UA Online students are helping redefine what it means to be a UA student. The average age of a UA Online attendee is 31, and 56 percent of the enrollees are female. Many have work or family commitments that prevent them from attending a physical campus, so they require the flexibility, high-touch support and academic excellence that UA Online provides. Additionally, 41 percent of UA Online students come from historically underrepresented groups, contributing to an environment of inclusive excellence and exceeding many national online benchmarks.
UA Online’s growth and success come at a crucial time for the state. With the launch of Achieve60AZ, the statewide educational attainment initiative that seeks to equip 60 percent of Arizonans with a post-high school certificate or degree by 2030, online degrees will play a key role in the project’s ultimate success. And with total online enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, the UA is on pace to exceed its goal of 12,000 online students by 2025 as determined by the Arizona Board of Regents.
U.S. News & World Report also gave high marks to several of the UA’s online graduate programs. The Eller Online MBA ranked No. 55 out of 179 in the 2017 Best Online MBA Programs list. The Eller management and information systems graduate program (MISonline) ranked No. 11 out of 38, and top-5 among MIS programs, in Best Online Computer Information Technology Programs. The UA nursing graduate program placed No. 42 out of 148.
U.S. News & World Report ranks these programs based on student engagement, faculty credentials and training, student services and technology, and peer reputation.
Top photo by Benjamin Dodd and Jason Ryder.