Penn State Tops US News List of Best Online Bachelor’s Programs

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The annual US News and World Report rankings have put Pennsylvania State University at the top for its online bachelor’s degree program for the second year in a row, tying it with Florida’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which took the number one spot for the first time.

Aside from bachelor’s programs, the 2016 Best Online Programs also included seven disciplines at the master’s level, such as criminal justice and education. The University of South Carolina and the Medical University of South Carolina took the first and second place spots for their nursing programs, while the University of California and the University of Southern California took first for computer information technology.

Temple University’s Fox School of Business took first place among the top US online MBA programs in the rankings, coming in ahead of Indiana’s Kelley School and Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.  Last year the three schools all tied for first place.

The program, which comes with a price tag of $59,760, received high marks for faculty credentials and admissions selectivity.

The online MBA program rankings point toward an increase in digital learning and a shift away from traditional programs that come with a higher cost.  The magazine ranked 163 MBA programs this year, up from 147 last year.

Western Kentucky University has dropped to the third spot and the University of Chicago fell two spots to fourth place.

Meanwhile, one of the largest online-centered schools in the country, The University of Maryland University College, is not included in the list. The school, which gave out more than 4,100 bachelor’s degrees in 2014 and enrolls close to 48,000 students, said it chooses not to participate in the rankings, opting instead to focus on student success. According to university spokesman Bob Ludwig, the rankings do not use criteria to measure student outcomes that reflects that type of institution.

U.S. News spokesman Enxhi Myslymi spoke out about the “inaccuracies” mentioned by UMUC, stating that student outcomes are measured through graduation and retention rates, student debt, and student assessment, which combined account for 30% of the total ranking, writes Nick Anderson for The Washington Post.

A complex formula is used by the magazine to rank 1,200 online degree programs from regionally accredited schools throughout the country.  Student engagement, faculty credentials and training, peer reputation, and student services and technology are all taken into consideration, writes Reuven Blau for The New York Daily News.

“Online learning is becoming an integral part of higher education, and consumers are hungry for information related to legitimate online degrees,” said Anita Narayan, managing editor of Education at U.S. News. “The best Online Programs rankings can help prospective students begin their search for a program that suits both their academic and career goals, as well as their work and family schedules.”

The rankings are in their fifth year and offer a resource for students and working adults looking for an online program to advance their careers or complete a degree program.  A searchable database is available for users to take a closer look at a variety of information pertaining to tuition, program offerings, and online services available to enrolled students.