UA Online gets top marks in rankings

According to federal data gathered from more than 4,700 colleges and universities in the United States, more than 6.3 million students took at least one online course in 2016, a 5.6 percent jump from the previous year. While we await stats for last year, it’s safe to assume that online enrollment for both undergraduates and graduate students alike will continually rise. This is evident in the recent news about the University of Arizona’s online programs hitting high marks among the nation’s top online bachelor’s degrees.

Arizona Online, the university’s online education hub, landed at number 29 on the U.S. News & World Report’s list of best online bachelor’s programs for the year, a 27-spot jump from the university’s first appearance in 2017. The report features 348 programs in the country.

The big kudos for UA Online’s presence on the list was its placement in information technology graduate programs, which includes information systems, computer science, computer engineering and software engineering. These areas of focus are vaulting Arizona and the Greater Tucson area specifically with growth in jobs. Companies like Raytheon and Axiscades are expanding their respective operations in southern Arizona for engineering professionals, making the University of Arizona a veritable hotbed of workforce development.

“This ranking represents our commitment to delivering a high-quality, rigorous degree program to a group of ambitious adult learners,” Dr. Vincent Del Casino, Interim Senior Vice Provost and Vice President Academic Initiatives and Student Success, said. “Over the next several years, as we are able to include data on graduation rates, we hope to continue to climb in the rankings.”

The university’s online schooling saw a big leap in year-over-year increases in other graduate-level course offerings, including its online MBA program, which landed at number 21 out of 285 programs; it was at number 33 last year, signaling a steady increase. The university’s expansive education program saw the largest bump in rankings, jumping from number 180 on the list in 2018 to number 29 this year. Programs such as engineering and nursing also hit high on the list.

Last fall, Arizona Online saw more than 3,700 students enroll in both undergraduate and graduate programs, with more than half of its online undergraduates being first-generation college students. The school’s student body is also changing in terms of demographics as more than 70 percent are over the age of 25, pointing out that many online students are working adults looking to position themselves for a better career or change their area of expertise completely. The flexibility of online courses has made it easier and more complementary to attain a degree for people like working adults and military personnel.

“Arizona Online continues to respond to the market needs of students by updating our catalogue on an annual basis,” Del Casino said. “Arizona Online does plan to continue to grow over the next decade. We currently enroll approximately 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The 2025 goal is around 10,000-12,000 fully-online learners.”

The University of Arizona currently offers 32 undergraduate majors and 31 graduate-level majors. Online students can also pursue 32 graduate certificates and nine doctoral degrees online.

Nick Esquer

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