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Published January 17, 2014, 09:11 AM

UMC gets online laurels: Campus among top schools in country for online programs

For the third consecutive year, the University of Minnesota-Crookston is ranked among the top 25 percent of colleges for "Best Online Bachelor's Programs."

By: Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald

For the third consecutive year, the University of Minnesota-Crookston is ranked among the top 25 percent of colleges for "Best Online Bachelor's Programs."

The online academic rankings, made by U.S. News and World Report magazine, place UMC 69th out of 283 higher education respondents.

The four-year college's online degree program started in 1996, when UMC was approved to deliver a bachelor's degree of applied health. UMC's online degree programs have a large percentage of students who are working and already have two-year degrees.

Over the course of the next 16 years, 12 more degrees have been added to UMC's online offerings and one more - a Bachelor of Science in entrepreneurship - has been approved to start in the 2014-15 school year.

"We have 800 online students and most of them are seeking totally online degrees," said Michelle Christopherson, director of the Center for Adult Learning, which oversees online education.

"Most of our online students have two-year degrees who wish to complete a bachelor's degree but don't want to relocate. Most are already working and taking classes at the same time."

In addition to its 800 online students, UMC has 1,000 on-campus students.

'Icing on the cake'

The magazine's rankings were based on factors such as graduation rates, faculty credentials, technology and academic and career support services offered to students. The Crookston campus ranks 25th of the 283 schools in the category of student services/technology.

The only other Minnesota school to rank in the top 100 was Concordia-St. Paul. The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus was 160th and regional rankings included UND at No. 131 and Bemidji State at No. 194. The full listing is available online at www.usnews.com/education/online-education/bachelors/rankings.

"By being in the top 25 percent, we know we are doing a good job," Christopherson said. "Ranking higher than our Minnesota peers is icing on the cake."

Barbara Keinath, vice-chancellor for academic affairs, said UMC was among the earliest of Minnesota institutions to offer complete online learning programs.

"In addition to that early start, the good University of Minnesota name, good programs and affordable tuition, we have built a strong and deserved reputation," Keinath said.

Fred Wood, the UMC chancellor, said in a news release that recognition from the likes of U.S. News showcases the campus.

"As the world changes, it's good for our students to know they can choose either a great, more traditional on-campus experience or a great online experience that allows them to maintain their workplace, family and location ties," Wood said.

"This is particularly helpful for nontraditional and older students. It is, after all, part of our modern land grant mission to help create access to higher education in a way that meets our students' needs."