Fort Hays State University is the top university in Kansas and one of the elite universities in the nation for the quality of its online education programs, according to a just-completed survey by U.S. News & World Report, a prominent national news magazine.
Of equal importance, the online courses and degrees offered by Fort Hays State through its Virtual College are less expensive than every one of the universities that were ranked as high or higher than FHSU in the survey. (The costs per credit hour were determined in a review by FHSU staff of university websites independent of the U.S. News survey. In just a handful of instances, tuition information was not available on the websites.)
U.S. News, which produces one of the most popular general rankings of colleges and universities, released today its third annual national rankings that specifically target online education. As in the previous two years, FHSU was among the leaders out of the thousands of public and private universities in the United States.
The news magazine evaluated online higher education in six categories: bachelor's programs generally and master's programs in business, education, engineering, nursing and computer information technology. FHSU offers online bachelor's courses and master's courses in business, education and nursing.
Based on the statistical data provided to U.S. News by FHSU, all four programs were rated highly:
* For online bachelor's degrees, FHSU ranked 16th.
* For online master's degrees in education, FHSU ranked 20th.
* For online master's degrees in business, FHSU ranked 64th.
* For online master's degrees in nursing, FHSU ranked 71st.
FHSU was the top ranked university in the state of Kansas for each category except online nursing, where the University of Kansas was ranked 24th.
The criteria used by U.S. News included student engagement; faculty credentials and training; peer reputation; student services and technology; and admissions selectivity.
"Fort Hays State was a pioneer in incorporating modern technology into our curriculum and using it to make higher education available at a distance, so we expect to excel in surveys like this one," said Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president. "I'm sure that if the 'popularity contest' criterion, peer reputation, was removed from the equation, we would be ranked even higher. We are not as well known nationally as many larger universities, but in the quantifiable criteria of faculty excellence and services to students, we take a back seat to no one."
President Hammond also noted that while it was not part of the survey, FHSU has emphasized academic rigor from the beginning in the development and delivery of its online courses. "High standards and integrity are essential in the traditional classroom and over the Internet," he said. "Each delivery modality presents unique challenges, and we have been unwavering in what we demand so that our graduates and their employers can be assured of a high-quality education."
The president and Dennis King, director of the Virtual College, also pointed out that in addition to high quality, FHSU offers exceptionally low tuition to its online students.
"We are in the lowest 1 percent nationally in terms of online tuition," King said. "This survey further proves our claim that FHSU students are getting a top tier education at the most affordable price."
All the schools that were ranked above FHSU in the bachelor's degree category had higher tuitions -- much higher in most cases. The per-credit-hour cost for an online bachelor's degree at FHSU was $182. Only the State University of New York College of Technology-Delhi was even close, at $265. The rest ranged from $305 to $1,215 per credit hour.
It was the same story in the online master's of education category. The cost per credit hour was $246 at FHSU. All the other universities were higher. Northern Illinois University was the closest at $342. All the rest ranged from $400 to $1,401 per credit hour.
The cost for an online MBA credit hour was $400 at FHSU. Of the 63 universities that were ranked higher in the online business category, only one -- Arkansas State University-Jonesboro -- had a lower tuition, at $238, but that was only for its in-state students. Students outside of Arkansas who take MBA courses online from ASU-Jonesboro must pay $476 per credit hour. The per-credit-hour cost at most of the other universities was at least double or triple the cost at FHSU. The number-one-ranked school, Indiana University-Bloomington, had a cost per credit hour of $1,175.
The cost for an online nursing credit hour was $246 at FHSU. Of the schools ranked higher, two had a cost per credit hour of $327 and $386. All the rest were higher than $400 a credit hour, and 16 of them were over $1,000 a credit hour.
President Hammond commended faculty, staff and administrators for their hard work in creating the excellent online learning environment. "We are recognized far and wide for our forward-thinking, world-ready culture," he said. "This recognition by U.S. News for the third year in a row shows our graduates, our current students and our future students that FHSU is the right choice for their online education."