Online programs rise in rankings

Online degrees at all four UM System universities recognized among the best in nation.

In the midst of a worldwide pandemic that has forced much of higher education to pivot to remote learning, online programs across University of Missouri System institutions are being recognized among the best in the nation, according to the U.S. News & World Report 2021 Best Online Programs Rankings.

That includes Missouri S&T’s online master of engineering programs, which ranked No. 18 out of 97 institutions, tying with Auburn University and University of Alabama. The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s master of nursing programs ranked No. 23 out of 173 institutions, tying with University of Louisiana-Lafayette, University of Pittsburgh and University of Texas-Tyler. 

Online programs throughout the UM System also ranked well in a category that U.S. News calls “Best for Veterans.” Mizzou’s online graduate education programs rank No. 5 for veterans and its online bachelor’s programs ranked No. 9 for veterans. Missouri S&T’s online engineering programs ranked No. 10 for veterans.

Additionally, online bachelor’s programs at MU climbed 85 spots to No. 14 out of 337 institutions, tying with Illinois State University, North Carolina State University, University of Central Florida and University of Oklahoma. The University of Missouri-St. Louis rose 10 spots to No. 42 in the same category. MU offers 16 online bachelor’s degrees, and UMSL has 19 of its bachelor’s offerings online.

Mizzou’s online graduate business degrees — in a category that excludes MBA programs — rose 86 spots to No. 34 out of 164 institutions, tying with Colorado State University, University of South Dakota and West Texas A&M University.

“It was an unprecedented year for higher education, but our dedicated team of professionals continued to provide our online students with the same high quality of education that has long been recognized among the best in the nation, this year we worked hard to enhance our digital platform and student experience while working to grow enrollment” said Matthew Gunkel, chief online learning and technology officer for UM System. “Our online programs are developed by the same faculty who teach on campus and provide participating students with a degree that truly means something.”

The new rankings are included in the 2021 edition of the Best Online Programs rankings released today by U.S. News & World Report and are based on data from 2020.

Increased access to quality online education is a strategic goal for the UM System, which now promotes more than 260 online offerings from its four universities through Missouri Online. Efforts are paying off with enrollment of distance students growing 41% systemwide over the past five academic years. This is growth in fully online programs and doesn’t include enrollment in courses that may have been moved online due to the pandemic.

Mizzou’s online master of education programs ranked higher than any other institution in Missouri for the fourth consecutive year. It climbed 45 spots since last year’s rankings to No. 15, tying with CUNY-Hunter College, Portland State University, Texas Tech University, University of North Texas and Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Even before we pivoted our delivery of teaching and learning due to COVID-19, we were making strategic investments in training for online faculty and online course quality metric,” said Steve Graham, senior associate vice president for Academic Affairs at the UM System. “We are happy that our online programs continue to receive the national recognition they deserve.”

U.S. News ranked schools with online graduate programs in five general categories: engagement; expert opinion; faculty credentials and training; services and technologies; and student excellence.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the vast majority of students enrolled in the ranked bachelor’s online programs have earned at least some college credit. Rather than first-time college students, they are more likely to be working professionals in their 20s to 40s looking to advance in or change their careers. Consequently, the factors U.S. News selected to make comparisons between programs did not include measures only applicable to teenage applicants, such as high school grades and standardized test scores. Instead, it chose factors that weigh how online programs are being delivered and their effectiveness at awarding affordable degrees in a reasonable amount of time.

U.S. News and World Report Badges 2021