U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT FIRST-EVER NATIONAL RANKINGS OF ONLINE GRADUATE EDUCATION PROGRAMS EARNS UNK A PLACE ON THE 'HONOR ROLL'
Dr. Ed Scantling
UNK College of Education Dean, 308.865.8502

Online graduate programs in the University of Nebraska at Kearney College of Education have earned "Honor Roll" recognition in the first-ever national rankings of online graduate education programs by U.S. News and World Report.

To earn national Honor Roll status in the new U.S. News ranking program, online graduate education programs had to place among the top 30 percent in three out of four categories. UNK ranked in the top 30 percent in all four categories. Only two other institutions in the nation--Auburn and Syracuse--earned top placement in all four.

The four categories, and UNK's ranking within each category, include: #4 in Faculty Credentials and Training, #17 in Student Engagement and Accreditation, #21 in Admissions Selectivity and #38 in Student Services and Technology. In all, 161 institutions in the United States with graduate education programs were included in the survey.

Among the universities included in the U.S. News online education graduate program Honor Roll are, in alphabetical order: Auburn University, Bowling Green State University, Brenau University, Fort Hays State University, George Washington University, Northern Illinois University, Penn State University-University Park, Sam Houston State University, Syracuse University, University of Houston, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, University of South Florida and Wright State University.

UNK has been offering online graduate programs in education for a decade. The UNK online graduate education programs are taught entirely online.

"The College of Education has led the way in online education on the UNK campus," said Dr. Kenya Taylor, UNK dean of Graduate Studies. "They were visionaries. They recognized the need to move instruction from face-to-face to online to meet the need of educators, not only in Nebraska but across the nation."

The first online graduate education classes offered were in educational administration and instructional technology. Today, 43 percent of the superintendents and 30 percent of the principals in the state have at least one degree from UNK, as do an estimated 6,500 currently practicing Nebraska educators. Although final enrollment numbers for fall 2011 are not yet available, in the fall of 2010, 1,652 students were enrolled in online graduate education classes. According to College of Education statistics, the average time from matriculation to graduation for online graduate education students is 2.5 years

"What has made our online graduate programs successful has been our commitment to the overall quality, along with the infrastructure that supports what we do," said Dr. Ed Scantling, dean of the UNK College of Education. "It's required that all faculty who teach online have training and that training is provided by UNK." Online graduate education at UNK earned its highest ranking, #4, in the Faculty Credentials and Training category.

"We use our full-time faculty to teach our online graduate courses," Dr. Scantling said. "The mean number of years of online teaching experience these faculty members have is six."

"It is distinctive, and a point of pride, that UNK placed very high in all four categories of the evaluation," said Dr. Charlie Bicak, senior vice chancellor for Academic/Student Affairs. "I am especially pleased and impressed by our number four listing in the Faculty Credentials and Training category. Our faculty invest significantly in quality online education, and this is further evidence of their passion for 'doing the right thing' on behalf of our students."

"Within the college of education, there are a number of professional development activities that enhance and reinforce the instructional training provided by eCampus," said Dr. Glen Powell, UNK associate dean of education. Dr. Powell completed the U.S. News survey.  

Gloria Vavricka, UNK director of eCampus, said, "UNK was a pioneer back in 2000. Not a lot of universities were offering online classes.

"College of Education faculty jumped on board early," she said. "Once they taught online, they realized that the classroom expanded. Teachers taking online classes share their experiences with teachers across the nation and in other countries." eCampus provides ongoing support and training for UNK online faculty with support from the University of Nebraska's Online Worldwide.

College of Education programs are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the North Central Association of the Higher Learning Commission. The following UNK graduate education programs are taught fully online: school principalship, curriculum supervisor, school superintendent, curriculum and instruction, special education, reading, instructional technology and master teacher of physical education. The education specialist degree is the highest degree offered by UNK.

"We are committed to growing undergraduate and graduate online offerings where it makes professional sense to do so," Dr. Scantling concluded.