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UMC, UND top ranking of best online colleges

Some of the best distance learning opportunities in higher education might be within arm’s reach at nearby institutions, according to a recent national ranking.

The University of Minnesota-Crookston came in first in a “Top 100 Best Online Colleges” list compiled by virtual higher ed guide Online College Plan. UND also made a strong showing with the sixth place rank in the national list.

An introduction to the list described the ranking methodology as based on comparisons of student rankings as well as “technology used for course delivery, flexibility of classes, average cost of attendance and academic offerings.”

According to the description of UMC included in the list, the university offers more than a dozen online bachelor’s degree programs, in addition to a “handful” of certificates and minors. The ranking lists UMC as having, in total, about 30 undergraduate degrees.

UND is described in the ranking as having 10 online bachelor degrees and 20 online master’s degrees. The ranking states UND also has two doctoral programs in nursing that are available online. UND has seen an increasing number of students enrolled solely as distance learners through the past few years.

Lynette Krenelka, UND director of extended learning, said in an email that the fall 2016 semester had almost 3,350 students -- of a total enrollment of more than 14,950 -- enrolled as distance and online only. Nearly 1,970 students were enrolled that semester in a combination schedule of both online and traditional classroom courses.

In the fall 2014 semester, when total enrollment was about 14,900, distance-only learners stood with an enrollment of about 3,170 while the combined schedule enrolled almost 1,865 students.

Looking to the future, UND has targeted online learning as a key part of its strategic plan for the next five years and has pledged to increase its digital offerings. North Dakota politicians including Gov. Doug Burgum have also strongly advocated for more online offerings throughout the state’s system of higher education.

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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