College Online Programs

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U.S. News will rank online bachelor's programs, as well as master's programs in seven different areas.

Criminal justice graduate programs will be included in the 2015 Best Online Programs rankings.

For the first time, criminal justice graduate programs are in the mix. So too is a standalone rating of online MBA programs. U.S. News will now publish two business rankings: one of online MBA programs and a separate one of all other online master's in business programs, in areas such as finance, accounting or risk management.

The new rankings for online MBA and criminal justice programs have been added to give prospective students a better sense of the overall quality of programs in these two very popular fields.

The criminal justice, MBA and business lists will complement U.S. News' 2015 rankings of online master's programs in education, engineering, information technology and nursing. There also will be a fresh ranking of online bachelor's degree programs designed for adult learners looking to complete their four-year undergraduate degrees.

Altogether, more than 1, 200 distance education degree programs will be cataloged in the usnews.com searchable directory, up from 996 the previous year. All programs more than a year old with at least 10 students enrolled will be ranked.

The primary audience for these online program rankings and the detailed program profiles is working adults – often in their 30s or 40s – who may not have the flexibility to leave the workforce to take classes during the day but still wish to obtain commensurate education, skills and credentials to boost their careers.

Prospective students can use the rankings to gauge program quality, and use the searchable directory to explore additional information on such factors as tuition, program offerings and online services offered to enrolled students.

For example, a user will be able to search for institutions that award distance education bachelor's degrees in fields as specific as dental hygiene or accounting; compile a list of all master's in education programs at local public institutions that charge in-state tuition; or determine which online MBA programs share faculty and curriculum with their reputable campus-based counterparts.

Following the publication of the Best Online Programs on usnews.com in January, highlights of the rankings will later be included in the "Best Graduate Schools 2016" and "Best Colleges 2016" guidebooks.

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