Online schools have revolutionized the way Oklahomans – and everyone else – can complete their educations. For-profit colleges may have been among the first to experiment with web-based learning, but today, Oklahoma schools and colleges of all types and sizes offer online classes and degree programs.
At the forefront of Oklahoma’s public online colleges and universities is the 25-campus-strong Oklahoma State System of Higher Education. The system’s two biggest schools are the University of Oklahoma, with its main campus in Norman, and Oklahoma State University, located in Stillwater. Both offer a substantial number of undergraduate and graduate degrees that can be pursued online. Among private, not-for-profit online college options in Oklahoma are Oklahoma City University, Oral Roberts University and the University of Tulsa. Additionally, nearly 20 2-year public community colleges currently offer some level of distance education course work.
As is often the case, a state’s economic and cultural centers lie within the limits of its largest cities. Additionally, a great way to understand a state’s academic climate is to check closely on what is happening in those cities. In Oklahoma, that means Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The next two segments are devoted to a closer look at college life today in Oklahoma City.
Education remains a high priority in the city nicknamed “The Big Friendly.” Some 28 percent of residents over the age of 25 have completed at least a bachelor’s degree. The OKC metropolitan area is home to two state universities, a public community college, a private city university, one Christian university, a Baptist seminary and over 20 independent specialty schools.
Oklahoma State University (OSU-OKC) opened its branch in the city in 1961. Today it offers more than 40 undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. The school’s forte is in its bachelor’s of technology, bachelor’s of science, and associate of science degree programs. Ten degree or certificate programs can be taken entirely online. The undergraduate entrepreneurship program is listed among the 2014 business school rankings by U.S. News and World Report.
The University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center (OUHSC) in Oklahoma City is among U.S. News’ Best Grad School rankings for its programs in nursing, audiology, occupational therapy, psychology, physical therapy and speech-language pathology. The university provides OKC students the opportunity to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in major fields of allied health, dentistry, medicine (MD), nursing, pharmacy and public health.
Students who can’t attend a traditional college or university can find online degree and certificate programs from schools in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) is the fourth largest school in the state with 28,000 students, but degree seekers can avoid the crowds by enrolling in online degree programs and courses such as accounting, allied health, biology, computer science, emergency medical sciences, nursing, psychology, marketing and graphic design. OCCC grants 2,000 college degrees each year.
Oklahoma State University is another school offering OKC residents access to wholly online, accredited degree programs. Students can choose among associate degrees in police science, public service, management, business, marketing and healthcare administration. Two certificate and one bachelor’s degree program are offered in the human services fields, including a BS in technology in emergency response, and certificates of mastery of early care education administration. Other private, for-profit schools such as the University of Phoenix, Westwood College and Columbia Southern University, also offer distance degree and certificate programs.
Higher education can be a valuable investment in one’s future. This is why students need to consider cost when researching Oklahoma colleges and universities. Tuition usually constitutes the largest share of a program’s overall price tag. Many schools –particularly public colleges – offer Oklahoma residents a reduced tuition rate, so it often pays to be local. In 2012, Oklahoma residents paid an average of $8,556 per year in tuition, a figure that placed the state eighth nationally in terms of in-state tuition.
It is important to keep in mind that most colleges add fees to the tuition bills. Students may be able to avoid some fees by simply forgoing certain services, like parking or recreational passes. Other fees, like lab and health center fees are often mandatory. Admissions counselors can clarify if any fees can be waived.
Potential students should also consider regional living expenses when weighing colleges, especially if they do not intend to work while in school. These costs extend to housing, food, utilities and other expenses. The average cost of living (COL) for Oklahoma residents is 10 percent lower than the national average, but these expenses can shift from one area to the next. The following table can put expenses for Oklahoma’s metropolitan areas in perspective, with costs relative to a national COL index of 100.
|Urban Area||Composite Index||Housing||Groceries||Utilities||Transportation||Health Care||Misc.|
Students thinking about college in Oklahoma should also vet each school’s documented return on investment (ROI). For example, graduates of one college may have better career and salary prospects after school than graduates of another. ROI can be calculated in a number of ways, although many analyses look at the average lifetime salaries of graduates minus the total cost of attendance. Using that calculation, the following Oklahoma colleges came out on top in 2013:
Most financial aid programs and organizations require applicants to attend accredited colleges and programs. Accreditation refers to a process by which a third party, independent organization reviews programs to ensure they meet certain quality standards. A number of accrediting agencies evaluate Oklahoma colleges and universities, including both regional and national organizations. Among them are the national Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and the Distance Education and Training Council. The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools is another regional accreditor for Oklahoma schools. In addition to regional or national accreditation, colleges in Oklahoma can also seek programmatic or specialized accreditation from various reputable agencies for specific programs, colleges, or departments. For example, the physician assistant program at the University of Oklahoma – Tulsa maintains accreditation from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).
Convenience and flexibility are among the key selling points to an online college program. But for many individuals in Oklahoma, the ability to instantly bridge the physical distance between student and campus is the crucial element. Nevertheless, choosing the right distance education course of study requires more than just finding an accessible program. Academic quality is paramount, but locating those programs whose excellence sets them apart from the others can be difficult and time consuming. The list below has been put together to simplify the process by presenting the state’s top schools for distance learning. Read on to find out which ones made the list of 2015-2016’s Best Online Colleges in Oklahoma.
|RANK||COLLEGE||Score||Student-Teacher Ratio||Financial Aid||Cost||MORE INFO|
Langston University, a historically black college, offers an online master's degree in educational leadership to students who prefer distance learning. The program is 36 credits in all, including 12 credit hours of required courses and 24 credit hours of educational leadership instruction. Students in the online degree program need to complete a written comprehensive exam as part of the degree requirements as well.
|2||Oral Roberts University||96.15||15:1||98%|
Oral Roberts University offers an online RN-to-BSN degree to students who want to complete a four-year degree through distance learning. The online college program is geared toward students who already have an associate degree and who want to advance to obtain a bachelor's of science degree in nursing. Program accreditation is through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Oklahoma State Board of Nursing.
|3||Northwestern Oklahoma State University||95.94||17:1||96%|
Northwestern Oklahoma State University provides students with several online college degree options to advance their learning. These include a bachelor's of science in accounting or business administration, a bachelor's of applied arts and science in technical management and an RN-to-BSN program. These degrees are designed around the basis of flexibility and convenience in student scheduling.
|4||Oklahoma Wesleyan University||95.93||15:1||100%|
Oklahoma Wesleyan University, providing a Christian-based education, offers online college degrees through "OKWU Online" at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Among these e-learning options are the Bachelor's of Science degree in Criminal Justice and an online MBA available with a variety of concentrations, including in human resources, marketing and nursing management. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
|5||Southern Nazarene University||95.19||14:1||100%|
Southern Nazarene University offers online programs to students at the associate, bachelor's and master's degree levels. Available options include an RN-to-BSN degree, a bachelor's degree in organizational leadership, and an MBA that can be completed with a healthcare administration focus. The school, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, also offers individual courses through e-learning.
|6||Southwestern Oklahoma State University||95.04||18:1||95%|
Students at Southwestern Oklahoma State University can complete online college courses through the school's Center for Distance and eLearning. Coursework can be found in accounting, healthcare, education, finance, philosophy, psychology and many more. The schools utilizes numerous methods of course delivery including blended programs, fully online degrees, interactive TV and webinars.
Cameron University provides a variety of undergraduate and graduate-based degrees for students who want to pursue distance learning. Many of the programs are entirely online, while some may use blended components. Online degrees available to students include the Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice, the Bachelor's of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies and the online MBA.
|8||Oklahoma Panhandle State University||94.81||16:1||92%|
Oklahoma Panhandle State University provides a variety of online college learning options to students who want to pursue distance learning. Individual courses, an RN-to-BSN degree, and continuing education courses are among the various choices for e-learning. Credit and non-credit courses also provide additional opportunities for students who want to advance their knowledge through distance education.
|9||University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus||94.66||18:1||74%|
The University of Oklahoma offers many different online college learning options through its "OU Outreach" program. Undergraduate and graduate degrees, credit programs, and independent learning are among its Web-based offerings. Online instruction can even be found during the university's intersession, and online degrees are available in areas such as aviation, administration leadership, criminal justice and others.
|10||Rogers State University||94.36||23:1||88%|
Rogers State University offers various associate and bachelor's degree programs to students who seek online learning. Among available e-learning programs are the school's Associate of Science degree in Computer Science, and its Bachelor's of Science degree in Business Information Technology. Other online degree options can be found at the university, which is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
|11||University of Oklahoma-Health Sciences Center||87.66||8:1||N/A|
University of Oklahoma's College of Allied Health offers non-clinical online degree completion programs for students who want to earn degrees in medical imaging and radiation sciences. This degree allows working professionals a degree that will help them to enhance their career or move into clinical management positions and leadership roles in their industry. Students access and communicate with instructors and peers via the online bulletin board discussions, allowing collaboration and open access. Advanced degrees are also available online.
The task of sifting through the sheer number of quality online college programs can be daunting, especially when considering a degree program in a popular field like computer science, business or healthcare. The biggest challenge is in filtering out those programs that fail to match up with an individual student’s specific list of needs and preferences. Typically included in that list are total program cost, graduate employment rates, flexibility in class attendance and study, and school reputation. The search tool below is designed to make the search for the best program easier by allowing students to factor in their particular academic wants and needs.
How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?
We try to meet the needs of our students in a way which is most accessible to them and which allows us to deliver the best education possible. The quality of the education comes first.
What makes your online programs so valuable to students?
With our online programs, students are able to achieve their educational goals at an affordable price without having to relocate. This is especially meaningful to working adults. Our programs are taught by highly qualified and dedicated faculty members with extensive professional and teaching experience.
Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?
SWOSU is gradually expanding online course offerings, and making sure that rigor and quality of design are an integral part of the process. A degree from SWOSU, whether online or traditional, represents substantial educational achievement. We are constantly improving the quality of our online classes and gaining knowledge from our experience in the online arena.
Whether a total newcomer or a seasoned pro, it’s important for online learners to know where they can go to get the support they need for academic success. The internet is the source for an almost limitless number of education-related tools and applications, many designed specifically with the online college student in mind. The links below provide just a small sample of the types of online resources available to help both college students in general and Oklahoma students in particular.