The distance learning industry has exploded over the past two decades, beginning with the establishment of a host of primarily online education providers. Recently, a number of traditional institutions in Oregon have aggressively entered the marketplace, creating courses and, in many cases, certificate and degree programs in fully online formats.
Virtually all of Oregon’s public 4-year universities today offer online courses and degree programs in a wide range of major subjects. Among the largest are Portland State University in Portland, Oregon State University in Corvallis, and the University of Oregon in Eugene. Additionally there are over 15 2-year public community colleges throughout the state offering distance-learning options to their students. Online degrees and certificates are available from a surprising number of private, not-for-profit online colleges as well, including Concordia University-Portland, Pacific University in Forest Grove and George Fox University in Newberg.
A good to way to develop an understanding of a state’s postsecondary education environment is to take a look at what is available on the campuses of the colleges and universities in its biggest cities. With approximately 2.5 million residents in its metropolitan area, Portland is easily Oregon’s largest city, as well as the state’s cultural and economic center. The following two segments take a closer look at what’s happening today in Portland’s higher education institutions.
Supported in large part by university research, Portland has been called “America’s Greenest City” for its commitment to sustainability and alternative energy. Not surprisingly, many higher education institutions in the state offer cutting-edge green building, sustainable energy and sustainable forestry degrees. In this educated metropolis, over 43 percent of the city’s 609,456 residents 25 and up have completed at least a bachelor’s degree. The city plays host to two public universities, 16 private colleges and specialty schools, and one community college.
The University of Portland, a private Catholic institution founded in 1901, has been ranked eighth among Western Regional Universities by U.S. News and World Report for 2014. An independent liberal arts school, Reed College is renowned for its interdisciplinary and dual degree programs along with 26 department majors at the undergraduate level. Reed also offers a master’s degree in liberal studies.
When it comes to The Rose City’s sustainability sweet spot, Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions leads the way. The Institute offers a graduate certificate in sustainability, undergraduate degrees in environmental studies and urban planning, and a master’s and doctoral degrees in environmental management. Portland State has a 4-year degree completion guarantee in place, as well, meaning the university pays for all baccalaureate classes after the 4-year deadline. For a 2-year college experience, Portland Community College serves over 93,000 students a year at its three campuses in the city, making it the largest in the state. Students can complete associate degrees and certificates or enroll in an associate in arts or sciences Oregon Transfer Degree (AAOT) program in partnership with seven in-state 4-year colleges and universities. The community college’s CLIMB Center for Advancement offers continuing education programs for healthcare professionals and small business owners.
Portland Community College is also a main provider of online education in the Rose City. It has eight associate degrees that can be completed entirely online, as well as four hybrid programs that combine online and traditional campus methodologies. In addition, community college students can earn an online associate degree in computer information systems, fire science, health informatics and business management.
Portland State University’s online programs include undergraduate and graduate degrees from the school of business, a master’s of social work and a master’s in global supply chain management. Concordia University, a private Christian liberal arts school, offers its Master of Education (MEd) in a 1-year online format. Students can choose among 19 different concentrations for their master’s concentration in education including the field of special education, curriculum, technical education and the Oregon Special Education Added Endorsement.
Whether in Oregon or any other state, pursuing a college or university degree is an expensive proposition, which requires a great deal of forethought and planning. The first cost that any student must consider is tuition. Tuition can vary greatly from school to school, particularly when it comes to private colleges. In 2012, Oregon ranked 36th nationally in terms of average college tuition rates, with state residents paying $13,489 annually per student. However, tuition isn’t the only cost that students may find at the college or university of their choice. Schools typically charge an array of mandatory fees for items and services such as ID cards, student union membership, health care, parking and transportation.
The other major cost of attending college is broadly defined as “room and board.” Living expenses in Oregon are relatively high in comparison to other states, at approximately 10 percent above the national average. The following chart provides a look at cost of living (COL) figures for specific Oregon urban areas in relation to the national average (100).
|Urban Area||Composite Index||Housing||Groceries||Utilities||Transportation||Health Care||Misc.|
Although tuition and fees are important, what comes after college could be the difference maker. For example, students who graduate from an affordable university might have a difficult time finding a solid career, and vice versa. Therefore, when vetting colleges, never forget to look at each institution’s return on investment (ROI). Various entities collect and analyze the average cost of attendance at a school and subtract it from the average lifetime salary of its graduates. This estimates the lifetime ROI of that school. In Oregon, the following colleges stood out in 2013:
For students receiving financial aid, full institutional accreditation is critical. Proper accreditation of an individual school is a requirement for students at that school to receive federal loans or grants. In the U.S., institutional accreditation is administered through U.S. Department of Education-recognized regional agencies. The primary regional accrediting agency for Oregon postsecondary institutions is the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Institutions in Oregon can also seek programmatic or specialized accreditation for specific programs, colleges, or departments, on top of regional accreditation. For example, all of PSU’s individual schools and colleges have received programmatic accreditation from various agencies. Programs within PSU’s College of the Arts have received accreditation from three different accrediting agencies, depending on the area of study: the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), and the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST).
As the number of quality programs offered online continues to grow nationally, Oregon colleges and universities have kept pace. The convenience and flexibility offered by distance learning has made fitting a degree or certificate program into a busy lifestyle much easier, and without sacrificing any academic quality. The excellence of a few of these programs distinguishes them from all of the others in Oregon, and we’ve ranked the following colleges to be the best when it comes to maintaining quality, affordability and based on the number of programs offered. Discover the Best Online College in Oregon for 2015-2016 below.
|RANK||COLLEGE||Score||Student-Teacher Ratio||Financial Aid||Cost||MORE INFO|
|1||Portland State University||99.79||21:1||76%|
Portland State University has interactive online college courses, certificates, and degree programs. Depending on the degree, PSU offers fully online, hybrid, and distance learning options. Those interested in applying from outside the state of Oregon should look at PSU's state authorization page to ensure they are eligible for the programs.
Marylhurst University has provided online learning since the 1990s. Students can complete their bachelor's degree in English or business or master's degree in business entirely online or though a mix of both online and in-person courses. The University is considering adding a bachelor's in interdisciplinary studies to their online offerings soon.
|3||Oregon Institute of Technology||96.51||21:1||89%|
Oregon Institute of Technology, or Oregon Tech, boasts being the only school in the Pacific Northwest that has online bachelor of science degree completion programs for dental hygiene, diagnostic medical sonography, echocardiography, and more. Oregon Tech's online college programs are for registered professionals who are interested in earning a bachelor's degree. The school works with all students to develop individual paths for program completion.
|4||Warner Pacific College||96.42||11:1||93%|
Warner Pacific College allows busy adults the ability to complete a degree in an online distance-learning format. The Christ-centered programs include organizational dynamics, business or healthcare administration, and management. Bachelor degrees are offered in a wide range including business administration, education, nursing and sports and recreational management. The online degree mirrors the traditional on-campus programs, so students earn the same degree no matter where they take their classes. Class sizes are small and students progress through the program in a cohort model, so they get to know their classmates for collaboration and professional growth opportunities.
|5||Oregon State University||96.23||23:1||86%|
Oregon State University's online programs, also known as the OSU Ecampus, offers more than 30 accredited online degrees. Students can obtain undergraduate, master's, and doctoral level degrees in business, education, counseling, and natural resources. There are also a few certificate programs available in natural resources. Students of the OSU Ecampus have remote access to the school libraries, student services center, computer help desk, career services, and more.
|6||Western Oregon University||95.93||18:1||88%|
Both admitted and non-admitted students can take accredited online classes from Western Oregon University's WOU Online program. WOU Online includes undergraduate, graduate, and credit overlay classes taught using the Moodle platform. The school offers a free, introductory course for those interested in online learning that contains video tutorials, practice modules, and other resources.
|7||Northwest Christian University||94.89||12:1||100%|
Northwest Christian University's online program, though MyNCU, offers fully online and hybrid courses. The University has entirely online bachelor's degree programs for psychology, business administration, accounting, and interdisciplinary studies. Students can take programs at an accelerated pace with a semester's worth of material covered in two months, or at a decelerated pace.
|8||Linfield College-Online and Continuing Education||86.90||13:1||N/A|
Linfield College's Online and Continuing Education Program is designed for working adult and nontraditional students who wish to further their education and advance their careers. Online students have access to admissions counselors, academic advisors and technical support, and students can choose from start dates in every season. In addition to the six degree and 14 certificate programs available, students can complete a minor through online courses in creative writing, environmental studies, health administration or global health. For those with experience outside a traditional classroom, the school offers credits for completion of CLEP exams; experience in the military, business, or industry; and portfolios that demonstrate prior learning.
Every student in Oregon has a unique set of requirements when it comes to choosing an online degree or certificate program. Total costs, availability of major, accessibility to lectures and convenience of study, short-term academic and long-term career goals are common issues for every student. The difference lies in each student’s priorities. Locating the online program that best matches one’s particular needs and preferences can also be a problem. The tool below is designed to help Oregon students by allowing them to tailor their searches to match their specific priorities.
How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?
Online learning at EOU is integrated across our larger academic enterprise. Instead of housing our at-a-distance programming in a separate department, each college and student services area takes an active role in providing high-quality, high-touch experiences for our students. Online is not just an additional modality for taking classes at EOU; our at-a-distance programming is a core aspect of who we are as a university.
What makes your online programs so valuable to students?
With ten degrees available entirely online, students enjoy the access and flexibility of taking classes that fit their academic goals, all while living in locations worldwide. At EOU, high-touch is not just a catch phrase – we mean it! Our online programs are founded on the same highest common denominators that all of our academic programs are built upon. Each student has an academic advisor helping them develop a degree completion plan based on their academic and career goals, and providing consistent guidance through their educational journey. Students also connect directly with our professors instead of teaching assistants.
Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?
We foresee continued growth in the number of degree programs, associated minors and courses we offer for effective education at a distance. Our talented faculty and student services professionals will continue working to develop approaches and methods that further leverage technology for successful learning. We will continue providing enhanced blended experiences for students, connecting real-time instruction in the classroom with online options in a range of hybrid formats.
Becoming comfortable with the entire process and environment of an online college course of study can be challenging for the distance-learning beginner. There’s a lot to get used to right off the bat. But one thing newbies discover quickly is that the internet is a student’s greatest source of academic resources and support. Books, subject databases, time and money management tools, tutorial sites, help in developing language and composition skills and test preparation guides can be found online – and in many cases free of charge. The links below are offered as just a sample of the online tools and resources available.