BEST BUYS

Online programs in criminal justice and project management
earn high marks for affordability and quality

From staff reports

Two of Western Carolina’s online programs once again have been recognized with No. 1 national rankings in affordability and quality by the distance education information clearinghouse GetEducated.com.

Using skills from her online courses in project management,
Hope Huskey of the Cherokee Business Development Center
assists small businesses such as the Tribal Grounds coffee shop.

WCU’s Internet-based bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice is listed first among a group of 19 “best buys.” The rankings are based on a fall 2009 survey of regionally accredited universities that offer bachelor’s degree programs in criminal justice through distance education. The university’s online master’s degree program in project management is listed first among a group of top 34 “best buys.” Those rankings are based on a review of 56 regionally accredited business schools that offer 96 different management and administration master’s degrees through distance education.

“It’s gratifying that outside agencies continue to give us high marks for the value and quality of our academic programs,” said WCU Provost Kyle Carter. Vittal Anantatmula, director of the MPM degree program, called the latest rankings “national recognition from one of the leading experts in the field of distance education, providing independent validation that WCU offers both high quality and high value” to students. “We are proud that our graduates leave the program with skill sets they can put to use right away in their careers, and without a massive amount of student loan debt,” Anantatmula said.

Jeff Haynes ’09, a detective with the Waynesville Police Department, said the availability of an online program enabled him to resume his education after leaving the university in 1991 to pursue a law enforcement career. “I returned to WCU at age 35, with a demanding schedule and as the father of a teenage daughter. The need for an educational outlet outside the normal boundaries of traditional college-level courses is extremely high,” Haynes said. “The reason I had not returned earlier was simply the lack of time needed to travel to and from WCU and sit in a traditional classroom setting. As a working professional law enforcement officer with 19 years of experience, I have developed a self-motivation that made online delivery the best fit for me.”

Current project management student Hope Huskey said what she is learning in her courses already is paying dividends in her job with the Cherokee Business Development Center. “We are constantly working on projects in my current position. The program has provided me with more insight into how to successfully execute these projects. I am able to pass on a lot of project management skills to my clients who are small business owners that help them start and grow their businesses. It has also taught me valuable management skills,” Huskey said.  “The program is providing me with skills and knowledge that are helpful in my current position and that could also be used for future careers opportunities.”

WCU’s online criminal justice program previously was ranked a No. 1 “Best Buy” by GetEducated.com in 2007. The university’s online master’s degree program in project management received that designation in 2008.