A national college rating service has rated UNC Pembroke’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program the most affordable online program in the nation.
GetEducated.com surveyed accredited master’s degree programs in criminal justice and legal studies and found UNCP’s cost - at $3,925 (in-state) - was more affordable than 33 other universities across the nation that offer similar programs.
“This survey makes a very good point,” said Dr. Nicholas Giannatasio, director of the MPA program. “You can’t find a more affordable program that will meet the needs of the aspiring graduate student.”
UNCP’s MPA programs in emergency management and criminal justice qualified for the survey. Out of Essex Junction, Vt., GetEducated.com found the average cost for an MPA degree was around $13,000.
UNCP has offered its MPA degree 100 percent online for five years, and it has become the largest graduate program at UNCP with 164 students currently seeking a degree. Students also have the option of some or all of the required courses in a classroom setting.
Building popular tracks, like emergency management, criminal justice and health care administration, has become a desirable option for students seeking a graduate program in this field, Dr. Giannatasio said.
“I taught the first online course five years ago, and we were lucky to get eight students,” he said. “Now, our online courses fill up very quickly.”
Currently, there are 173 students enrolled in online MPA courses compared with 112 in classrooms.
“The online component of the program has driven its success,” Dr. Giannatasio said. “It is also the largest program of its type in our region.”
Bob Bell, who is the director for human resources for the City of Laurinburg, N.C., is a 2003 MPA graduate who took both online and classroom courses. Today, he teaches classes for the program both online and in the classroom.
“I was 48 when I started the program, and for folks out in the working world, on-line education is really incredible,” Bell said. “You can get your master’s degree without interrupting your work or family life.”
Bell said online courses are both more personal and more demanding than he expected.
“You really get to know the people in the class through email contacts,” he said. “I warn my online students they must stay focused and structured.
“When Dr. Giannatasio asked me to teach online, I wanted to make sure my students got the most out of my class,” Bell continued. “I wanted to make the class demanding and interesting, and I believe I succeeded.”
GetEducated.com surveys online higher education programs every two years using numbers extracted from a variety of sources including the Internet. Universities do not pay for the service.
The online college survey offers a variety of publications including a free accreditation verification service.