Ten years ago, the Eastern Kentucky University College of Justice and Safety decided to offer working adults the opportunity to expand their career opportunities by completing a degree online. Today, EKU offers more than 30 online degree options from four academic colleges. Summer 2016 marks a full decade since the first online courses were offered at Eastern.
“We had just six students in a Safety, Security and Emergency Management class,” remembered Tim Matthews, executive director of the EKU Office of e-Campus Learning.
That was 2006. Today, roughly one in five EKU students is an online student. In Spring 2016, 3,251 individuals were continuing their education online. More than 3,600 degrees and certificates have been conferred upon online graduates in the last 10 years.
As the degree options have increased, so have the awards and accolades. Military Friendly Schools named EKU one of the top 25 online schools for veterans in 2015. U.S. News & World Report has repeatedly included the University among the best institutions offering online degrees. In January 2016, it ranked the online graduate nursing program 18th in the nation.
A 2016 survey found that EKU Online alumni work for FedEx, the U.S. Department of Labor, Shell Oil, Princeton University, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Nestle Waters and Delta Airlines, among other employers. They are employed across the country and even overseas.
From the beginning, online learning at EKU has been about balancing quality and convenience. Students appreciate that they can still be full-time employees and parents while they continue their education. Faculty and staff make an effort to get to know them, understand their challenges and provide a top-quality education.
“Everyone at EKU makes me feel like I am the only student they have,” said Jamie Snapp, who is earning a bachelor’s degree in corrections and juvenile justice studies. “I have never been somewhere else that felt more like family.”
It’s a supportive atmosphere for a demanding endeavor. Frequently, the EKU Online model of a degree includes the same courses, taught by the same instructors as the on-campus version. The only difference is the delivery mode. The University holds online and on-campus students to the same standards, and the coursework is rigorous.
As a result, EKU Online programs are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, as well as numerous other accrediting bodies. Programs in the EKU College of Heath Sciences are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences. The paralegal program is approved by the American Bar Association. Graduate degrees in education meet the high standards set by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. The master’s degree in public administration is recognized by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. The emergency medical care degrees are recognized by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. All fire protection degrees are accredited by the International Fire Service Accreditation Congress, and the Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology degree program is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
“I do not know of another program of this kind out there, period,” graduate Thomas Sing said about the EKU Online Fire, Arson and Explosion Investigation program. “But the program is handled as if there is competition everywhere. From the professors to the advisers, everyone I've come into contact with has been exceptional.”
The combination of a flexible online format, quality instruction and supportive faculty has benefited students in all fields and from all backgrounds. Many have received job offers and promotions as students. Before finishing his degree, Ryan Schrand became the youngest police chief to ever hold the position in North College Hill, Ohio. Occupational therapist Michael Coldiron became a business partner at a rehabilitation clinic and expanded its services to include a pediatric practice. Others have found their dream job not long after graduation. Paralegal Susan Gabbard Brashear accepted a position as a judicial legal assistant for a justice on the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Many have been grateful for the opportunity to finish what they started. Debbie Yerian was an EKU student in 1974. She met her husband, left Richmond and set aside her dream of graduating. She walked across the stage to receive her bachelor’s degree from EKU in 2015. “I could have gotten a degree online from 100 places,” she said, “but the important thing to me was that it felt like a real degree from a real school.”
Thanks to EKU Online, many have seen their lives change in ways they never imagined. “I am grateful to the University for helping me reach my goals,” said Joanna Coursey, a recent graduate of the EKU Online M.S.N. Rural Health Family Nurse Practitioner program, who spoke at Spring 2016 commencement ceremonies. “Thanks to my education, doors have opened for me that have never been opened before.”
No matter where you are or where you want to go, EKU Online makes success possible.
For more information, visit go.EKU.edu/TenYears.