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Affordable Colleges Foundation Ranks Southern Miss in its Top 20

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 17:01pm | By: David Tisdale

Affordable Colleges Foundation (ACF), a resource for online learning and college affordability information, has included The University of Southern Mississippi in the top 20 of its new ranking of 2015's Best Online Colleges.

Southern Miss is ranked 18th on the list, which cited schools that offer students affordable, high-quality programs combined with the flexibility of distance learning.

"When it comes to online learning, these schools are the best of the best," said Dan Schuessler, founder and CEO of ACF. "They appeal to prospective students and working professionals because they provide the same academic excellence in their online programs as their campus courses.”

According to ACF, the number of schools offering fully online degree programs has nearly doubled over the last decade, and online enrollments continue to make up an increasing proportion—nearly 50 percent—of all enrollments in higher education.

"As the demand for distance learning continues to rise, we're seeing more and more institutions incorporate online learning into their curricula,” said Schuessler. "We want to recognize these schools for their drive for innovation in higher education and their success in expanding their high-quality programs to the online learning environment."

Southern Miss currently leads the state as the top online learning provider based on the number of students enrolled in its online classes and degree programs, which is expected to increase with the launch of Mississippi's first fully online Undergraduate General Business degree. Students from more than 40 states and countries around the globe are enrolled online at the University, which is rated among Best Value Schools' Top 30 Best Online Colleges for 2014 (

“We're honored to be recognized by ACF in this ranking as we enjoy steady growth in the number of students choosing our online programs,” said Sheri Rawls, director of the Southern Miss Learning Enhancement Center. “Online learning is ideal for those with busy work schedules, family obligations, the place-bound or those who live far from our campuses. It's another way to get a quality degree from an accredited institution and improve their career prospects.”

Highlights of the university's online enrollment growth include:

*Approximately 17 percent growth from fall 2013 to fall 2014 in student credit hours generated from online enrollment 

*The summer 2014 semester consisted of 32 percent of total student credit hours generated from online enrollment. 

*The University's e-learning initiative began in spring 2009. Since then the growth of online learning has increased by 120 percent in student credit hours. The initiative was focused on developing additional fully online degree programs and courses to improve student satisfaction, raise retention and graduation rates, and increase enrollment at Southern Miss.

Among the newest online courses include two in the university's nationally recognized MBA program – MBA 610 (Analytical Decision Making) and MBA 620 (The Global Economy). These courses and two others will be available online in the hybrid format, allowing students to complete coursework online and in the classroom for the spring 2015 semester. Hybrid classes will be offered on the main campus in Hattiesburg and the Gulf Park Campus in Long Beach.

Additional online MBA classes are expected to be introduced each semester going forward. Earlier this year, the Southern Miss MBA program was included among the nation's Top 200 part-time business programs in rankings for 2014 by U.S. News & World Report.

Eagle Learning Online has also launched a new user-friendly website, Online at Southern Miss. The new website provides students from around the globe with information on the university's convenient and affordable programs, allowing them to earn their degree anywhere, any time at an affordable cost.

Manuel Macias of Houston, Texas found Southern Miss to be the right fit in his pursuit of a college degree through its online academic programs. A senior in the University's School of Construction, Macias chose its online undergraduate program in construction engineering technology to help him manage family and work obligations while also pursuing his education. He plans to graduate in the fall of 2015.

“I was lucky to find that USM offered the entire degree online and that I would not have to pay higher tuition for being out-of-state,” Macias said. “The quality of the courses is excellent. The professors are very experienced professionals and make sure that online students are getting instruction that is as good as on-campus students.”

For more information about Online at Southern Miss, visit or call Amanda Cascio at 601.266.5938.