Featured Photo: Now-graduate Jessica Reigle of Transylvania County works on a laptop for an online accounting course in 2022. (Photo by: Benjamin Rickert.)
Marketing & Communications Dept.
Hendersonville, N.C. – Blue Ridge Community College has been ranked one of the best institutions in the country for online degrees in a public service field by STEPS (Student Training & Education in Public Service), a higher education referral agency. Only 13% of colleges and universities in the United States earned a rank for the 2023-2024 academic year.
As a two-year college offering more than 200 degrees, diplomas and certificates – over 50 of which can be earned entirely online – Blue Ridge earned a total of five honors from STEPS. Notably, Blue Ridge was ranked third among the Best Online Education and Teaching Degrees and fifth among the Best Online Fire Science Degrees. Blue Ridge’s online Criminal Justice Technology program earned the College accolades in two related categories. Overall, Blue Ridge was ranked twelfth nationally among two-year colleges for providing high quality online public service programs.
“At Blue Ridge Community College, we understand that today’s students need options and flexibility to help them fit higher education into their lives alongside important family and work demands,” explained Benjamin Rickert, the College’s marketing and communications director. “Online programs and courses can make education more accessible, and this is true both for younger college students and adult learners seeking to advance or change careers.”
Blue Ridge Community College was highly ranked in the following categories:
Best Online Education and Teaching Degrees
#3 – AAS Early Childhood Education
Best Online Fire Science Degrees
#5 – Fire Protection Technology
Best Online Public Service Degrees
#12 – Overall
Best Online Schools for Criminal Justice
#14 – Criminal Justice Technology
Best Online Criminal Justice Associate Degrees
#20 – Criminal Justice Technology
Public service disciplines focus on supporting, protecting and improving the quality of life for members of a community. This includes fields such as teaching, public safety, social work, public administration, criminal justice, public health and more. At Blue Ridge, degrees in these fields give students the knowledge and skills needed to pursue careers where they can support those most in need, locally or globally.
The rankings arrive at a time when enrollment in online degree programs remains high. The most recent data (Fall 2021) from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 60 percent of students take at least one class online and 30 percent are enrolled exclusively in online courses.
“Our goal was to identify the best colleges with online degree programs where graduates can make a meaningful difference in their communities through education, public policy and other career paths,” said Kyle Smith, a community outreach specialist at STEPS.
STEPS analyzed multiple datasets from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Key data points used to identify top schools included the following:
- Number of online programs in a given subject area
- Tuition amount per academic year
- Percentage of students receiving institutional financial aid and the amount awarded
- Availability of academic counseling and career placement services
STEPS vetted over 6,000 postsecondary institutions to create its rankings. To qualify, a college or university must hold active accreditation from an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and have at least one partially online degree program in a field related to public service.
Blue Ridge provides fully online programs in the fields of accounting, business, information technology, public safety, education and more. Additionally, more than 50% of Blue Ridge’s popular college transfer programs, the Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees, can be completed online, giving students a strong and affordable path toward a bachelor’s degree. Learn more about online programs at www.blueridge.edu/online.
About Blue Ridge Community College
Blue Ridge Community College is a two-year, post-secondary institution that elevates the educational experience to prepare students for 21st-century success in the workplace or at four-year colleges and universities. Providing real-life, affordable, and accessible education, the College offers more than 200 degrees, diplomas, and certificates; more than 200 online courses; and fast-tracked job training.
STEPS (https://www.publicservicedegrees.org) started in 2019 with the goal of connecting students with valuable and informative resources to help them get their degrees and find satisfying careers in public service. These free guides range from connecting students with online schools to breaking down options for affording a degree.