Master’s programs in business, criminal justice, education and nursing recognized

Online graduate programs at East Carolina University have been recognized among the nation’s best in a new ranking by U.S. News & World Report.

ECU’s master’s programs in business, criminal justice, education and nursing received high marks in U.S. News’ 2020 Best Online Programs released on Jan. 14.

ECU’s cupola shines during a winter day at ECU. (Photo by Rhett Butler)

“As North Carolina’s leader in distance education, ECU continues to expand affordable access to higher education,” said Dr. B. Grant Hayes, acting provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs. “It’s ​telling that our peers understand and recognize the impressive work being done at our university. This recognition of our online programs is truly a testimony to the commitment, ​expertise and passion of our faculty and staff, and the excellence of our students.”

ECU’s criminal justice graduate program placed the highest in North Carolina at 16th out of 83 schools ranked nationally. This spring, 66 online students are enrolled in the Master of Science in criminal justice program in ECU’s Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. Another four students are pursuing a graduate certificate in criminal justice education.

Up one spot from last year, the data show a steady improvement in ECU’s national impact, said Dr. Bill Bloss, professor and department chair. Programs that are ranked higher are among the top tier doctoral granting programs in the criminal justice field, he said.

“We are delighted to once again be ranked in the top 20 nationwide and first in North Carolina,” Bloss said. “The 2020 ranking reflects the consistent quality of the program while validating our commitment to academic excellence and student success. We are honored to be listed among the nation’s top criminal justice graduate programs and proud to continue serving the educational needs of our students.”

ECU’s College of Nursing online graduate programs were tied with five other schools at 17th out of 173 programs ranked, up from 27th last year. ECU had 379 students enrolled in its online master’s nursing programs during the 2018-19 academic year.

U.S. News also ranked ECU’s online graduate programs in nursing in the top 10 in several specialty areas: fifth for nursing education (tied with three other programs); ninth for veterans; and 10th for nursing administration/leadership (tied with one other program). The specialty area rankings are based on responses to peer assessment surveys.

“Educating highly trained, advanced practice nurses is crucial to meeting the growing needs of our region and state. Through our online programs, we’re able to give working nurses and those in rural areas an opportunity to advance their careers without leaving their positions and the areas where they’re needed most,” said Dr. Sylvia Brown, dean of the College of Nursing. “To rank among the top 20 in the nation overall and in the top 10 in categories that focus on building the nursing workforce in both quantity and quality affirms that we’re excelling at our mission.”

The College of Education’s online graduate programs tied with five other schools at 42nd out of 298 programs ranked. A total of 374 students were enrolled during the 2018-19 academic year.

U.S. News also recognized a specialty area – curriculum and instruction – in the ECU College of Education, ranking it 20th and tied with four other programs.

“The faculty in the College of Education continue to provide quality instruction and real-world experiences to our graduate students,” said Dr. Art Rouse, acting dean of the College of Education. “In return, our students and constituents recognize the quality of our programs and the positive impact our faculty have on our students and community as a whole.”

ECU’s online Master of Business Administration program in the College of Business placed 102nd out of 285 schools ranked in the nationwide listing. This year, 752 students enrolled in ECU’s MBA program. Of those, 686 are online only, 63 students are completing both online and face to face coursework, and three are taking classes on campus.

“The flexibility of our MBA program makes us stand out amongst many lockstep cohort MBA programs,” said Paul Russell, director of graduate programs in the College of Business. “We offer a wide variety of specializations and allow students to take courses in whatever manner suits them.”

A longtime leader in distance education in North Carolina, ECU offers more than 100 online degree and certificate programs that can be found at ECU Online.

U.S. News assessed more than 1,600 online programs. Only accredited institutions whose programs are offered mostly or entirely online were evaluated on a combination of areas including student engagement, faculty credentials and training, student services and technology, peer reputation and admissions selectivity. U.S. News said its methodology was updated this year to give credit to schools that provide online help with course registration, admissions counseling and building a resume.

The complete listing can be viewed at

Students pass by Joyner Library at ECU. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)