Online program best in affordability

Western Carolina University’s online bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice has again received a No. 1 national ranking in affordability by the distance education information clearinghouse

WCU’s program is listed first among a group of 26 “Best Buys.” The rankings are based on a survey conducted this fall of regionally accredited universities that offer bachelor’s degree programs in criminal justice through distance education.

North Carolina residents who enroll in WCU’s program pay about $13,937. The online program that received the No. 2 ranking costs almost twice that much, and the cost of other ranked programs ranged up to $44,450.

WCU’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice is home to two online bachelor’s degree programs – criminal justice, and emergency and disaster management. The online criminal justice program is a concentration in administration and justice that is designed to serve the needs of practicing professionals in the justice field, said Stephen Brown, head of the department. The program features a progressive core of criminal justice and criminology courses augmented by concentration courses addressing the most current technological and management skills applicable within criminal justice agencies, Brown said.

Applicants for WCU’s program must document a minimum of one year of experience in the field and must have received an associate of arts, associate of science or associate of applied science degree from a community college, or must have completed the 44 general core courses at another college or university. WCU’s program requires a minimum of 120 semester hours, including 49 hours of criminal justice, 42 hours of liberal studies and 29 hours of general electives or credits within a minor or second major.

The program offers “rolling admission” that allows students to begin it at any time. The program is staffed by a core of full-time faculty, most of whom hold doctoral degrees, and is supplemented by adjunct faculty members who have earned master’s or doctoral degrees and who have wide-ranging experience in the criminal justice field, Brown said.

WCU’s online criminal justice program previously was ranked a No. 1 “Best Buy” by in 2007 and 2010. The university’s online master’s degree program in project management received that designation in 2008 and 2010.

For more information about WCU’s online bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice, go to Criminology and Criminal Justice Department on the Web or contact Karen Mason, assistant program director, at 828-227-2814 or For information about the online program in emergency and disaster management, contact Carlie Merritt, program director, at 828-227-2170 or