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Opinion: Why Capella’s Position On Rankings Is Wrong-Headed

By on September 21, 2011
Domestic, Ethics, For-Profit, Friend, Fraud, or Fishy, Required, Universities & Colleges

By crizlai via Flickr under Creative Commons


Deb Bushway, interim president of Capella University, writes on The Huffington Post  about why her school will not take part in the upcoming U.S. News & World Report ranking of online colleges. Our reaction to this note: Cop-Out! Ms. Bushway’s excuses for not participating in the ranking are weak. Inputs, outputs, shminputs, shmoutputs. Buck up and participate. Your inputs are your inputs. Online schools should stop deceiving people into believing they offer a first rate education when they do not. Is Ms. Bushway is scared of the truth getting out about her own institution? Is she scared of 39-year-old single mothers and other working adult students realizing what they are paying for… and deciding to go elsewhere for school? The truth shall set you free, Ms. Bushway. The truth hurts, Capella. But tell the truth. It’s a best practice and investors care about that. Plus, it’s the only way forward for your business. Here’s what Ms. Bushway writes:

We were intrigued when we heard that U.S. News was going to apply their rankings to online colleges and universities, and we were very excited when they reached out to a team at Capella University for feedback on our measurements. Naturally, we urged them to focus on outcomes rather than inputs. If there is such a thing as a typical university, it’s safe to say Capella University isn’t it.

We were founded nearly 20 years ago with the mission of extending access to high-quality higher education to adults looking to advance their education. Our average student is a 39-year-old female balancing family and work while trying to get the education she needs to advance her career. She has turned to Capella because we are an online institution that provides the rigor and access she needs in her chosen field. As an institution focused on working adults wanting to advance their careers, we are an 80 percent post-graduate institution.

Like many institutions, Capella University has been frustrated by our inability to effectively compare the education we provide to that of others. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, there aren’t a lot of institutions that look like us, so it’s difficult to make comparisons. For instance, we have a requirement that our students must be 24 or older in most cases. This automatically makes us very different from most other higher education institutions. The second reason is that the most commonly used measures for comparing one institution to another are focused on traditional inputs (or the qualities of students coming in the door) rather than educational outcomes (did students learn skills that will advance them in their careers). This leaves us with antiquated metrics that don’t adequately measure our students. Capella fundamentally believes that increased transparency and accountability around outcomes is the path forward for the future of higher education.

Capella has spent a great deal of time and energy building systems through competency-based curriculum to measure learning outcomes and make those measurements public through our own website and our participation in Last year, we were the first online university to be recognized by The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) for our work on student learning outcomes. We were honored for our outcomes-based curriculum that begins with assessing the educational needs of an adult learner and building programs and courses to meet those needs. The president of CHEA called Capella University a “leader in accountability in higher education.” Unfortunately, the final questionnaire from U.S. News appears highly focused on inputs rather than outcomes.

While the survey does include a few general questions related to outcomes, they provide no clarity on how the answers provided by participating institutions will be weighted. For the average 39-year old Capella learner in the middle of her career, where she finished in her high school class, her high school GPA, SAT and ACT scores, and her geographical location are not particularly relevant measures of quality or excellence. A far more relevant measure is the degree to which our students graduate having learned what we told them they would learn and whether that knowledge is applicable in advancing their careers.

While measuring these learning and career outcomes is understandably difficult (we certainly don’t claim to have all the answers on measuring outcomes), it is not impossible. One good place for U.S. News to begin is to ask whether an institution even measures learning outcomes. For those who do, they can press into the rigor behind those assessments.

U.S. News & World Report is focused on the right thing. There is great importance in transparency, disclosure and accountability. However, we believe they are asking the wrong questions. We aren’t going to fill out the survey this year, but we hope that as we move forward they’ll be open to a continuing discussion that moves the focus from the inputs we’ve all been using as a basis for comparison for years to the outcomes that are much more relevant to today’s students. To learn more about Capella Univesity, follow them on twitter here.


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Paul L. Flemming, Ph.d
Sep 22, 2011

The President’s response was on target, focused and timely. However, my concern is, will there be any perceived negative issues associated with Capella not participating at this time. Do we have a damage control strategic team in place?

Wired Academic
Sep 22, 2011

Hi Paul, you raise a really good point. What kind of damage controls do you think need to be part of a successful plan?

Sep 22, 2011


I couldn’t disagree with you more. Your post shows a complete ignorance of the student population of “non-traditional” schools like Capella. As a working adult who has been out of high school for 3 decades, I have no idea what my ACT, SAT or even GMAT scores are, they are not important to who I am today and how I have lived my life.

The US News ranking is targeted primarily to traditional students, those types of identifiers maybe important to a traditional student but the lifelong learner they are meaningless. Given the desire of Capella University to know their target student body, and how the survey doesn’t work for that student body, I can understand Capella’s reluctance to participate. It is a shame, because it just adds fodder to the uninformed and biased opinions similar to your post.

As a journalist, Paul, I would hope you would check your facts before expressing such a jaundiced opinion.

Gayle M
Capella University Doctoral Student (PhD ADB)

DeAnna Owens
Sep 22, 2011

As a Capella Ambassador as well as a student in Psychology I have to ask what the purpose for this person’s post is. Firstly, without looking like a dig but at the same time doing so, please take the time to proofread your own post before posting an article of this caliber.

Secondly, President Bushway is dead on with her article. It is time that online universities are recognized in the same caliber as traditional universities. There are many of us who are above 35 and chose to return to school, specifically to specialize in our fields, or to get our original degrees.

I can attest to the fact that the curriculum at Capella is just as rigorous as any other traditional university. I spend many hours working with fellow students, in the library, on my own time (I might add FREE time) painstakingly plugging away toward the degree or degrees necessary to better ourselves. To be belittled and treated as second-rate by a system that is antiquated in its judgments of students upon graduation and entering the work field, President Bushway’s article is very needed. Measure students for their education received not the rankings going in. Catering to older students going back to school years after raising children and establishing their lives is not a cop out, it’s a hand up and we as students have accepted this hand up gladly and are thankful for it daily.

Sep 22, 2011

Strong and well-worded response by Mr. Glader. I wonder though, as taught in my coursework at Capella, where’s the evidence? Perhaps it is in the “Shimputs and Shmoutputs” (Glader, 2011) that so resoundingly and professionally make Capella’s response seem lacking. Before speaking about the quality of education, conduct some serious hands on journalism; sign up and take a course with the institution you question. Then, write about the quality of the education.

Mel Perel, Ph.D.
Sep 22, 2011

I understand and respect Deb Bushway’s decision, although on balance I disagree with it, not because of Mr. Glader’s sneering post, but because Capella University has much to be proud of and should be represented among other such institutions.

I earned a doctorate from the school and was privileged to work with very high caliber, and intellectually stimulating and challenging fellow students, most of whom held senior or responsible positions in their respective organizations. The quality of Capella faculty members was also uniformly excellent. Most had terminal degrees from prominent schools, and, more importantly, all brought a rare combination of scholar-practitioner to the classroom that breathed life into the intellectual exchanges.

Unlike some online schools (such as the University of Phoenix) that use a cohort system and fixed curriculum, Capella allowed students to construct an independent curriculum and choose from a huge variety of core and elective courses. The school also offered Directed Study as an alternative to online courses, giving students opportunities to independently research and write in-depth papers or case studies. During the course of the program, leading peer-reviewed journals published several of my class papers, and my dissertation attracted attention from organizations interested in my research findings. These experiences are a testament to the quality of a program that expected and encouraged this level of work product.

I have since experienced Capella’s growing reputation and respect in the business community, and colleagues with Capella Ph.D. degrees have noted similar experiences. I believe strongly that the University’s reputation derives directly from a symbiosis between well-selected, high quality students and a highly qualified faculty.

Paul L. Flemming, Ph.d
Sep 22, 2011

I would recommend that the controls be specific and focused on key measurements that best represent Capella’s strategic objectives. The controls should emphasize the weaknesses associated with inputs while delineating clearly the strengths and benefits derived from using outcomes as a more reliable measurement.

Sep 22, 2011

“Your input are you inputs” is a very provoking statement, Mr. Glader.

Perhaps you’ll note the statement in the column from Deb Bushway, “For the average 39-year old Capella learner in the middle of her career, where she finished in her high school class, her high school GPA, SAT and ACT scores, and her geographical location are not particularly relevant measures of quality or excellence.”

These inputs do not make a successful graduate, learning makes a successful graduate. In fact, learning as an adult, who has decided what they want to get out of a college experience, makes a even more successful graduate. I agree with Ms. Bushway, level the playing field and observe the new realities of on-line learning.

I applaud Deb Bushway and Capella for sticking up for the reputation of my alma mater, and attempting to drag people like Mr. Glader into the 21st Century.

Oh, and the assumption that a 39 year old single mother is unable to determine where to properly go to college, (without you letting the secret out) is as off base as your entire post.

Richard Taylor
Sep 22, 2011

Despite negative criticism, I know as a Marketing student, any press is good press. But, let’s focus on the facts here. Capella provides a forum that is extremely unique and powerful. The school is full of independent thinkers whom learn something new every day in a quarter. This brand of thinkers is only evident at Capella. The learning will go on despite what anyone thinks or says.

Richard James Taylor

Tim Shaw
Sep 22, 2011

As a graduate of Capella (2005 - MBA) and as a Capella Ambassador I can attest that Capella is not your typical school when it comes to brick and mortar. As an online university I feel Capella and the level of education they offer is second to none.

Yes, inputs are inputs but you have to look at the whole picture which most surveys/rankings do not. To get the true feedback and feel of a college of any type you need to talk to people who have actually attended the intuition.

When I was looking to complete my MBA is looked at both traditional and online schools and Capella ranked the highest in my view. I based this on cost, flexibility and level of instructors (99% of all classes I took where taught by professors with a Ph.d).

In my opinion Capella was ahead of its time when it comes to online college. Now every college is trying to get into the online world, but it will be hard for them to view and appreciate the “working person” in the way Capella has done for the past 20 years.

MBA Graduate, Capella University
Sep 22, 2011

Deb Bushman provides a well-written reason for Capella’s decision. The rebuttal argument shows undeniable bias against online institutions. Capella’s Critical Thinking and Negotiation courses taught me to demand specific examples of claims made by others. The naysayer provides nothing more than hyperbole. Capella graduates move onto to become Managers, Directors, VP, and C-Level Executives. A quick search via LinkedIn, Facebook, or a search engine will provide a sample list. Capella’s Alumni Association also publishes accomplishments submitted by its graduates including promotions, speaking events, published books, and philanthropic endeavors.

The argument that investors care about college input metrics is a poor position. Investors are concerned with return on equity, return on assets, enrollment growth, dividends, cash flow growth, manageable debt/equity, and stock price appreciation. Financial measurements are the primary method used by investors to assess the value of Capella University or any for-profit institution. Demographic information of incoming students should not be a significant factor for investors.

Focusing on the outcomes is appropriate. How many students enter college, graduate, and still have no direction for their career? Most of Capella’s courses allow students to focus their studies within the context of their own organization. Being able to finish a course with assignments relevant to your employer is much more valuable than learning generic theories and formulas. Capella’s practical application of concepts to the real-world is exactly what employers desire.

Paul Glader
Sep 22, 2011

We appreciate all the responses and comments. We are open to hearing more about your experiences at Capella and what you think rankings should include. This web site is all about understanding online education - the good, the bad and the ugly.

I still object to the notion that U.S. News or any other legitimate ranking should select outputs that are “favorable” to Capella.

I agree that U.S. News’ ranking may not be the best or only ranking system. It may not be the best measure for determining the best online schools. But let’s start a dialogue about what inputs and outputs should be included. Clearly, some inputs SHOULD be included. And GMATs, GREs, ACTs, ACTs, GPAs are a good starting place. Degree completion rates and drop-out rates are valid output measurements. Age of student body is important. For online schools, I think ratings should also note how exams are proctored and how effectively the institutions prevent cheating.

What other factors should be considered in inputs and outputs?

Seriously, we are solutions-oriented here and we would like to propose some new ranking systems for online schools. So help us out with some strong suggestions and we’ll continue to write about this in a constructive manner.

-Paul, Editor of WiredAcademic

Theresa Thomas
Sep 22, 2011

I feel knowing who and what you stand for is important in so doing when people talk the defense is direct and straight to the point. It is easier to recruit when you are positive about a situation people can easily relate to that. Not only relate they lean toward the positive more so then the negative or speculations.

Hal Swanson, Ph.D.
Sep 22, 2011

I’m sorry, Mr. Glader, but unlike my colleague above I cannot be so kind as to say you demonstrate bias…what you demonstrate is complete ignorance of the online education process used by Capella and online institutions in general. Having been in both brick and mortar and online institutions at the doctoral level, I can say without fear of contradiction that the Capella institutional rigorousness, when it comes to awarding degrees, presents an equal or higher degree of requirements for the said degree. I would direct your attention to some of the dissertations of the Capella doctoral candidates. Those can be found online (as can most dissertations).

If you will take a look around, you will find that most institutions of higher learning have online programs. Does the fact that they are brick and mortar institutions, which have come into the 21st century, diminish, in any way, their status as institutions of higher learning? I think not and, were I you, I would look into the Ivy League universities which have online programs. Harvard comes to mind. You may be surprised! Additionally, Capella is accredited, and this is the measure of the rigorousness of a program. Accreditation authorities do not award accreditation lightly…if they did then accreditation wouldn’t matter, would it Mr. Glader?

Finally, you expended little effort (one paragraph) to rebut Dr. Bushway’s argument, and in fact, didn’t rebut it…you just attacked her for a well thought out opinion piece. In the first place, online institutions and brick and mortar institutions cannot be compared in methodology or outcomes…or for that matter inputs. In the second place, I was roughly 60 years of age when I decided to pursue a Ph.D. What did my high school or undergraduate GPA have to do with anything? I work for a major company that paid for the degree and Capella is one of their “preferred” institutions. I did not have time to go sit at the feet of some Ph.D., become a “research assistant” and take seven years to achieve what I set out to achieve.

In conclusion, Mr. Glader, do your homework and stop embarrassing yourself.

Heather Malobisky
Sep 22, 2011

I am a Masters in Education, Adult and Post Secondary Education student at Capella on target to graduate in less than a year. I am also one of Capella’s Ambassadors. I have experience in both brick and mortar and online schooling and find the education experience I am receiving at Capella to be a very positive experience. Capella university offers a directed educational opportunity that is difficult to compare to a traditional university. I am able to apply what I am learning directly to my current career and have recieved great support from all staff, faculty, and advisors. If Capella is to be ranked then it needs to be ranked on an apples to apples basis with a focus on what the university provides and, as the interim President has stated, should be more outcome based than input based. I hope Mr. Glader does more research and works to post more professional statements in the future regardless of topics.

Nancy C.
Sep 22, 2011

Similar to others in this thread, I am a Capella Ambassador and a student in Psychology. I am also a working adult who has been out of high school for 4+ decades, and I also have no idea what my ACT, SAT or GMAT scores are as I never took any of those tests. I am a grandmother who has a fabulous job that requires some specific knowledge of psychology. I have just completed my fifth course, and I am already impressing my co-workers who have degrees. I am a nobody as far as inputs go, but I am a straight A student. I originally came to Capella to take a few courses, but I am so pleased I will go all the way and get my bachelors degree. I am excited to come home each day and see what my classmates have posted. I frequently work 12 hours a day, so a traditional brick and mortar institution would not work for me. Because my time only allows one course at a time, this will take a while, but I don’t care. I’m proud of my school and my role as student. Mr. Glader has no idea what he is writing about.

Sep 22, 2011

Dr. Bushway is right, Capella is unique. People who have not attended Capella does not know the quality of professors that Capella has, the quality of the students, the stringent conditions that students have to meet every quarter. Capella is not a ‘typical university’. I completed my third Masters at Capella having attended The University of London School of Economy and Political Science and Alliant International University, Capella challenges you past a traditional classroom with 100s of students. Capella has at the most 25 students which allows the professor to interact well wiith the students. Whether US News ranks Capella or not, it does not take anything from Capella University.

Kevin Hopkins
Sep 23, 2011

I believe the response by Dr. Bushway is reasoned and well-explained. I believe the snide response in the article is just that. What can it mean, “Your inputs are your inputs?” Isn’t that why they are called….umm….inputs? Yes, Capella draws a huge base of adult learners from all walks of life and backgrounds. No, they don’t all graduate. Many come to increase their learning apart from a degree. They take the courses in which they’re interested - and then go enjoy their life from a more educated and enriched perspective! Some come back several times, like me! I earned a post-Master’s certificate from Capella in Enrollment Management - fashioned by enrollment management gurus Noel-Levitz; then continued to complete my Ph.D. coursework. Now, I’m writing a dissertation. When my professional colleagues see the quality and depth of my Capella coursework and experience, many say things like, “Now, that’s what a doctoral degree should include.”

Capella is a non-traditional institution in an emerging marketplace. The share-holders seem quite happy Mr. Glader. The students continue to come. The research and contributions of Capella’s graduates continues to pour into innovative applications in every field. Perhaps, Paul, you should take a few courses and become an input. Professional communication and demeanor are two of the things at which Capella excels in shaping in its graduates. :)

Sep 23, 2011

It is a shame that the appropriate amount of data was not ascertained prior to the writing of the Paul G. article. It is typically from those who do not wish to seek out truths, ignore the process, and most importantly do not place value in customer (in this case learners) perceptions who get it wrong. Capella provides and has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to extend learning and knowledge in a unique and more than challenging way. It is what you put in that is received out. I am a President/CEO of a large MNC and have been able to apply my additional acquired and developed skills to my workplace on a daily basis. I attended Michigan State engineering school then grad school at Wayne State University and onto MIT before starting Capella. I can strongly state the education - rigor and quality at Capella in an on-line and residence cirriculum was equal to that of other three. So there you have it fact-based reality from one that has had the expereince not one who criticizes from ignorance.

Sep 23, 2011

I am a Capella Ambassador and a student in the Master of Science: Post-Secondary and Adult Eduction program. Being a mother to two teenage boys, one with a mental disability, Capella has offered me a great opportunity to complete a Master degree I would otherwise not been able to complete. The closest campus that offers the degree is four hours from my house so I would have to drive eight hours daily and leave my child in someone else’s care.

I am still in contact with the brick and mortar school where I received my Associate and Bachelor degree and speak to many students taking a Master program there. The curriculum and quality of the classes are comparable with the amount of work required. The difference is at Capella, if you ask an instructor a question normally a response is posted within 24 hours at the brick and mortar school responses have been saved for the following class period (2 weeks apart) or the question completely ignored. I prefer to work with instructors who have the student’s best educational interest in mind instead of where they come from.

I graduated high school in 1990 and did not begin my college career until 2007. The only thing I remember about high school is the bullies and that I was an A/B student, but not anywhere near the top of my class. Also, that if you were not a genius or a jock, you were a nobody even to most of the teachers.

Therefore, I agree with other postings, do your research and take a class at Capella before you attack the valid opinions of the people at our fine University!

Roy Wood
Sep 23, 2011

I’d like to add my observations about for-profit online education here. First, as many have pointed out, the paradigm is fundamentally different. Students are demographically older, working adults. The enrollment process is much more egalitarian than traditional schools - if you are willing to work hard and believe you can make it, you can enroll. Input screening through GMAT, essays, etc., is not required (selectivity is a big part of US News’ rating). While this statistically means that there will be more who try and fail, it also gives a chance to succeed to those who might not otherwise have a chance.

Another key point in favor of online is is availability and flexibility. As working adults, most of us do not have the luxury of dropping everything and attending a traditional school, particularly when the job entails travel or has inflexible work schedules. Online is simply more convenient and reaches a large segment of the population who want to get an advanced education but would never be able to in a conventional school.

The differences (and advantages) go deeper, in my opinion. I have advanced degrees from both conventional and online universities. Here are my observations about those deeper differences:

* Online places much more of the responsibility for learning onto the student (where it belongs). In conventional lecture-based classes, I often did not read the text but depended on the professor to spoon-feed the material, which I then regurgitated on tests and did quite well. In my online classes, I had to read and understand the material, do outside research for papers, and - at the end of the day - learn how to learn. That skill has served me well in my career and my life.

* Online encourages more discussions with classmates and professors. In the conventional classroom, there was little time or opportunity to have discussions - the method was lecture. I rarely interacted with my busy professors who seemed more interested in their research than in the classroom student. Office hours were few and often booked. In contrast, there are no “office hours” online - you simply post a question or comment to the professor and you get a thoughtful answer. Discussions are created online within the classrooms and students share their own thoughtful insights and experiences that often expand the scope, depth, and application of the discussion beyond the immediate material at hand. I learned a lot during those classes from my fellow working-adult classmates.

* Online faculty are drawn largely from industry and have experience many “professional” academics lack. This brings a fresh perspective and application-oriented culture into the classroom. While there was always the scaffolding of academic rigor and plenty of discussion of theories, models, and paradigms, there was also focus on how to really apply the learning. Working students and experienced faculty helped blend this knowledge into a unique “scholar-practitioner” model that was far removed from the “ivory tower” learning from those conventional tenured faculty with little real-world experience.

On the whole, I have a great appreciation for online learning. I would never claim that it will work for everyone, but it certainly worked for me (and thousands of other like me). Whether Capella chooses to be rated by US News or not, I appreciate that it exists to serve an underserved working adult population who want to be life-long learners, and I hope that we can get past the current superficial criticism of these institutions and begin to see the value they bring to that group of motivated and ambitious folk.

Roy Wood, PhD

Sep 23, 2011

As a Capella University Ambassador and a graduate student in the Masters of Public Administration (MPA) program, I can attest to the value of outcomes rather than inputs in research. Merely understanding the demographics and high school academic accomplishments of students attending continued education institutions across the United States does not tell us anything about the success and academic achievement levels of the students obtaining degrees at any school. Whether it is a brick and mortar institution or a nontraditional online experience the outcomes of educational attainment are far more powerful and meaningful than who is attending continued education programs. Inputs tell us nothing about the ability of students to become critical thinkers and professionals in their field of study.

With one course left at Capella I find myself reflecting on the education, knowledge and growth I have endured over the last year and a half. I can honestly say that Capella’s curriculum, qualified and dedicated professors, and encouragement for course room discussion and communication has me walking away with more understanding and knowledge than any schooling I have obtained previously. I have learned more in the last year and a half at Capella than I did in my four years at a $30,000 a year private school that boasts on not only having the best of the best representing its student population, but also being one of the leading schools in academics. While I graduated top of my class, Magna Cum Laude, I remember little about my field of study, and the degree did not prepare me well to advance in any career. Capella not only is dedicated to using nontraditional methods to encourage a population to further their degrees, but they also provide a program that is committed to enhancing critical skills and abilities to further one’s career. This is where we can see Capella thriving as an institution providing a great educational experience to those who have the drive and commitment to achieve. It doesn’t matter where we came from; it is about where we are going. Capella sees that, strives for it, and makes it possible for students whom have busy lives succeed academically and professionally.

I am appreciative that Deb Bushway opted out of the US News & World Report. My coursework at Capella in various research methods and policy analysis courses have allowed me the opportunity to understand the strengths and weaknesses of input based research. In more than just the educational field we see this focus misrepresenting the actuality of situations and the effectiveness of programs. Value based research focusing on outputs, outcomes and impacts are going to be far more valuable in research because it actually represents the good being done, rather than how many or what kind of people are participating. Education reports should not be measured by who is obtaining the degree, it should be measured on how many people graduate and the degree of success their education contributes to advancing one’s career.

Lastly, I can’t help but agree with other posts that until one takes a course at Capella they should not judge the effectiveness of the program and the commitment of the people involved. We have worked hard for our degrees, we are responsible for our education and we are committed to achieving the highest academic and professional standards as any other school or traditional student in the United States.

Sep 23, 2011

In retrospect, I think all of us need to realize that times have changed in terms of educational needs and the methods in which they are facilitated. If you look back 20-40 years ago the very concept of “adult education” would have never fathomed reaching the current state we are in. One of the biggest negative influences on the views people have of college and university education is the past exploitation of degree mills and over-priced institutions (online or not) that offered promises of a quality education but had absolutely nothing to substantiate their claims with other than boasting a revenue stream. It is sad, and unfortunate that these institutions or degree mills caused many to be reserved and judgmental about online learning.

In modern times, we have to take into consideration the transition towards alternative forms of learning for those who did not or could not necessarily attain an education from a traditional environment. After all, adult learning is nothing close to traditional learning delivery systems, so in that right there really shouldn’t even be a comparison. Capella, like many other online schools that do have quality programs and back them up by being properly accredited as well as possibly being active participants in the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP). Capella was the first online institution to be chartered into this program (2000) and most certainly takes a serious look at improving their program in any way they can, on a continual basis. This is something very few colleges and universities can attest to and stand by. Granted, Capella is not without its own set of problems, but the fact they do have processes in place to address them says a lot. I have two degrees from Capella and I have attended a brick and mortar institution as well. I have no regrets in my choice and feel that Capella has provided an excellent foundation in their programs offered.

Inputs towards a college or university are very much an old-school classification and segregation tactic that ultimately weeds out certain individuals who may not be able to withstand the rigors of education from that specific institution. Others use them as a measure of compatibility or likelihood to succeed, but even with those measures, the same dynamics to succeed or fail fall upon a Capella student and graduate as with any other. The principle difference here is Capella has modeled itself to deliver its education in a manner benefiting adult learners in a way that helps increase the likelihood of succeeding versus being shunned out without an opportunity to advance in career or life. As a Capella Ambassador, I have seen first hand how there is a great disparity between various types of online institutions and the brick and mortar experience. The metric and measuring systems used in the past are no longer as practical or functional in today’s learning environment.

What we really should be concerned about is whether or not any educational institution is a degree mill, federal student loan profiteering organization, or one that has an excessively high turnover rate. I respect Capella’s decision not to participate, but I also know that Capella would not need to prove itself any more than the next institution. These biased and market driven political action groups that steer people towards the idea that it’s better to go to one place than another without good supporting information is just sad. Just the same, Capella never puts a false sense of security and expectation into its students. They mold that sense of security and raise their own expectations by the virtue of learning in an environment that fosters it.

Let’s get out of the rut of the dog and pony show here and focus on providing and improving on education and not worry about who has the shiniest shoes. Granted, having a consumer reports of colleges (online or not) is important, but the results are always convoluted and skewed because it only takes a small handful of people to broadcast far and wide about their negative opinions or experiences which only propagate to many other sources and ultimately creates an unfair or impractical measure based on the views of a select few. There are people out there who still expect everything to be handed to them on a silver platter and fail to accept their own accountability for their education, those are the ones that most often create this delusional view.

Vicky Phillips
Sep 23, 2011

It’s hard to believe you guys pulled this article in toto from the Huffington Post, slapped an ill-informed attack on top of it , and posted it on your site under the guise of “journalism.”

You all are starting to look like the Phil Donahue of online education.
Is that really what you’re going for?

Capella is dead right in refusing to be evaluated for quality by an instrument that was sent out by US News that shows absolutely no understanding at all of how quality can be measured in online learning.

There exist oodles of research on quality in online learning BUT US News has failed to incorporate any of that into their “surveys.” Bad operational definitions and bad methodology = more bad rankings.

Capella is quite open to being measured on quality issues and outcomes, and is a key player in the Transparency by Design rating project underway at

I am not huge fan of for-profit colleges on the sum …
BUT come on guys, this is sloppy, ill-informed, yellow journalism.
You’re missing the real issues here in favor of a tar and feather, set Frankenstein on fire approach on the incendiary search terms words “for-profit” and “online education.”

You paint Capella as for-profit (which they are) BUT miss the point of their rational and real objections against being ranked by US News completely.

Capella is very open to public accountability — more so than many of the non-profits.

This piece reminds me of that horrible piece you all posted last week on how credit for career experience programs offered bu the majority of colleges today “cheapens” your residential degrees.

PLEASE, get educated about the fact that online degree programs serve older adults (ages 36-41) and that these students are not like you and your young cohorts from Columbia.

Online learning is about a different population; it requires a different school of thought.

Research this area some more before you launch a site dedicated to “journalism” about online learning.

Bad information and prejudice is plentiful when it comes to online learning.
It’s kinda sad to see a gang of well educated guys throwing more sticks on the fire rather than helping build a site that might reasonably light the way.

Hope you do better in the future.

Vicky Phillips
Founder -

Kenneth Thompson PhD.
Sep 23, 2011

Folks Paul Glader is entitled to his opinion which is what the piece he wrote here is, so attacking the person here is out of line. At the same time I endorse those comments that his response or more appropriately non response is woefully lacking in substance and displays either a gross bias to online learning or severe ignorance to the positives of acquiring an online education.

Having read Deb Bushways reasons for not participating in the US news survey I found it measured and logical. It certainly does make sense to be basing qualifications on what students achieved or acquired while being students at the university rather than what they brought to the university. I endorse the comments of previous posters who highlited the positive aspects of online education and the wonderful job that Capella has done in fostering and providing an effecient and effective avenue for adult learning.

Dr, Kenneth Thompson, Capella Graduate and Ambassador

Elizabeth Wagner
Sep 23, 2011

I think most everyone who responded did a great job of respecting Capella’s wish to not participate. For that reason I am no going to go into great length about the quality of the education Capella offers. When I went to my first colloquium I realized just how good Capella’s education is, and superb over many schools including face to face universities. When we stood up to introduce our selves one at a time there were numerous learners that stood up and said ” my name is so and so and I work for the F.B.I.” Each colloquium I meat more and more F.B.I. employees of all ranks as well as D.E.A. agents and a few from Homeland Security. I met some great employees of the F.B.I and all I have to say is, if you still think Capella does not offer quality education after learning the F.B.I. sends all their employees to Capella for doctorate degrees then I suggest questioning the F.B.I.’s reasons for doing so. The F.B.I pays their employees full tuition for Capella’s PhD program. I don’t know about anyone else, but if the F.B.I. and other government agencies believes in Capella’s programs, I think that says a lot….

Elizabeth Wagner
Sep 23, 2011

and, well, I trust Capella’s reasons for not participating and if someone wants to think badly of the University because of such, then I think they might be bored and fishing for a story.

Elaine Glielmi
Sep 23, 2011

I am an Ambassador for Capella University and a 50+ student who has no idea what my HS GPA or ACT scores were nor would they matter to my present knowledge. I was not a good HS Student average about C, however with my background in Business and Education I have learned much more than I ever would have thought possible. Capella University has a diverse program that is completely different from other institutes I have attended and I find what I have learned more geared towards my degree. I have also taken online courses with University of Pheonix and have found that they had “class moderators” as opposed to Instructors that I have at Capella. My current instructors all have PHd’s and are well versed in the discipline they are currently teaching. Inputs would have no place in the ranking of the outstanding students or teachers of this university. Therefore I agree with the decision of Ms. Deb Bushway.

Charles McGinnis
Sep 23, 2011

As a current PhD program student and a Master’s program graduate, I am wholly sold on the Capella model as one that is both sound as an accredited program and one that offers rigorous study, with an ability to balance work, life and school. Capella is definitely not your typical university. We are older, non-traditional students who have reached a certain level in our lives and careers, but who want more. Capella offers this in a manner that places importance on academic outcomes and rigor of curriculum. At age 40 can you please tell me where I ranked in 1989 as a high school senior matters more than the fact that I have an earned post-graduate degree from an accredited institution? In fact the accreditation is from the same body that accredits the traditional schools of the Big 10. The fact that a university, on-line or otherwise, is more concerned with what the student is after their programs, as opposed to before their programs should show everyone that they are on the right track. Capella is not a degree mill and I am a well-rounded student with many experiences in work, school and life who has benefitted immensely form the education and opportunities that Capella University has afforded me.

R. Todd, MBA
Sep 24, 2011

I can only go by my experiences with Capella. In particular, my MBA degree with a Specialization in Project Management helped me to advancei n my career and increased my salary by 30% in the past 5 years, and I now make an annual salary of over $100K per year.

I took advantage of the flexibility and convenience of Capella University’s online education and growth. It taught me the real-world way of doing business by challenging me to create real projects at my place of business while I studied, which led to my career advancement during one of the worst economies since the Great Depression.

I really don’t think that Capella’s worried about their decision to bypass the survey when they have outcomes of success stories and highly successful people like myself. The inputs are what it takes to achieve your desired state (outcomes). In my opinion, Capella University takes a Knowledge Based Management Approach similar to an IPO (Inputs-process-outputs) system, resulting in enhanced Learners performance and structured innovation.


Catherine Hinds
Sep 24, 2011

I am a 60 year old, single, working woman who is very near to completing her Masters of Human Resource Management. I also support at my house an 18 yar old daughter and two elderly parents. I graduated high school and took the appropriate ACT/SAT tests in the late 60′s. I completed my BS degree (after many starts and stops) in the early 80′s. It was obtained from the University of Toledo. I am not sure of my gpa from college (somewhere between 3.7 and 3.9) and I CERTAINLY don’t have a clue as to my exact class standing in high school or my test scores on my ACT/SAT tests. Nor do I think they are particularly relevant.
What is important is that the course work at Capella is relevant and challenging. Enough so that I have volunteered to be a Capella Ambassador. I lost a long-term job approximately 18 months ago. I am convinced that my course work helped me to land a new job because it exposed me to new and exciting changes in the HR field that I would not have mastered without the degree program. As well, the program is business-focused and helps the HR professional to come out of college prepared to be business partners.
It is important to understand that the non-traditional college often embrace students of all different backgrounds: older students, working students, students that did well in high school and those that may have done poorly. What is important is that these older students have now decided to dedicate themselves to receiving a quality college degree. And are committed to the work it entails to earn that degree.

Paul Glader
Sep 24, 2011

Dear Readers,
Thanks for these responses. I’ve got a few thoughts in response.
- My post was intended as an opinionated reaction to Ms. Bushway’s column about not being part of the ranking… not an in-depth journalistic piece on Capella.
- I appreciate hearing these testimonials and views from adult learners and students at Capella. You are, indeed, helping me see that Capella must be doing some things right for some people. I see that there is pride in the institution. That’s great.
- Contrary to what some of you are implying, though, online education doesn’t have a rosy reputation right now. The DOE is cracking down on many practices, enrollments are declining at many of the institutions - because of terrible recruiting and operational processes. Some may go out of business.
- As I note in my other column, the industry NEEDS rankings right now and a flight to quality. If Capella is, indeed, an exception to that rule and a showcase for quality in adult education… they should show that by participating. I’m glad to hear they are involved in some ranking efforts. My concern is that the pride and defensiveness of some of these institutions will lead to meaningful rankings.
- That’s a shame… because I do actually believe online education has great potential and that the idea of adult learning is a wonderful idea.
- You can’t rank schools based on warm fuzzies. You must have quantifiable items to measure. I am hearing your points that SAT, ACT, GPA’s and selectivity items are not the best for online. I see the point. I think they should be included but perhaps not weighted heavily. I’d still like to see more suggestions as to items that SHOULD be ranked.
- Jeremiah gets at one: “Capella has at the most 25 students which allows the professor to interact well wiith the students.” If this classroom number is verifiable, that’s a great item to include among online institutions.
- Any more suggestions for measurable items?

Phillip Paker
Sep 25, 2011

I am surprised at such an unprofessional reply. It starts out being disrespectful, responds at a parochial level, uses clichés and does not address the issues raised by Ms. Bushway. Your statement of a weak response is a reflection of your response.

What you tout as a best practice is not, as identified in the response, because the paradigm for education methods for adult learners has changed. This reminds me of the digital watch being invented by the Swiss who did not even bother to patent it, as it did not fit their paradigm for a watch. As to being “the only way forward for your business,” this demonstrates a closed mind that is locked in the past.
The cost is not inexpensive but then neither is it for more traditional schools (Brick and Mortar).

I am a working adult that started his MBA twice at B&M schools and could not complete it due to family and work constraints. Attending online requires considerable rigor in managing time and being responsible to get assignments done on time. I was challenged to do extra work, as I am more able to do more than some other students. Capella offers many tool to assist learners that have trouble, and time is taken for those students that need extra attention; an action that, based on personal experience, is difficult if not impossible in a B&M facility. Having students from around the world participate that are not here in the US and have not had their perspective thereby modified brings new dimensions to the classroom discussions.

Three different professional career counselors and a standing professor recommended Capella to me.
I received compliments on my success and ability to survive the rigor required to complete my degree by professional superiors and educators from several organizations as well as my employers (Note: term is plural as I was working as a consultant so I received compliments from my employer and customer). Just as a note: My ACT, SAT and GMAT scores were in the top two percent and my current GPA through my MBA and current PHD is 4.0. My undergraduate work GPA at a B&M university was not great; however, I got a 4 year degree in 1.5 years while being in the military fulltime and working part time. It is not easy to maintain a 4.0 and I know that many students struggle with the work and a significant number seem to dropout as they cannot meet the rigor required (I have no facts to support this only the observation of classmates that are not visible after one or two classes and who obviously struggle with the work). However, online learning offers an opportunity for working adults that have matured, as well as military personnel that are stationed here and overseas, an opportunity for advanced education that they would not otherwise have. Having attended B&M universities for many classes the work is generally not as challenging, the interface with other students (at least in nighttime classes) less interactive and access to professors generally harder to obtain. I would also note that Capella accommodates the military personnel and their particular problems when deployed.

As stated in Ms. Bushway’s response results (output) is more of a measure than input. I suggest more research into the topic rather than a rote response that is outdated and frankly rather juvenile. You have a strong media and a good evaluation tool that needs to evolve. You have asked for specific measures. Why not commission a study to address the issue using four or five recent graduates from Capella and a B&M school that you have ranked highly. Assess the results and then see if you need to adjust your perspective and your tool and then be professional enough to present the results along with the apology, I believe, you will need to make.

Just to note: I am a Capella ambassador. I volunteered after obtaining my MBA due the outstanding experience I had in obtaining it. I thought it would be better to get my PHD from a different university to provide diversity in my learning. After reviewing courses, offered and the teaching methods at both B&M and online schools I decided on Capella. I have attended classes at Villanova, UC Irvine, UCLA, Cal Poly Pomona, Bellevue University, DePaul University and University of Illinois so I have had hands on learning experience with several institutions as well as professional training. I believe I am in a position to make the assertions supra.

Russell Poulin (@RussPoulin)
Sep 25, 2011

Hello -
When US News announced their intentions to create a ranking of online programs, those of us at our organization (WCET - were curious about what criteria they would use. We arranged a free webcast with the leaders of this effort from US News. If you listen to this webcast it becomes abundantly apparent that:
a) they have no expertise in online education;
b) they have no clue as to what criteria they are going to use.
In fact they seemed to say that they will gather lots of data and see where it leads. Huh?
We also heard later that if an institution does not participate in the survey that US News will complete the survey for the institution. This is a sublime form of blackmail.
Cali Morrison, the WCET staffer who moderated the webcast later wrote a blog piece for us suggesting that institutions think twice before participating in the survey…

As for your assertion that ranking are needed…you are partially correct. We need a way for students to determine which institution is the best fit for them regardless of modality. But, rankings are a poor way of doing this as they represent only one point of view. A ranking for one student might be completely different for their neighbor next door.

It’s also “interesting” that nine institutions are in this year’s top five rankings the US News recently released. The tie at fifth was an interesting way to get more institutions to to be able to say that we are in the “top five”.

It’s hard for me to criticize an institution that does not want to be part of this questionable methodology. Capella U is a WCET member, but my opinion would be the same if they were not.

Russ Poulin

Karen S
Sep 25, 2011

Mr. Glader’s self-serving bio presents a picture of a writer with extensive experience and exposure to a variety of well-respected organizations. But his comment in response to Capella University’s Interim President, Deb Bushway’s reasons for declining participation in this years U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of online colleges survey brings into question the knowledge, understanding and critical thinking skills acquired through such exposure. Certainly it is not that difficult to appreciate the greater significance of the measurement of outcomes as a barometer of success over the measurement of inputs. If the purpose of education is to produce scholars, then it should not be do difficult for someone with Mr. Glader’s background to appreciate the greater significance of the measure of an institution’s ability to retain and graduate students over it’s ability to recruit students! Certainly, a Knight Bagehart Fellow should be able to understand why Deb Bushway would like to see the US News and World Report consider providing information about the college completion rates.

“Our reaction to this note: Cop-Out! Ms. Bushway’s excuses for not participating in the ranking are weak. Inputs, outputs, shminputs, shmoutputs. Buck up and participate. Your inputs are your inputs”.

Unfortunately, this statement from Mr. Glader doesn’t really say or mean isn’t saying anything of merit. Even though he INPUT a lot of huff and puff, his OUTPUT, when actually read, doesn’t amount to any statement of merit. Hmmm, the lack of understanding of the validity of the measure of success by the output of a school over the input of a school is reflective of an absence of scholarly capabilities and confusion about what constitutes the measure of success. Perhaps, if Mr. Glader came to Capella University as a student he would learn to understand that reliability and validity of success is dependent upon the repetition of successful results, aka outputs and would then be able to understand the depth of profoundness of Dr. Bushway’s statements…

Wally Kohl, PhD.
Sep 26, 2011

I was impressed with Paul Glader’s September 24 response. I am also quite pleased with what our Capella interim President wrote.
Moving forward he asked for metrics. I obviously see four immediately.
1. Graduate satisfaction
2. Career application
3. Employer recognition of the degree
4. Staff qualifications
My experience with Capella from 2004 through 2009 and now as an Ambassador, is the exemplary backgrounds, knowledge, ability to impart and enthuse greater learning of the professors of my classes. Department heads were role models. Mr. Glader should expose himself to Capella accademics. Perhaps then a metrics for on-line degree programs could be developed appropriately.

Keshia Allen, Georgia
Sep 26, 2011

Wow! Go team Capella! As an Ambassador for Capella University, I am simply beaming with pride at former and current Learner’s defense of our institution. We know what it takes to stay the course, to put in the work, and to stand behind our deisions as educators, professionals, and service providers. Our “Learners” are products of some of the most highly regarded brick and mortar institutions around the United States of America and abroad. Our military service men and women can attest to the sacrifices made by them and for them to obtain a quality education at this uniquely designed online institution of higher learning. Additionally, the career-woman/man or mother/father who has to wait until Midnight to have the opportunity to focus on her/his course-work once their child(ren) goes to bed.

Finally, as it relates to Paul Glader…instead of fishing for material to help with your piece, conduct a feasibility study and kindly approach Capella University’s Administration for assistance and maybe just maybe our kind, highly-regarded staff and fellow learners will assist you. Most importantly in closing the “Learners” at Capella University know and will put in the work and know what it means to sacrifice personal time to achieve our goals. Take notes and follow Capella as we rise above any negativity directed our way as we complete our journey as public servants, professionals, and productive citizens in our communities around the world.

Kindest Regards,
Keshia Allen, A.S. & B.S. (Grambling State University)
M.S. (Central Texas College/University of Maryland-Asian Division)*
MBA & CMC (Kennesaw State University)
Ph.D. Learner & Capella University Ambassador (Capella University)
*(pursued but not awarded due to Official Military Orders)

Steve Vodhanel
Sep 27, 2011

Interesting reading, and what I sense is missing from essentially a self-report by Capella to U.S. News is more of a direct student response, otherwise many of us students just get lost in the graphics of statistics forwarded by the institution. Can anyone trust what a large institution says about itself? Are the statistics not only accurate, but accurately interpreted and completely reported? Does the prospective student really care what both the institution and a news corporation self-report and market as another magazine for sale, anyways?

Personally, my story might read very different than the average Capella student, and I am finding myself nothing more than a statistic lost deep somewhere on a spreadsheet. And how does Capella actually gather the outcomes information? No one has yet to contact myself – during school or after graduation. What is reported to U.S. News, or anyone else for that matter, regarding level of student debt and the affects of debt on the student’s future quality of life? Are issues like these even recorded, as personally I have yet to find anyone remotely interested in my career situation and massive debt load.

Transparency seems to be a very translucent term in and of itself when Capella nor the AACC (American Association of Community Colleges) have absolutely nothing to say regarding a prior study of career opportunities and how this information was used in the university’s marketing strategy. (If there’s a critical shortage of community college leaders…who are they…where are they…and how may I apply!) Unfortunately, Citibank exhibits a very different level of transparency when it comes to student loans, though. But here I am with a degree in Leadership for Higher Education, unable to land even an interview, after finding this AACC study not only false but so fundamentally flawed as to never be able to pass a proposal review.

Does the process of marketing balance with graduate expectations? Does the process of recruitment balance with actual career opportunities? And who measures these? Regarding student learning outcomes (SLOs), I am not sure where the accuracy would lie, as myself and other students whom I’ve known over the years have yet to participate in any assessment other than end of course surveys. Is someone in the background reading our course projects and gleaming success or failure statistics without our knowledge?

I think whether or not Capella chooses to self-report to the U.S. News magazine is really irrelevant because the ‘transparency’ of self-reporting is a myth, as is the myth that U.S. News magazine is more than a marketing brochure for higher education. I could really care less about what Capella tells U.S. News as I’m trying to figure out what I will be telling Citibank.

Saah F. Kanda
Sep 27, 2011

Saah F. Kanda
BSW, BA, (MPA – In Progress)

This is an unfortunate situation Mr. Glader, that you attacked Deb Bushway’s decision and post. As a Capella Ambassador, it will be unfair if I do no indicate here that besides demonstrating biasness, you also demonstrated complete ignorance of the online institutions’ education process in general and that of Capella University in particular. As a learner in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at Capella, I can attest to Capella’s institutional rigorousness regarding the awarding of degrees.
As a journalist, Mr. Glader, you presented a nice topic for an argument. Unfortunately, you lack the necessary details as Deb Bushway has about Capella University in terms of the quality of faculty members and the uniformity of excellence which brings rare combination of scholar-practitioner to the classroom that breathes real-world life into the intellectual exchanges brought in the courses by fellow learners. Although “Any press is good press,” I will suggest that Mr. Glader focus on the quality of Capella’s independent thinkers (which is only evident at Capella). Capella offers a level of education that is second to none based on cost, courses offered, flexibility and level of qualify instructors. Also, I will love for Mr. Glader to justify his argument why my high school GPA, SAT and ACT scores should still be significant since my graduation from high school in 1976 and why my geographical location should be particular relevant measures of quality or excellence. For me, his argument of inputs does not make much sense as learning concepts would for a successful graduate. An adult who decided on what he/she wants to get from the college experience (output) will even make a successful graduate than the inputs Mr. Glader is arguing about.
I applaud you Ms. Bushway, for upholding the reputation of our institution and allowing your learners to give their views to Mr. Glader who decided to ignore the level playing field you observed in the new reality of online learning in the 21st century. For Mr. Glader, he is more concerned about Demographic information of incoming students than outcomes of graduating learners. However, Capella graduates do move onto positions as Managers, Directors, VP, and C-Level Executives as most of Capella’s courses allow learners to focus their studies within the context of their own organization. They are able to finish courses with assignments that are relevant to their organizational structure.
In conclusion, the measure of rigorousness of Capella programs is evident in its accreditation – that is not awarded lightly. Mr. Glader, be more investigative in the future than a critique journalist.

Kimberly Henderson
Sep 30, 2011

Paul, I appreciate your solicitation of feedback about the Capella learning experience albeit after the fact of making presumptuous statements. As per your request I have committed to sharing my experience as a Capella doctoral learner for the past two years. The pedagogical teaching model that provides the foundation for Capella is grounded in evidence-based theory and research. Throughout these last two years I have been consistently engaged in scholarly conversation, critical thinking and writing with program cohorts, professors who are highly accomplished PhDs themselves, and seasoned industry practitioners. The majority of our reading is composed of articles from peer-reviewed journals augmented by textbooks, self-reflection, and professional experience. I am continuously challenged by instructors and fellow learners through specific, relevant, and timely feedback.

Although I agree that US News should not select metric systems that are “favorable” only to Capella I suggest that as with other industries who have remained competitive in an ever evolving environment they might consider reevaluating their current methods for relevancy, practicality, and applicability. Do not misunderstand me there are areas in which Capella still has room for improvement but then isn’t that true of every academic institution that has ever been erected on this planet?
I feel compelled to share that Capella University is not necessarily antagonistic and/or the antithesis to brick and mortar institutions. That said, some inputs for assessing Capella University might be previous academic coursework, (i.e. grades, successful completion of degree) professional experience. Along the same lines, grades, graduation rates, professional advancement, contribution to industry knowledge (empirical research & publication). This list has resulted from my elementary attempt at brainstorming. However, an intelligent and rational exchange would definitely stimulate diversified and sustainable alternatives.

In addition, the GMATs, GREs, ACTs, ACTs, GPAs are not always veracious, indicators of student’s future academic abilities. Considering that many students experience test taking anxiety whereas other students test effortlessly but lack the perseverance to master daily and weekly class work. As such, these methods of assessing students for future academic behavior and/or outcomes are lacking and should be utilized in conjunction with qualitative assessment methodologies. To attest to this specific fact many “Ivy league” and top ranked schools in the US have removed testing as the predominate requirement for admissions and have dropped it to an optional status.

I perused your academic and journalistic accomplishments as listed in the bio on WiredAcademic. I have to wonder in your previous roles at the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and the Associated Press did they allow such relaxed research and reporting standards or is it that the WiredAcademic is guilty of the same suspicious standards you have prematurely accused Capella University of ? Furthermore, if the Malcolm Forbes Award you recently accepted is any indication of your research and reporting acumen then you should sincerely “look forward to rapping, sharing knowledge and seeking truth with other writers and readers.”

Your (Wired Academic) mission statement includes the verbatim language “Our management and editorial team includes seasoned journalists and academic officials to report, filter, edit, research and produce timely and accurate information about the online education sector.” I could not find any wording that supported reporting based on inflammatory allegations that border on slanderous and circumstantial conclusions.

Also, I would be remiss if I did not ask why your “independent news source” considers Harvard as the zenith of academic excellence? Contrary to your opinion, and other assimilated thinkers, there are other institutions of equal or superior educational capabilities in addition to or in spite of Harvard (depending on measurement of standards). In my opinion, it is when any person or thing is assumed to have arrived at “the paragon” that they fail to grow further and consequentially become obsolete or stagnant.

Finally, to give you a short bio on my academic career I attended brick-and-mortar institutions to pursue and earn my associates, bachelors, and master’s degrees. Moreover, I was highly active in campus activities serving as president, vice-president, and active member of various honor societies, business associations, and interdisciplinary efforts. I received several commendations (academic and community) while maintaining a full academic schedule, full-time employment and managing a single-parent household. The pundit’s assumption that the average Capella student is intellectually inferior is as preposterous as it is arrogant. I thoroughly researched Capella and other graduate programs extensively before unequivocally deciding to matriculate into Capella University’s PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology degree program.



Paul Glader
Oct 3, 2011

To add to the discussion, it might be helpful to look at this FAQ on the U.S. News approach to rankings (link below). They provide a tremendous service to students. They will list schools even if schools don’t participate and it’s not hard to do so. Many schools like Capella - non profit and for-profit - have had ego issues about the rankings in the past. But that doesn’t matter because one can still list or rank them without their participation and that’s fine. The fact of the matter is… US News is the most well-known ranking system out there. And so I still believe it hurts Capella’s reputation (and doesn’t build the reputation of a school that is not very well known off the Internet) to take the position that Ms. Bushway and the boosters for the school are taking. On the flip side, if Capella is as great as its students are saying in these comments, it doesn’t make sense for them to take a defensive posture on rankings.

2. Does U.S. News rank all colleges and universities? Not quite. To be included in the rankings, a college or university must be regionally accredited and have a total enrollment of at least 200 students. Also, we do not rank certain schools for school-specific reasons, such as cases where the undergraduate student population consists almost entirely of nontraditional students.

In addition, 81 of the approximately 1,608 regionally accredited institutions in the United States are specialty institutions that offer most or all of their degrees in fine arts, performing arts, business, or engineering. We also have gathered information on nearly 200 more schools that include some nontraditional and international students; these schools are not ranked.

This year, however, we are ranking 455 accredited undergraduate business programs and 383 accredited undergraduate engineering programs. This information can supplement the colleges’ overall rankings for students with an interest in these majors.

For the fifth year in a row, we have created groups of unranked schools that we have listed alphabetically in separate tables at the bottom of the category in which they would have been ranked. We have been doing this to some degree since 1990. U.S. News believes that because these schools are unable to report key educational characteristics or because they have certain other characteristics, it would be unfair to try to compare them statistically with the other schools that are part of the rankings.

For the fifth year in a row, those institutions that have indicated that they don’t use the SAT or ACT in admissions decisions for first-time, first year, degree-seeking applicants were included in the list of unranked schools. The non-use of use the SAT or ACT in admissions decisions is the main reason why schools are listed as unranked. In addition, some schools were not ranked because they didn’t receive enough responses on the peer assessment survey to allow us to use their peer score as part of the overall ranking.

Other types of schools have been unranked in previous years and continue to be unranked this year. They include schools with total enrollment of fewer than 200 students; schools where a vast proportion of students are nontraditional; colleges that don’t accept first year students, sometimes called upper-division schools; and a few specialized schools in arts, business, or engineering. (These schools are classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as “Special Focus Institutions.”) Most for-profits ended up being unranked since in most cases they don’t use the SAT or ACT in admissions decisions.

Paul Glader
Oct 3, 2011

Here are two other relevant paragraphs re: for-profit colleges from U.S. News’ FAQ. The only way Capella authorities can prevent the school from being included in such rankings would be to some taking government-related money and filing mandatory data. If they want to create such a walled garden, good luck with that. I think we all know where the school will be if they pursue such a path:

2. All for-profit institutions are included in the U.S. News data collection: For the first time, U.S. News has included in the rankings all for-profit colleges and universities that grant bachelor’s degrees and are regionally accredited and where eligible to be ranked, if they met the specific U.S. News ranking criteria to be included in the Best Colleges rankings. These include many schools that have large online bachelor’s degree programs.

3. Non-responders are handled differently: In the case of colleges that have refused to fill out the U.S. News statistical survey for at least two years, and for schools new to the rankings that did not respond to our statistical survey, we have made extensive use of the statistical data those institutions were required to report to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on such factors as SAT and ACT scores, acceptance rates, and faculty and retention rates. These schools are footnoted as non-responders.

Yvonne May
Oct 4, 2011

I am an actual 39 year old mother of four and military spouse who is also a PhD learner and Ambassador for Capella who is almost ready for Comps. I am particularly proud of my university and that is displayed with a smile everytime I see a commercial that advertises the fact that I matter. Although I am worried that online schools do not receive the proper recognition that traditional universities do, I am more and more encouraged by articles, commercials, and academic milestones that higher institutions like Capella are bringing to the forefront. I am even prouder to be associated with those individuals who rate outcomes at the top of a list of priorities instead of at the bottom. Besides, what are measures without outcomes? Furthermore, what are studies without proper research formalities?

Nov 10, 2011

The author of this opinion is missing the obvious. Perhaps he is insecure about his own background and feels better about himself after attacking an institution that is clearly producing quality graduates. Notice how he jumps from a quote about the average Capella student being a 39 year old female balancing family and work to an assumption that they are all “single mothers”. In spite of a well written, reasonable and legitimate explanation of why Capella did not participate, he suspiciously assumes otherwise. There is no conspiracy here, Paul.

I am a classic example of the Capella learner described in the explanation. I am a 30-something working professional (female, WITHOUT children) who struggles to balance the demands of graduate school while working full time, taking care of a disabled brother and running a household. Deb Bushway’s comments are exactly right - how I did in high school 20 years ago has nothing to do with the quality of Capella as an institution and should not be included in the review. Since I have spent a decade working for a public college that is one of the top schools in the nation for quality in distance education, I think I am a much better judge of the quality of Capella’s online program than this misguided gentleman.

What IS relevant to this discussion is why people like Paul still assume that anyone with a few letters behind their name lecturing in front of an actual classroom of students is automatically providing a higher quality education, and that brick-and-mortar schools are turning out the most educated students. If that were the case, the U.S. would not be trailing the world in STEM education, and 80% of incoming students at my college would not need remedial English. I hate to be the one to break it to you, Paul, but the earth is not actually flat, after all.

I have a public college degree and there is no doubt that I’m getting a better education and having a better experience at Capella. Before you criticize Capella and the people who go there, Paul, I suggest you sign up for a class or two so you’ll see just how far off the mark you really are on this one.

M Otten
Jan 11, 2012

As a graduate of four prestigious traditional US universities (BSE, MS, MBA and PhD), I am very supportive of President Bushway’s constructive offer to help structure questions that would be more meaningful for non-traditional degree programs. Everyone can find fault with rankings, but they are here to stay, and I must admit that I don’t mind that 2 of the 4 of my alma maters are competing for the top slot in the US News and World Report ranking. However, most people do recognize generailzed rankings shortcomings, and it is time to recognize non-campus schools’ legitimate place among valid educational options. Why not focus on what are the right measures for institutions like Capella and find a subset of measures that more properly position their value among the larger cohort of degree programs?

L Cooper
Jul 14, 2012

I am very happy with the education I received at Capella University. I’ll guarantee you this, I dedicate at least 13 hours per week to my coursework. I have to if I want to excel here. Our papers are submitted to SafeAssign which is an online tool used to detect plagiarism. They is great emphasis on properly documenting references. Cheating is not an option here. We have to work. Additionally, assignments


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