Columbia Southern University (CSU) is a recent entrant in the league of institutions offering higher education as its history only stretches back to 1993 when it was established by the late Dr. Robert Mayes. Despite its short history, this institution has made a name for itself by embracing modern technology and enabling students to acquire advanced education through non-conventional ways of learning.
Located in Orange Beach, Alabama, the school has a completely online presence that allows it to provide education to students from anywhere in our global village. Appreciating that there are many people who desired to further their education but were tied down by work and family commitments, the founders of the institution developed programs that could be pursued at any time of the year regardless of the student’s geographical location.
Over the years, the university has continued to expand by increasing student enrollment at it campus in Alabama and the provision of an ever-increasing array of online programs. Today, students can earn certificates, associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees.
At its inception, the school offered degrees in Environmental Management and Occupational Safety. Additional degree and certificate programs were added later on and now include criminal justice administration, computer science and business administration just to name a few.
The associate degrees offered at the college’s inception are available today in addition to degrees in fire science and general studies. A host of bachelor’s degrees are also available. The college’s department of business administration offers bachelor’s degrees in varied fields including finance, management, marketing, information technology and human resource management. There are also bachelor’s degrees in environmental management, fire science, criminal justice administration and occupational safety among others.
Students who obtain their bachelor’s can proceed to study for their master’s as the college offers several master’s degrees. The Master of Business Administration (MBA) program covers areas such as finance, marketing, HR management and public administration. The college also offers masters degrees in organizational leadership, criminal justice administration, occupational safety and health and environmental management.
This is also one of just a handful of institutions offering online doctorate degrees and one could enroll here for the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA).
Certificate courses cover all areas covered by the associate degree programs and, at the undergraduate level, the student is required to complete 12 semester hours to earn a certificate.
As the majority of students study online, admission to the college’s programs goes on throughout the year. Students seeking admission to the college’s undergraduate programs must submit transcripts showing high school completion or a GED score sheet proving that the student has attained the passing scores required by the state in which the GED was administered.
Students transferring from other institutions are required to provide admissions with the transcripts issued by the institution from which they are transferring. For members of the disciplined forces (some of whom are veterans without immediate access to their high school transcripts), the school accepts a Military Statement of Service which indicates the high school the officer attended and the year of graduation.
For admission to the master’s programs, a student is required to submit the transcripts issued for an accredited bachelor’s degree. Doctoral students are admitted into the doctoral program on production of transcripts for accredited bachelor’s and master’s degrees. A student with a bachelor’s degree in a business related field and two years post baccalaureate professional experience could apply to the doctoral program.
The availability of the online programs inevitably means that the college has a sizeable number of international students. Applicants who are not native speakers of English and those who have earned their degrees from institutions where English is not the main language of instruction are required to prove their proficiency in the language through various means.
For admission to an undergraduate program, the applicant should obtain a score of 500 on the paper-based version of Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or a score of 61 on the Internet-based version. Scores for master’s and doctorate applicants are 530 and 550 respectively (paper-based version). Other test scores that a student could use to prove proficiency in the language are ACT COMPASS English as a Second Language Placement Tests.
An international student will also be admitted into the college when he or she produces official high school transcripts issued by an accredited high school which uses English as the principal language of instruction. Where the grading system is different from that used by U.S. institutions, an equivalent has to be provided through a translation made by a body approved by the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES).
Several scholarship programs are available for the academically gifted but financially challenged students. The Robert G. Mayes Memorial Scholarship is awarded each year in memory of the college’s founder. To be considered for this $5,000 scholarship, the applicant must be an alumnus of CSU who wants to pursue a master’s or doctorate degree at the college. Additionally, such a student must have graduated from the college with a minimum grade point average of 3.8.
In appreciation of its relationship with members of the disciplined forces, the school has recently introduced the Hero Behind the Hero Scholarship Program. These scholarships are provided to the spouses or dependents of members of the military or firefighters and law enforcement officers. This essay-writing scholarship covers the beneficiary’s tuition expense for 24 months or 75 credit hours. Applicants must maintain a grade point average of at least 3.0 during the whole duration of their studies.
The majority of financial aid to students is available from the federal government and a student is required to meet certain conditions to be eligible. The applicant has to be a citizen of the U.S. or an eligible non-citizen. Additionally, an applying student must provide an official high school transcript or GED and a valid Social Security Number.
Applicants are also required to demonstrate financial need and should not have defaulted on any Federal Student Loan. Any applicant who has been convicted of an illegal drug-related offense does not qualify for a federal loan. Once a student has been approved for federal financial aid, he or she is required to maintain satisfactory academic progress to continue benefiting.
Military students pursuing programs benefit from Tuition Assistance (TA) whose funding could be as high as $4,500 per fiscal year.
The structuring of programs here means that the student population will forever be a mixture of both high school graduates and adult learners. The college’s online program, while capable of addressing the educational needs of both the young and the old, is especially ideal for veterans, returning students, stay-at-home parents, and professionals seeking additional qualifications.
The university has a special relationship with the armed forces and almost half of the students pursuing education through the institute are active members of the U.S. forces. After the accreditation of the college in 2001, the college was granted approval to offer tuition assistance to both active and retired members of the U.S. military by the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES).
Various organizations have shown appreciation for the online education opportunities offered by partnering with the institution to provide education to their employees, their spouses, and dependents. Students from partnering institutions obtain education at subsidized rates. Some of the institutions that have partnership arrangements here include Delta Airlines, the New York Fire Department, Tampa Fire and Rescue, the National Sheriffs Association and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.
Accreditation is provided by the Distance Education and Training Council.
Justine Ventimiglia graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Currently residing in a 1950’s modest ranch in Metro Detroit, she enjoys researching and writing about Mid Century Modern furniture and decor as she works on restoring her home and documenting the process.