Education has evolved in the last decade as online learning has become a viable, affordable alternative to traditional learning in a brick-and-mortar classroom. As a result, established colleges and universities are unveiling online courses and online degree programs at a rapid pace to keep up with the competition of schools like Potomac College, which caters to an adult population and offers both online and on-campus classes.
Located in the heart of the nation’s capitol of Washington DC, with a sister campus in nearby Herndon, Virginia, Potomac College provides the convenience for which today’s students are looking with evening, weekend, and online classes that allow students to earn a college degree at their convenience.
Potomac College mission statement is, like its curriculum, student centric:
Potomac College provides educational opportunities, primarily at the undergraduate level, leading to career enhancement for its multicultural adult learners by offering affordable and accessible education in the fields of business and technology. The practitioner-led curriculum, building on a strong foundation in general education, utilizes flexible teaching and learning models that recognize, embrace and respond to the complex needs of the College’s students.
In addition to fostering a collaborative learning environment, Potomac College prides itself on providing students with a personalized college experience. In fact, college president Cathleen Raffaeli (Potomac College Official Website) asserts that instructors and support staff at the school make an effort to get to know students individually throughout their time at the college and after graduation.
Victor Berlin founded Potomac College in Bethesda, Maryland, an affluent suburb of Washington DC, in 1991. A rocky road followed as the college was scrutinized by state regulators shortly after its founding. The regulators found numerous violations – the college had subpar library facilities, offered a substandard curriculum, and did not keep adequate records – that led to the temporary suspension of the college by the secretary of education in Maryland.
By 1994 classes had resumed and state regulators again investigated the college. In its three year history, Potomac College had 77 paying students but only 16 of those students had graduated to the state’s standards. State regulators gave the college an ultimatum: Get rid of Berlin or the college would be shut down for good.
Berlin left. The Bethesda campus closed, and campuses in Washington DC and Herndon, Virginia, opened. In 2008, Hamilton White Group, an educational investment firm from New York City, purchased Potomac College and boasted approximately 350 students in its on-campus and online programs.
Potomac College was founded on the belief that education should prepare students for a successful career in the real world. Taught by degreed instructors who have years of experience in their respective fields, students engage in both theoretical and practical exercises to ensure they receive a well-rounded educational experience whether they complete their degree on campus or online.
Holding accreditation from The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Potomac College offers associate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and professional certificates in business, business management, accounting, health sciences, information systems, and related areas.
Students seeking a bachelor of science degree can opt for one of several concentrations, including information systems, management, accounting, international business, and government contract management while associate of science degrees are offered in accounting, information systems, network security management, management, and international business.
Each program adheres to a specific mission and has goals for what each student should glean from the courses and the program as a whole. The international business major, for example, prepares students for managerial positions in profit and non-profit organizations that do business globally. Students must complete 120 credits to earn their bachelor’s degree while those students completing an associate of science degree will earn 60 credits to receive their degrees.
Students who excel at academics at Potomac College may be selected to join the Theoretical Applications Project – or TAP – Honors program. Eligibility for TAP includes a 3.0 GPA or higher; a C or better in English 295, Research and Report Writing; and a job with an approved employer. An instructor or the chair of the TAP Program will visit the student’s jobsite before approval of admission to the TAP Program.
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Applying to Potomac College is a straightforward yet detailed process. In addition to submitting an application form, applicants are required to meet with an admissions counselor, either in-person or virtually for online students, for an interview to determine if the prospective student is a good fit for Potomac College.
Applicants must submit copies of all high school and college transcripts, if applicable, and copies of any educational certificates the applicant may have earned from corporate training programs or professional development programs. Applicants who have taken college placement tests such as Advanced Placement and CLEP are also required to submit their test scores during the application process. As of April 2011, an application fee of $25 and a registration fee of $25 are required.
Accepted applicants, who decide to attend Potomac College and have no prior college experience, must take a series of online placement tests in English, math, and reading to determine their academic competency and in what classes they will be placed.
Students who test lower than the acceptable scores (less than 57 in math and less than 80 in English) will be required to take entry level classes in the subject to increase proficiency before moving on to college-level courses.
Potomac College’s financial aid office works closely with students to ensure they can afford and secure the necessary funding for their college education. Students generally fund their studies at Potomac College through grants and loans, which require they fill out the FAFSA form each academic year.
Students who demonstrate financial need typically receive some funding from grants, which are considered gifts and do not have to be repaid. In addition to the Federal Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, students may be eligible for the Academic Competitiveness Grant. The grant is available to Pell Grant recipients at the freshmen and sophomore levels and requires students to hold a GPA of 3.0.
Information systems majors at the college may apply for The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant. Eligibility requirements include junior or senior status and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students must also demonstrate financial need and have been awarded funding through the Federal Pell Grant.
United States veterans are eligible to receive veterans’ benefits to attend Potomac College. Veterans must apply for the benefits through their nearest Department of Veterans Affairs Office. The department determines for how much the student is eligible then distributes the funds.
Loans are often used to offset education costs not covered by grants and outside scholarships. Students have numerous options for loans, including the Federal Stafford Loan and the Federal Parent Plus Loan. The Federal Stafford Loans are either subsidized or unsubsidized. Students who demonstrate financial need generally receive a subsidized loan with the government paying the interest while the student is in college. Students who receive unsubsidized loans, however, do not demonstrate financial need and must pay their own interest.
Student Financial Aid Details
Additional School Information
Potomac College caters to both students local to the Washington DC area – including Northern Virginia and Maryland – and to online students from around the world. As a result, the college does not have on-campus living but still provides on-campus students with a rich college experience, offering such on campus events as welcome week for new and returning students. Commuter students will find ample parking on campus and easy access by metro and bus to the Washington D.C. campus.
Students at Potomac College reflect today’s modern college student: Most work full-time and have families and other commitments, but they still want to earn a college degree to advance their career or to facilitate a career change. As a result, on-campus classes are scheduled to accommodate students. Weekday classes begin at 6 p.m. while students can also take Saturday classes, which start at 9 a.m.
Online classes, however, allow students to log in to their virtual classroom when they want and from where they want. As long as students turn assignments in on time and meet the instructor’s criteria, such as interacting with other students through message boards, students have the flexibility to complete their classes when and where they want. Students use and will become familiar with the e-College virtual classroom at Potomac College.
Instructors on campus and in the virtual classroom possess the same qualifications and experience, providing students with the same educational opportunities. Students in the Metro Washington DC area may opt to take both online and on-campus classes.
Potomac College also provides students with ongoing support as they become graduates and start their new careers. The Career Services Office provides job leads and offers resume writing and interview preparation assistance to students and alumni.
- Business and Computer School Online, Washington DC and Virginia – Potomac. Web. 01 May 2011. <http://www.potomac.edu/>.
- Clabaugh, Jeff. “New York Investors Buy Potomac College.” Washington Business Journal. 4 Apr. 2008. Print.
- “Hamilton White Group Acquires Potomac College | Business Wire | Find Articles at BNET.” Find Articles at BNET | News Articles, Magazine Back Issues & Reference Articles on All Topics. Web. 01 May 2011. <http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0EIN/is_2008_April_28/ai_n25359714/>.
- McCarthy, Ellen. “To Berlin, College Is Big Business.” The Washington Post 8 Dec. 2003. Print.