STARKVILLE, Miss.--As the campus undergraduate population at Mississippi State continues growing, so too are the numbers of students pursuing online bachelor's degrees.
Off-campus undergraduate students increased by 5 percent between 2012 and 2013, according to the university's Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness. Michael Busby, manager of the MSU Center for Distance Education, predicted the trend--like the national increase in online students and coursework--will continue in coming semesters.
Members of the distance education office staff are working to inform prospective students about the available online study opportunities, he added.
"We're doing a lot of recruiting at the undergraduate level, especially with community college graduates," Busby said. "We realize that there are so many students with associate degrees who have a job and family and, for whatever reason, can't leave their geographic area near the community college. For those students, it's really important that they have opportunities to finish their undergraduate degrees here at Mississippi State."
MSU offers a range of online bachelor's degrees, Busby said, and more than 30 distance-learning programs currently are available through the land-grant institution.
For example, he said the bachelor of science in Interdisciplinary Studies, commonly known as BSIS, enables students to study two or three of 11 concentration areas. They include business technology, communication, criminology, general business, general technology, geosciences, history, instructional technology, psychology, social work, sociology and business.
"This program is really popular with distance students," Busby said. "It's great for the student who wants to get a job in upper management with their business, and they can do that with the BSIS."
Students also may pursue a bachelor of science in Geosciences, with a concentration in operational meteorology.
In education, a bachelor of science is available in either teacher technology education or elementary education, with concentrations in early childhood or middle school.
To complete the education programs, students also must complete classroom internships during the final semester of coursework. Busby said distance-learning participants pursuing these degrees should be able to complete the internship in their own communities with assistance of a cooperating teacher.
"These are really popular for students who want to become meteorologists or teachers," he said.
In addition to undergraduate distance-degree programs, MSU offers graduate students pathways to pursue upper-level degrees online.
Busby said his office supports online students receiving the same accredited coursework received by on-campus students, and courses are taught by the same teachers who work at the campus. Additionally, distance students have access to the same amenities and services--library, tutoring and financial aid, among others--as their on-campus peers.
Distance students receive the same degree at graduation, he emphasized.
The Center for Distance Education's website has a new "Live Chat Online" link available Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., so prospective students can speak with a distance representative in real time, Busby said. If those times are not convenient, a person can leave a message, and an office representative will follow up the next business day.
Anyone interested in pursuing online studies at MSU should visit http://distance.msstate.edu.