University of Northern Colorado Review

The University of Northern Colorado is home to a top 10 online graduate education program that offers 13 degree concentrations taught by a highly-rated online faculty.

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The Good

Highly rated national program

In the latest survey of online graduate education programs by U.S. News and World Report, the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) rates as the number eight best program in the nation. The university shows especially strong performance on measures of faculty quality, student engagement, and admissions selectivity. They also garner high praise for offering an exceptional variety of online degree options. While it’s certainly important to look over the details of a program for yourself, a top 10 national ranking is a strong indication that UNC provides students educational opportunities of the highest quality.

Great selection of degree options

UNC has 13 graduate-level degree programs available to online students, which is one of the best offerings among the top online graduate programs in the nation. You can choose from a variety of widely popular subjects, including curriculum studies, educational leadership, and five different degree options in special education. Several relatively rare programs are also available, including educational psychology, science education, and theater education. The school also offers an online doctoral program in educational studies, which requires a master’s degree and annual one-week visits to the UNC campus in Loveland, Colorado, for the duration of the program.

High student engagement scores

The University of Northern Colorado also shows excellent results on measures of student engagement, ranking in the top nine of all national programs. U.S. News and World Report student engagement scores are based on a number of factors, including the general availability of course instructors to online students, the quality of course design, and the amount of collaborative work included in courses, among many other factors. A strong focus on student engagement is a common characteristic found among the very best online programs and UNC is a strong performer on this count.

The Bad

Retention and graduation rates could use improvement

The University of Northern Colorado falls a little behind other top programs on a couple key performance statistics. First, the school’s student retention rates are not up to par with other top schools. In each of the last four academic years, about 75% of first-year graduate education students returned to enroll in a second year of the program. This means that around 25% of students dropped out during their first year. Although this is not an extremely poor showing, especially for an online program, it is a bit on the low side for a top program. Additionally, UNC students have shown a three-year graduation rate no better than 67% in recent years. Many top programs regularly report rates exceeding 80 or 90%.

Programs unavailable to students in six states

At the time of this writing, the University of Northern Colorado doesn’t offer any online courses or degree programs to students in Arkansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, or Tennessee. Under federal regulations, online schools must apply to each individual state for permission to offer online programs to the state’s residents. UNC argues that the application fees set by the six states are unreasonably high and refuses to pay them.

The Details

General Information

  • Academic Year Founded: 1996 - 1997
  • Application Deadline: Rolling
  • Application Fee: $50
  • Location: CO
  • Number of Graduate Education Programs: 13
  • Region: West
  • School Type: Public
  • Term Schedule: Semester

Tuition Rates (per credit)

  • In-State: $507
  • Out-of-State: $507


  • Degrees: Educational Leadership: Principal Licensure (M.A.), Educational Psychology: Teaching Applications (M.A.), Special Education: Deaf/Hard of Hearing (M.A.), Special Education: Intervention Specialist (M.A.), Special Education: Visual Impairment (M.A.), Theatre Education (M.A.), Native American Innovative Leadership (NAIL): Educational Leadership & Spec Ed Admin (M.A./Ed.S.), Special Education (M.A.), Special Education: Gifted & Talented (M.A.), Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education (MAT), Curriculum Studies (MAT)


  • Certificates: N/A

Class Profile

  • Acceptance Rate: 68%
  • Average Student Age: 31
  • Average Undergraduate GPA: 3.54
  • Avg. GRE Analytical Writing: 4.0
  • Avg. GRE Quantitative: 148
  • Avg. GRE Verbal: 168
  • Gender Ratio: 79% female, 21% male
  • Maximum Class Size: 20
  • Total Enrollment: 310


  • Average Online Teaching Experience: 5 Years
  • Full-Time Instructional Faculty: 24
  • Part-Time Instructional Faculty: 4

Graduation and Retention Rates

  • 1 Year New Student Retention Rate (2009-2010): 75%
  • 1 Year New Student Retention Rate (2010-2011): 48%
  • 1 Year New Student Retention Rate (2011-2012): 75%
  • 1 Year New Student Retention Rate (2012-2013): 81%
  • Graduation Rate Within 3 Years (2009-2010): N/A
  • Graduation Rate Within 3 Years (2010-2011): N/A
  • Graduation Rate Within 3 Years (2011-2012): 65%
  • Graduation Rate Within 3 Years (2012-2013): 64%

U.S. News Rankings

  • Admissions Selectivity Rank: 16
  • Admissions Selectivity Score: 64/100
  • Faculty Credentials and Training Rank: 52
  • Faculty Credentials and Training Score: 78/100
  • Student Engagement Rank: 9
  • Student Engagement Score: 91/100
  • Student Services and Technology Rank: 118
  • Student Services and Technology Score: 44/100

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