Private university recognized for serving students online during pandemic

Upper Iowa University hopes to Rebuild America with its unique approach to online learning.

(Editors note: The following article was published by the USA Today Network.)

As the spread of the coronavirus has transformed much of what people once considered normal, many prospective students are looking to higher education as a way of furthering their careers or starting new ones. Yet, it’s challenging to navigate the many colleges and universities out there to find one that meets your needs during the current pandemic.

Upper Iowa University, a private, nonprofit university founded in 1857, has helped tens of thousands of students graduate using a unique blend of convenience, flexibility, affordability and quality. When its in-person classes moved online as a result of the pandemic, UIU could count on its history of serving students online for more than 20 years and via distance education for nearly 50 years.

Educate to Career, a nonprofit organization, recently honored UIU with a Tier 1 ranking, recognizing its remarkable ability to successfully serve students online during the pandemic. UIU was one of only five private colleges or universities in Iowa to receive such a ranking.

Given its history in online education, UIU already had a state-of-the-art online learning management system and many online resources to support its students. In 2011, UIU became one of Zoom’s initial partners, integrating the technology to support student learning well before many others started using the tool during the pandemic to communicate virtually.

“I can proudly say — with 47 years of distance learning, 21 years offering online education, 11 years of Zoom experience and six academic sessions per year — there are very few colleges or universities in the United States, if any, that possess the type of distance learning experience available at UIU,” university president William R. Duffy II said. “While there is no question the pandemic is drastically changing traditional models of higher education, UIU was truly built to help students overcome the obstacles they may be facing today.”

When the pandemic started impacting current and future UIU students, the university immediately enhanced for all students the academic resources and student support that were already available to its online learners. It altered application procedures, recognizing that many ACT testing centers had closed, as had many of the schools that future students needed to access for their official transcripts. UIU also developed virtual campus visits so future students could better evaluate UIU among their higher education options.

However, it is UIU’s faculty and staff who have been most crucial in helping students achieve success.

“My experience at Upper Iowa was incredible,” said Josi Baker, who was presented with her bachelor’s degree in human services during UIU’s innovative virtual commencement in May. “At the time I transferred to the university, I had a 10-month-old son, and the idea of starting at a new school was pretty scary; however, the Upper Iowa family helped make it possible for me to raise my child, work and still get an incredible education. They genuinely wanted to see me succeed.”

Josi Baker celebrating with her son after her virtual graduation ceremony.

Many UIU students are eligible for helpful scholarships and grants that can significantly lower the cost of attendance. Even transfer students, who can transfer up to 90 undergraduate credits or 12 graduate credits, may be eligible for scholarships of up to $19,750. Aid also exists for those who serve in the military and employees who work for employers participating in the university’s Corporate Advantage Partnership Program. The university is also waiving its application fee and offering a savings of 25% for new students taking a class during the academic session beginning July 13.

UIU provides undergraduate and graduate degree programs at its Fayette campus, at 21 U.S. education locations in eight states, via a location in Hong Kong, and through its self-paced program and award-winning online program. Students have more than 40 majors to choose from and a unique, flexible course schedule with five eight-week sessions and one accelerated six-week summer session.

Session 6 begins July 13, and Session 1 of the fall semester begins Aug. 31. The university continues to work directly with local, state and federal public health officials to ensure that the way forward is done with the safety and well-being of all students in mind.

“During the ongoing pandemic, UIU’s commitment to accessible higher education and lifelong learning has never wavered, ensuring that current and future UIU students will continue to be provided with the skills they need to be successful in the classroom, career and life,” Duffy said. “We continue to aggressively review and address all potential obstacles current and future students may encounter from enrollment to graduation.”

For additional information about Upper Iowa University, visit

Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.

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