As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted universities nationwide, the need for flexibility became apparent. Many universities had been offering online classes for some time. But that was for a relatively small portion of the student population and not in the volume that COVID-19 quarantine required.

COVID-19 stalled in-person learning on college campuses. Due to health restrictions and personal preferences, most students chose to stay home or were required to do so. According to data gathered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the COVID-19 outbreak directly impacted how—indeed, if—more than 1.5 billion students continued their education.

Over two years into the pandemic, much of higher education is still pivoting to meet the needs and preferences of students. According to information posted by Inside Higher Ed, institutions covered by the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement that creates interstate standards for distance learning experienced a 93% increase in distance education enrollments from 2019 to 2020. 

Many colleges lack the resources to handle students’ increased need for flexibility. Institutions with established online learning programs can more easily adopt flexible pathways to completing courses and degrees. 

Park University began offering online courses to students in 1996. Now, the University offers over 650 online classes. Online courses have proved helpful to their students as 78% of students are enrolled in at least one.

Much of the growth associated with online courses can be credited to COVID-19. However, Park has been providing “flexibility” since before the pandemic. In 2018, they had an impressive 8,859 online students, among the top 100 in the country. 

Although some Park students may take their courses online, they still have the same access to resources as other students. These resources include tutoring, writing assistance, disability accommodations, and mentoring services. In addition, the online students also have access to the University’s Career Development Center, which helps students with interview prep, resume writing, and internships.

The faculty and staff at Park are also determined to give students the flexibility and education that they need. More than 50 of the university’s staff have Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) accreditation, a program that aims to improve student achievement and boost student retention. 

Park has two residential campuses in Parkville, Missouri and Gilbert, Arizona, along with 39 campus centers in 22 states. Some states are home to multiple campus centers, including:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Missouri
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Virginia

Park University’s flexible online programs and extensive geographic reach reflect its determination to extend educational opportunities to students of all backgrounds. Park develops their programs with the recognition that many college students are non-traditional. Many of them must take care of family and children, have full-time jobs, and manage many other obligations. These responsibilities make it difficult to attain a credential if all courses must be attended through a traditional on-campus context. At Park, online courses and campus centers across the nation are designed to provide a blend of offerings that accommodate students’ needs.

When looking for a college to attend, prospective students should consider the extent to which a college offers flexible formats to complement its academic offerings. A university that adapts to student needs with such flexibility is often just what students need to optimize their higher education experience.