SUNY Delhi's online courses get national accolades

Above: Screenshot of the U.S. News & World Report online education website, featuring SUNY Delhi as tied for First Place.

What do you do when you're the only college for miles in the middle of rural upstate New York? Invest in online-only courses. 

It's a strategy that's worked for SUNY Delhi, a rural technical college in the Catskills that just tied for first place in U.S. News & World Report's 2014 rankings for Best Online Bachelor Programs. (The other first-place winner for the category was Central Michigan University.) 

Delhi got the nod for its online Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, designed to allow working nurses to earn a bachelor's degree. The college specializes in technical degrees -- programs like culinary arts, criminal justice, and turf management.

Increasingly, Delhi is putting those courses online. According to a press release, the online nursing program was started in 2008 and is enrolling 745 students this semester. The college has also launched an online criminal justice bachelor's degree progarm, the first in the SUNY system, and just received approval from SUNY officials to establish Delhi's first-ever masters degree, an online-only masters of science in nursing.  

Like many universities, the entire State University of New York system is investing in online courses lately. This month, SUNY announced its new "Open SUNY" online courses intiative. Delhi's BS in Nursing program is one of eight courses that Open SUNY will offer when it launches, according to a college press release

It seems fitting that a technical college in the rural heart of Delaware County is pioneering online education. For far-flung students in a county bigger than Rhode Island, driving to classes is no joke.

The dean of Delhi's nursing program, Mary Pat Lewis, explains in a SUNY Delhi video that the college put out a "widespread regional survey" to find out whether there was interest in online learning. The response from Catskills residents and other prospective students was a resounding 'yes.'  

Local color alert: In the video, as Lewis speaks about "geographical constraints and rural locations," there is a shot of a long-abandoned, vine-encrusted house that has been a derelict landmark on Route 28 in Arkville for decades. 

Below: Still from a video by local filmmaker Jess Vecchione about SUNY Delhi's online degree programs serving rural communities.