Academic underclass

At a Harvard University commencement a few years back, some graduates were asked: What makes the seasons change? Responses varied. A few said it had to do with fluctuating distances between the earth and sun. Others attributed it to solar flares. No one -- not even a couple of professors who ventured an opinion -- got it right.

Some educators believe that examples like this illustrate a big problem in American universities: the "dumming down" of higher education. They argue that although students are paying more to go to college, they're learning less; that as more and more young men and women with marginal abilities are admitted to a universities, standards inevitably erode; and that anymore, colleges -- relying more on part-time instructors and shifting toward open enrollment and lenient grading standards -- are simply not as good as they were 20 or 30 years ago.

Some college administrators argue that the issue is not declining standards but, rather, shifting priorities. In other words, times have changed and what was relevant 30 years ago is not necessarily so today. Hence, although colleges rely more and more on less expensive part-timers to teach their courses, those instructors -- many of whom work in business or industry -- bring valuable experience from the working world into the otherwise cloistered "ivory tower." And while many college graduates may not be able to pinpoint Baghdad on a map or name the secretary of state or -- in response to the Harvard question -- explain that summer and winter are caused by the tilt of Earth's axis with respect to the sun, they have mastered some crucial 21st-century skills. Today's college graduates may not know the Bill of Rights, but they're light years ahead of where most of their 1960s counterparts were when it comes to computer technology, environmental issues and the stock market.

Despite these differences of opinion, several trends in the last 30 years unquestionably have affected the type and quality of education students are receiving at universities across the United States. Among them:

More and more students with greater variances in academic abilities and socioeconomic backgrounds are entering college.

While the cost of going to college over the past 25 years has nearly doubled the rate of inflation, part-time instructors -- so-called adjuncts -- are replacing full-time professors in the classroom and working for less money, fewer benefits and no guarantees of continued employment.

Grade Point Averages -- the measure of a student's overall academic achievement -- have been creeping up over the past 20 years. This has happened despite composite ACT and SAT scores -- tests that measure college-bound high school students' verbal and math skills -- remaining largely unchanged. Grade inflation, like currency inflation, has devalued the once outstanding A and relegated a B to an average mark. For many students, a C, which once signified satisfactory college level achievement, now represents academic failure. Ds and Fs are fast disappearing.

All this adds up to more students than ever before graduating with higher G.P.A.s from colleges that increasingly depend on adjuncts to teach their classes. And while many of these part-timers are skilled professionals, many do not have training or experience in classroom teaching.

These trends raise a couple of important questions about the merits of a university education: Do students get the same quality of instruction from adjuncts as they do from full-time faculty? Does grade inflation undermine the value of a college degree?

The answer to both questions is yes.

In "The American Almanac of Jobs and Salaries, 1997-1998," John Wright reported that 40 percent of all college teaching jobs are held by adjuncts, up from 22 percent in 1970. That number is even higher at junior colleges. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, 64 percent of all faculty at two-year colleges are part-timers.

If academia does have an economic underclass, it must certainly be the roughly 360,000 adjuncts in the field of nearly 900,000 university professors who teach America's 14 million college students. When compared to the average salaries of full-time instructors and assistant, associate and full-time professors in the United States, adjuncts run a far, far distant fifth.

And like the trend at United Parcel Service -- where a strike resulted because more than 80 percent of the unionized jobs the company added since 1993 were part-time -- more and more colleges are relying on adjuncts to teach courses in all disciplines. The reason is simple economics: It's a lot cheaper to hire an instructor on a course-by-course basis than it is to employ a full-timer for two or even three times the cost when adding in benefits and substantially higher pay.

Moreover, it's become an issue of supply and demand: There's a glut of qualified college teachers in many academic specialties competing for fewer and fewer full-time positions. Average-size state universities often receive more than 100 applications for a single instructor position, many from candidates with Ph.D.s and several years teaching experience under their belts. And for prestigious tenure-track associate or assistant professor positions ranging from $40,000- $50,000 a year, there are sometimes 400 applications for a single slot -- virtually all with Ph.D.s and many with published books and scholarly articles in their portfolios

Indeed, Gary Whitehouse, provost and vice president of academic affairs at the University of Central Florida, says adjuncts keep the campus running, especially because hiring a full-time teacher can take as long as a year. "Universities have to run searches," he says. "We post our jobs with national ads, organize hiring committees and design reviews. Then we still have to bring these people in for interviews. It takes a long time."

In the late 1970s some demographers predicted that a large number of college professors who started their careers in the 1960s would begin retiring in the late-1990s. But while the old guard gradually departed, the replacements came en-masse and colleges and universities quickly realized that one expensive tenured professor could be replaced at half the cost, or less, from a huge pool of over-qualified replacements.

When it comes to the primary job at hand -- teaching -- there is usually no significant difference in skill level between equally trained and experienced adjuncts and full-time instructors at the college level -- at least not one that can be effectively measured.

In 1995, Richard Bullock, who directs the writing program at Wright State University in Ohio, and William Smith, a professor at Western Washington University, conducted a nationwide random survey of freshman English courses funded by the Council of Writing Program Administration. On the question "Who teaches first-year freshman composition?," they discovered that a combination of adjuncts and teaching assistants (graduate students) -- most with less than five-years teaching experience -- taught 66 percent of those courses. Professors and non-tenured faculty made up the rest.

The trend is not restricted to the United States or to state colleges. In "A Survey of Universities" in October 1997, The Economist reported that "the complaint of undergraduates at elite research universities around the world is that they are taught mainly by graduate students and teaching assistants, while top academics concentrate on the business of research and publication upon which the advancement of their own careers chiefly depends."

And while that has opened the door to adjuncts, it has not necessarily made things easy for them.

Walter Gatty started his career as a part-time teacher while still a graduate student at UCF. Then, after completing his master's degree in math education, he became a traveling teacher. It was not by choice. "I spent about 15 hours each week on the road," he says. "I went through four cars by averaging 40,000-50,000 miles each year. He now has a four-month contract at Valencia Community College, but only after working as an adjunct instructor at Florida metropolitan and Nova Southeastern universities, as well as Brevard, Valencia, Seminole, Lake, Sumter and Indian River community colleges.

Without any bitterness, Gatty concedes that he might have found permanent work sooner had he moved away from Florida. And although he's twice been called before a screening committee, he has yet to be offered full-time work here. Even so, he sees his current job as a stepping stone. He is not one who teaches part-time to help out and share his "real world" expertise, but rather wants to teach full-time.

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Bullock says that universities rely on adjuncts for a couple of important reasons. One is flexibility. With adjuncts, universities "don't have people who are locked into jobs that are very hard to fire them from. And [adjuncts] work cheaper than anybody else. So there's a lot of incentives for universities to move toward adjuncts. And it's being accelerated by the move to distance learning -- using computerized and televised courses."

Moreover, "the amount of money we get from the state has gone down considerably over the years." As a result, Bullock says that universities tend to look for places where they can cut corners. "If you can replace a full-time faculty member with a bunch of adjuncts, there are really compelling reasons to do so.

"For most of my career I've always known people who weren't teaching for the money," he says. "A lot of them were people who were working at other jobs during the day but loved to teach. They love to keep their hand in the classroom. And I've had more than one [adjunct] say ‘I'd [teach] for nothing.'

"And that creates a real ethical dilemma for me. Because on the one hand I feel adjuncts should be paid better. But on the other hand I have to ask myself, ‘Is the university exploiting people who look at what they're doing for the university as some sort of bonus in their own lives?' It's a real tough call."

But it's one that colleges are increasingly willing to make.

Also contributing to this report was Traci Isaacs.

Making the Grade

Where to go, what it costs and what colleges offer in Orlando

Barry University

Degrees offered: B.S., B.L.S., B.P.A., B.P.S., M.S.

Degree areas: Health Services Administration, Human Resource Development and Administration, Information Technology, Liberal Studies, Professional Studies, Public Administration.

Campus: Barry is a private, Catholic university whose main campus is located in Miami. The Orlando center, one of nine sites in the state that offer classes for degree-seeking adults, opened in 1991 and offers evening and weekend programs. Classes are held at the Florida Mall Business Center and at two locations in Altamonte Springs, and beginning in September at an east Orlando site as well. Class sizes range from 10-28 students.

Accredited by: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Number of students enrolled locally: 450.

Cost per credit hour: $230 undergraduate courses, $261 graduate courses.

Admissions: Diane Hinton, Barry University, 1650 Sand Lake Road, Orlando FL 32809; 438-4150

Eligibility: Open admission. Everyone is admitted with probationary status. Upon maintaining a C average for the first 12 credit hours, they are considered fully admitted.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Continuous enrollment.

Columbia College

Degrees offered: A.A., A.S., B.A., B.S.

Degree areas: Business Administration, Computer Information Systems, Criminal Justice Administration, General Studies, History and Political Science, Individual Studies, Psychology.

Campus: Columbia's main campus, a small, private liberal arts institution, is located in Columbia, Mo. It has 21 sites throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, including its Orlando site located at the Naval Training Center for the past 20 years. Geared primarily toward adult workers, classes are held in the evening and are taught entirely by adjunct faculty. Average class size is 16 students, with a maximum of 30 students.

Accredited by: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Number of students enrolled locally: More than 500.

Cost per credit hour: $105 undergraduate or graduate.

Admissions: Joe Reed, Columbia College, Building 356, NTC, 1151 Grace Hopper Ave., Orlando FL 32813; 896-2559/896-2606.

Eligibility: High school diploma or GED equivalent.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Continuous enrollment.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Degrees offered: B.S, M.S.

Degree areas: Aeronautical Science, Business Administration in Aviation, Management of Technical Operations, Professional Aeronautics, Science and Technological Management.

Campus: Embry-Riddle's main campus in Daytona Beach was founded in 1926. The private, non-profit university now has an extended campus with 120 centers around the world, including its Orlando site located on Colonial Drive. Geared primarily toward adult workers with prior college or professional experience, classes are held in the evenings and credit is given for FAA licences.

Accredited by: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Number of students enrolled locally: 60.

Cost per credit hour: $130 undergraduate courses, $220 graduate courses.

Admissions: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, 138 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32801; 872-0524.

Eligibility: High school diploma.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Aug. 10.

Florida Metropolitan University - Orlando College

Degrees offered: A.A., B.S., M.B.A. (North Campus); A.S., A.B.A., B.B.A., A.F., B.F., M.B.A. (South Campus).

Degree areas: (North Campus) Accounting, Business, Commercial Art, Computer Application, Computer Science, Court Reporting, Film and Video Production, Paralegal; (South Campus) Accounting, Business, Business Administration, Computer Applications, Computer Information Science, Legal Assistant/Paralegal, Management/Marketing, Medical Assisting.

Campus: Florida Metropolitan University has eight senior colleges of business throughout the state. In Orlando, both the North and South campuses offer day, evening and weekend programs. The North Campus has an honor society and clubs associated with the various majors. Average undergraduate class size is 20-30 students. Expected class size for master's programs is 10-15 students.

Accredited by: Accreditation Council of Independent Colleges and Schools

;Number of students enrolled locally: 650-700 students on the North Campus; 700 students on the South Campus.;Cost per credit hour: Tuition cost defined by degree.

Admissions: (North Campus): contact Charlene Donnelly, Director of Admissions, 5421 Diplomat Circle, Orlando FL 32810; 628-5870; (South Campus): contact Annette J. Gallina, Director of Admissions, 2411 Sand Lake Road, Orlando FL 32809; 851-2525.

Eligibility: For undergraduate courses, a high school diploma or GED equivalent is required. For a graduate degree, a bachelor's from an accreditated school with a 3.0 GPA is required. The CPAT (Career Placement Assessment Test) is also administered to those who enter the college without any collegiate degree.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Continuous enrollment.

Florida Southern College at Orlando

Degrees offered: B.S.

Degree areas: Accounting, Business, Nursing

Campus: Florida Southern is a private, liberal arts institution in Lakeland which is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Its Orlando extension campus offers weekend and evening programs. Classes are held at the main center, which is located in the McCoy Navy Annex adjacent to the Orlando International Airport. Classes also are held off-site depending upon student need. Average class size is fewer than 20 students.

Accredited by: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Number of students enrolled locally: 600.

Cost per credit hour: $80 undergraduate or graduate.

Admissions: Contact Sheila Boisvert, Director of Admissions, Florida Southern College, 8578 Avenue C, Orlando FL 32827; 855-1302.

Eligibility: High school diploma or GED equivalent for those with no previous college experience (must provide transcripts). Transfer students must be in good standing with their previous institution.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Continuous enrollment.

National-Louis University

Degrees offered: B.A., B.S., M.Ed, M.S., M.B.A.

Degree areas: Applied Behavioral Science, Business, Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Leadership, Healthcare Leadership, Management, Management Leadership

Campus: National-Louis University is based in Chicago, with Orlando being one of 10 campus locations around the country that offer evening programs for adults. Its office building/campus is located at the American Pioneer Center in Orlando. Classes also are held off-site depending upon student need. Average class size is 12 students.

Accredited by: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Number of students enrolled locally: 500.

Tuition: $13,000-$15,000 per year for graduate programs, $11,000-$14,000 for undergraduate programs. Tuition includes books and materials.

Admissions: Contact David Forthuber or Shari Miller, National-Louis University, American Pioneer Center, 604 Courtland St., Suite 150, Orlando FL 32804; 629-1000.

Eligibility: At the undergraduate level, a high school diploma or GED equivalent is required. At the graduate level, entrance testing and a 2.2 GPA in undergraduate studies is required.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Aug. 30.

Nova Southeastern University

Degrees offered: B.S., M.S., M.B.A., Ed.S., Ed.D., D.B.A., Pharm.D.

Degree areas: Business Administration, Education, Educational Leadership, Educational Specialist, Health Services Administration, Hospitality Management, Mental Health Counseling, Pharmacy, Professional Management.

Campus: Nova, based in Fort Lauderdale, is Florida's largest private university, with more 50 sites internationally. Its Orlando center, which is geared primarily toward adult learners and re-education, has been operating for more than 20 years. Currently, classes are held on evenings and weekends in an office building near the intersection of I-4 and Lee Road, as well as various other locations in the area based on student need. Students are taught through direct instruction (by both full-time and adjunct faculty), as well as through audio, video and online methods.;;

Number of students enrolled locally: 1,300.

Cost per credit hour: $230-$550 depending upon degree program.

Admissions: Nova Southeastern University, 445 N. Wymore Road, Winter Park FL 32789; 647-3389.

Eligibility: For undergraduate programs, high school diploma or GED equivalent. For graduate programs, undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. Other requirements vary with degree programs.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Continuous enrollment.

Rollins College

Degrees offered: A.A., A.S., B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., M.B.A., M.L.S., M.Ed.

Degree areas: Anthropology, Art (Studio and History), Biology, Business Administration, Chemistry, Classical Studies, Communications, Computer Science, Counseling, Economics, Elementary Education, English, Environmental Studies, Foreign Languages, French, German, History, Human Resources, International Relations, Latin American and Caribbean Affairs, Liberal Studies, Mathematical Sciences, Music, Organizational Behavior, Philosophy, Physics, Politics, Pre-Engineering, Psychology, Public Administration, Religious Studies, Secondary Education, Sociology, Spanish, Theater Arts.

Campus: Private liberal arts institution on the shore of Winter Park's Lake Virginia offers day and evening programs. The residential campus has more than 70 student clubs and organizations, 12 Greek organizations and 12 intercollegiate sports.

Accredited by: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

;Number of students enrolled locally: 2,960.

Cost per credit hour: $678 for day, $180 for evening undergraduate courses; $302 (average) for evening graduate courses.

Admissions: For day programs, contact Rollins College, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park FL 32789-4499; 646-2161; for evening programs, contact Hamilton Holt School, 205 E. Lyman Ave., Winter Park FL 32789-4499; 646-2232; for business courses contact Crummer School of Business, 1000 Holt Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789-4499; 646-2405.

Eligibility: For day school, high school diploma or GED equivalent and SAT/ACT test scores; for Hamilton Holt, high school diploma or GED equivalent, with enrollment in degree programs based on satisfactory completion of core courses; for Crummer, completion of baccalaureate degree and GMAT test scores.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Rolling admissions for the Hamilton Holt school; November deadline to register for daytime spring semester.

Seminole Community College

Degrees offered: A.A., A.S., as well as technical and vocational programs that relate to more than 90 career areas.;;

Areas of study: Air Conditioning/Refrigeration and Heating, Architecture, Architectural Design and Construction Technology, Art, Astronomy, Automotive Service Technology, Automotive Service Management Technology, Biology, Business, Business Administration and Management, Business Data Processing, Chemistry, Child Care Center Management, Child Care Supervision, Child Development and Education, Civil Engineering Technology, Communications, Computer Electronics Technology, Computer Engineering Technology, Computer Information Systems Analysis, Computer Programming and Application, Computer Science, Construction Trade Apprenticeship Program, Correctional and Law Enforcement Fields, Criminal Justice Technology, Drafting and Design Technology, Education, Electronics Engineering Technology, Electronics Technology, Emergency Medical Services, Engineering, English, Environmental Engineering Technology, Environmental Science, Fire Fighting, Fire Science Technology, History, Home Health Aide, Humanities, Interior Design Technology, Journalism, Legal Assistant, Legal Secretarial Technology, Marine Mechanics Technology, Marketing (DCT), Mathematics, Medical Assisting, Medical Billing/Coding, Medical Record Transcribing, Multimedia Technology, Music, Network Engineering Technology, Nursing, Nursing Assistant, Office Management Technology, Office Support Technology, Office Systems Specialist, Paramedic, Pharmacy, Physical Therapist Assistant, Practical Nursing, Political Science, Pre-Dental, Pre-Medicine, Psychology, Public Relations, Radio/TV Broadcasting, Respiratory Care, Telecommunications Engineering Technology, Theater, Welding.

Campus: Classes are held at the main campus on Weldon Boulevard and the instructional center on Hunt Club Boulevard. SCC also has more than 20 different classroom locations based on student and community need. Courses are offered seven days a week, as well as on television and online. Student/teacher ratio is 20 to 1.

Accredited by: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Number of students enrolled locally: 30,000.

Cost per credit hour: $44.34 for degree courses, $26.40 for vocational programs.

Admissions: Seminole Community College, 100 Weldon Blvd., Sanford FL 32773; 328-2050.

Eligibility: High school diploma or GED equivalent.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Aug. 21.

Southern College

Degrees offered: A.S.

Degree Areas: Business System Technology, Computer Accounting, Computer Programming, Dental Assisting, Dental Laboratory Technology, Interior Design, Legal Investigation, Paralegal.

Campus: Located on Lake Underhill Road. Day, evening, and weekend classes. No more than 30 students per class. Each degree program is associated with professional organizations in which students can get involved, as well as other community activities.

Accredited by: Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

Number of students enrolled locally: 400.

Cost per credit hour: $120.

Admissions: Contact Joanne Webber, Director of Admissions, Southern College, 5600 Lake Underhill Road, Orlando FL 32807; 273-1000.

Eligibility: High school diploma or GED equivalent, entrance exam, personal interview.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Open.

Troy State University-Florida

Degrees offered: M.S., M.P.A.

Degree areas: Counseling and Psychology, Health Services Administration, Management, Public Administration.

Campus: With its main campus in Troy, Ala., the university has more than 60 extension campuses around the world. Classes are held evenings and weekends in east Orlando near Fashion Square Mall and at Winter Park High School.

Admission is open to those who serve in the military as well as civilians. Average class size is 15.

;Number of students enrolled locally: 380.

Cost per credit hour: $120.

Admissions: Troy State University, 1151 Grace Hopper Ave., Orlando FL 32813-8410;599-6993.

Eligibility: Completion of a baccalaureate degree or master's/higher degree from a regionally accredited college or university.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Continuous enrollment.

University of Central Florida

Degrees Offered: B.A., B.S., B.F.A., B.M.E., B.S.W., M.A., M.A., M.B.A., M.Ed., M.P.A., M.P.H., M.S., M.S.A., M.S.C.E., M.S.Cp.E., M.S.E.E., M.S.Env.E., M.S.I.E., M.S.M.E., M.S.O.S.E., M.S.N., M.S.T., M.S.W., Ph.D., Ed.D., Ed.S.

Degree Areas: Accounting, Aerospace Engineering, Anthropology, Applied Economics, Applied Sociology, Art, Art Education, Biology, Business Administration, Cardiopulmonary Sciences, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Clinical Psychology, Communication, Communicative Disorders, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Counselor Education, Criminal Justice, Curriculum & Instruction, Economics, Educational Leadership, Electrical Engineering, Electrical Engineering Technology, Elementary Education, Elementary Language Arts Education, Engineering Technology, English, English Language Arts Education, Environmental Engineering, Exceptional Child, Exceptional Child Education, Exceptional Student Education, Finance, Foreign Languages Combination, Foreign Languages Education, Forensic Science, French, General Business Administration, General Studies, Health Information Management, Health Services Administration, History, Hospitality Management, Humanities, Industrial Chemistry, Industrial Engineering, Industrial Psychology, Industry Training, Instructional Technology/Media: Educational Leadership, Instructional Technology/Media: Interpersonal Communication, Journalism, Legal Studies, Liberal Arts, Liberal Studies, Management, Marketing, Mathematics, Mathematical Science, Mathematics Education, Mechanical Engineering, Medical Laboratory Sciences, Molecular Biology & Microbiology, Motion Picture Technology, Music, Music Education, Nursing, Optical Science and Engineering, Organizational Communication, Philosophy, Physics, Physical Education, Physical Therapy, Political Science, Psychology, Public Administration, Radio-Television, Radiologic Sciences, Reading Education, Science Education, Secondary Education, Social Psychology, Social Sciences, Social Science Education, Social Work, Sociology, Spanish, Speech Education, Statistics, Statistical Computing, Taxation, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, Theater, Vocational Education, Zoology.

Campus: UCF is one of 10 schools in the state university system. Day, evening and weekend classes are offered through a variety of instructional methods which include direct, TV and online. Student/faculty ratio is about 15:1. The campus, which caters to both resident and commuting students, has over 153 student clubs/organizations and 27 Greek organizations.

Accredited by: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Number of students enrolled locally: 28,300.

Cost per credit hour: $64.32 undergraduate, $129.13 graduate.

Admissions: University of Central Florida, 4000 Central Florida Blvd., Orlando FL 32816; 823-2000.

Eligibility: For undergraduate programs, high school diploma or GED equivalent and SAT/ACT test scores. An A.A. degree from a Florida public community college or university guarantees admission, except for certain limited programs. For graduate level programs, minimum GPA of 3.0 in last two years of undergraduate education, 1000 score on the GRE or a previous graduate degree. GRE test score or equivalent is required of all applicants. Some graduate programs also specify additional requirements.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: For undergraduate, Nov. 15 is the deadline for spring semester. For graduate, deadlines vary according to degree programs.

University of Orlando

Degrees offered: J.D., M.B.A., M.A., Ph.D., E.d.D.

Degree areas: Business, Education, Law.

Campus: Founded in 1993 by Neil Euliano to meet the needs of adult working learners as well as the need of the Orlando community for a law school. This private, nonprofit graduate school is located off Colonial Drive in east Orlando. The law school offers day and evening classes, while the business and education schools offer Saturday classes. Average size of a legal class is 50-75 students, with an average of 5-15 students in the business and education schools. Students participate in law-related organizations such as the Florida Bar Association, Orange County Bar Association and the Student Bar Association.

Accredited by: The law school is seeking accreditation from the American Bar Association. The business and education schools also currently are going through the accreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The university hopes to achieve accreditation by 1999.

Number of students enrolled locally: 350.

Cost per credit hour: $595 for law courses, $595 for business and education courses.

Admissions: University of Orlando, 6441 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando FL 32807; 275-2000.

Eligibility: Requires a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accreditated school, as well as the LSAT for law school applicants, the GMAT for business school applicants and the GRE or GMAT for education applicants.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Rolling admissions.

University of Phoenix-Florida

Degrees offered: B.S., B.S.N., M.B.A., M.A., M.S., M.S.N.

Degree areas: Business, Business Administration, Nursing, Organizational Management, Technology Management.;;

Campus: With a main campus in Phoenix, Ariz., it has 51 additional campuses and learning centers throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The mission of this private institution is to provide access to adult education, particularly in business and health care programs. Local campus offers evening classes in a Maitland-area office building. Average class size is 15.

Accreditation status: Accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Number of students enrolled locally: 500

Cost per credit hour: $220.

Admissions: Contact Shauna McCoy, Director of Admissions, University of Phoenix-Florida, 2600 Lake Lucien Drive, Suite 200, Maitland FL 32751; 667-0555.

Eligibility: In addition to a high school diploma or GED equivalent, applicants must be at least 23 years old and be employed or have access to a working environment. Applicants also undergo internal assessment testing designed specifically for the program they plan to enter.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Rolling admissions.

Valencia Community College

Degrees offered: A.A., A.S., Awards of Achievement and Certificate Programs.

Degree areas: Accounting Technology, Building Construction Technology, Business Administration and Management, Computer Programming and Applications, Culinary Management, Criminal Justice Institute, Criminal Justice Technology, Dental Hygiene, Diagnostic Medical Sonography, Drafting and Design Technology, Electronics and Engineering Technology, Emergency Medical Services Technology, Environmental Science Technology, Film Production Technology, Financial Services, Financial Services -- Banking, Fire Science Technology, Graphics Technology, Hospitality and Tourism Management, Land Surveying Technology, Legal Assisting, Office Systems Technology, Ornamental Horticulture Technology, Paramedic Technology, Radiography, Respiratory Care, Small Business Management, Theater and Entertainment Technology.

Campus: Valencia is the third largest community college in Florida. In addition to its East, West, Osceola and Winter Park campuses, it has centers in downtown Orlando and McCoy. Day, evening and weekend instruction is offered.

Average class size is 22 students. Valencia has about 45 student organizations.

Accredited by: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Number of students enrolled locally: 48,000.

Cost per credit hour: $45.34.

Admissions: Valencia Community College, P.O. Box 3028, Orlando FL 32789; 299-5000, ext. 2535.

Eligibility: High school diploma or GED equivalent. The Film Production Technology Program, Honors Program, Criminal Justice Program and seven health-related programs require an additional application and other eligibility criteria.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Aug. 25.

Warner Southern College

Degrees offered: B.A.

Degree areas: Organizational Management.

Campus: Warner Southern is a Christian liberal arts college in Lake Wales with eight extension campuses throughout the state. Its Orlando campus is located at the intersection of Lee Road and Orlando Avenue/Highway 17-92 in an corporate complex that houses its offices and two classrooms. Bachelor of arts completion program runs 12-18 months, with classes held one night a week and one Saturday a month. Average class size is 10-15 students.

Accredited by: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Number of students enrolled locally: 60.

Cost per credit hour: $243.

Admissions: Warner Southern College, 1000 N. Orlando Ave., Suite B, Winter Park FL 32789; 629-2322.

Eligibility: Applicants must be at least 23 years old and have at least 60 transferrable semester hours, six of which must be English composition and three of which must be math, with a 2.0 GPA.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Aug. 1.

Webster University-Orlando

Degrees offered: B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., M.B.A.

Degree areas: Accounting, Business, Business Administration, Computer Science, Computer Resources and Information Management, Finance, Health Services, Health Services Management, Human Resources Development, Human Resources Management, International Business, Management, Marketing, Mental Health Counseling, Public Administration.

Campus: Webster is a small, private liberal arts institution based in St. Louis. It has extended campuses (with a business focus) in six foreign countries and 50 states throughout the country. Its three locations in the Orlando area (Altamonte Springs, downtown Orlando and south Orlando) offer evening and weekend programs for working adults. Average class has 10-12 students and all faculty are adjunct, working full time in the business areas in which they offer instruction.

Accredited by: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Number of students enrolled locally: 200.

Cost per credit hour: $248 for undergraduate level, $307 for graduate level.

Admissions: Webster University, Altamonte Springs Center, 151 Wymore Road, Suite 2000, Altamonte Springs FL 32714; 869-8111.

Eligibility: For the undergraduate degree program, applicants must be able to transfer an equivalent of two years of college-level work, with a 2.5 GPA. For graduate programs, applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited school, or take the GRE or GMAT.

Enrollment deadline for fall semester: Continuous enrollment.