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The “Myths” About Online Education


I received an email from a student asking me what he could do when people state that American Military University (AMU) or American Public University (APU) are “diploma mills” or unaccredited.  I thought I would post my response.

The “myths” that AMU or APU are diploma mills or unaccredited are invalid.  In most cases, the myths are more than likely disseminated by individuals who do not care for online colleges and universities.  Faculty and staff members of accredited institutions that operate partially online or totally online have heard the negative perceptions about online education for years and have worked hard to demonstrate the evidence that supports learning in online programs.  A May 2009 study published by the U.S. Department of Education entitled Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning:  A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies stated that students learn better in online programs than in face-to-face programs .  The researchers examined over 1,000 published research papers involving online and face-to-face learners.

The FACTS about AMU’s existence and accreditation are irrefutable.  AMU is one of two universities that form the American Public University System (APUS).  APUS is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (NCA), one of eight regional accrediting bodies in the United States and the largest regional accrediting body in terms of the number of colleges that it accredits.  You can find our name, accreditation status, and other pertinent information listed on its website at:   http://hlcommission.org/component/option,com_directory/Action,ShowBasic/Itemid,184/instid,2853/lang,en/.     Among the 1,000 plus colleges and universities accredited by NCA are the University of Chicago, the University of Notre Dame, and Northwestern University.  The accreditation process is lengthy and complex and includes many visits by very well educated academics.  A diploma mill would not survive such a review process.  The American Public University System has also been accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council since 1995.  The link for AMU is at this address:  http://detc.org/school_details.php?id=169.  APUS is licensed in West Virginia and Virginia which are the two states where we have offices with our administrative and academics leadership and staff.  We have over 60,000 students and over 10,000 alumni.  Two-thirds of our students are active duty military personnel.  The Department of Defense requires all colleges and universities that participate in its tuition assistance program to be accredited and licensed by a recognized accrediting body.

Additionally, APUS has over 1200 faculty members whose names and credentials are listed on our website.  These professionals would not stake their reputation by working for a diploma mill or unaccredited institution.  Our faculty and staff present at many conferences each year and proudly list their affiliation.  Most, if not all, of these conferences would not accept presenters from unaccredited institutions. 

Lastly, whenever anyone has a concern about a statement that is made about our accreditation, please do not hesitate to contact our Office of Institutional Advancement at accreditation@apus.edu.  They will be glad to help you set the record straight.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity by the U.S. Secretary of Education in 2019. He also serves as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), as a Trustee of The American College of Financial Services, as a member of the board of Our Community Salutes - USA, and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.


  1. Excellent response and on the mark.

    APUS/AMU and similar institutions are responding to a national need. They have opened the doors to higher education to countless numbers of persons that, due to economics, occupational or family commitments, would not otherwise have been be able to attend a traditional ‘brick and mortar’ building because we have had to make a living working during the day.

    Students and potential students must understand that the critics often have bias because they (a) don’t understand how distance learning works, (b) are employed in traditional settings, often at public taxpayer expense (the public trough) therefore are motivated by job security concerns and (c) can’t meet the challenge of working during the day while also going to college. As an AMU alumni, I can honestly state that my Master’s education made me a better military officer and a better businessman.

    Further, as one who has just paid to have two daughters finish with B.A. degrees in traditional school settings, I would submit the APUS/AMU programs would have been more beneficial in preparing them for the real world of work and would have allowed me (as a parent)more economical/common sense options. Unfortunately, as products of the public high school system, our children get ‘poisoned’ by high school faculties that have primarily attended traditional brick/mortar colleges which leads our children to believing that they must attend a traditional school in order to excel. While I dutifully accommodated the desire, I maintained then and now: ‘It’s not where you get your degree that’s important; its what you do with it once you have it.”

  2. I received my Bachelor of Science in Accounting using a combination of traditional classroom setting and online class. I can honestly state that online classes are harder and required more work for student but I learn more in online class than in traditional classrom setting. Online class forces you to read your textbook/materials from cover to cover and do more research to fully understand the subject matter while at classroom, you can pass your class just listening to your instructor.

    To be successful in online class, you need to have the descipline and commitment to study harder. Right now, I’m looking to continue my education and this time I am looking for a 100% online degree. APU/AMU is in one of my short list of schools I am considering.

  3. There does seem to be a certain element in society that perpetuates the “degree mill” mentality. Why? Who knows.

    As a business owner who often worked 60-80 hour weeks while attending various online schools over the years, one thing became increasingly apparent to me (and reminded me of something my mother said to me as a young boy) “you get out of it what you put into it.”

    Let’s face it, there are driven and optomistic people, and there are others who will look for ways to blame society. I will be happily attending APU/AMU in the fall to complete a degree after years of tinkering around the edges.
    Do I think this is a degree mill, no way.

    I’m looking forward to meeting, networking, and learning about my new colleagues and fellow students, not to mention earning a degree that will have real value in my future earning years.

    Personally, my learning style and schedule are a perfect match for the online learning environment. So, to those who say degree mills, I retort, ” What have you done lately?”

  4. Sir: I am about to get my MA in Military History from AMU and I fully support the on-line learning concept.Frankly, I could not otherwise have realized my long-held dream of eventually having a worthy credential in this field, were it not for AMU.

    That said, I do believe that a fully online course of study is NOT suitable for most young people. Perhaps APUS/AMU might consider an optional undergrad program for more recent HS graduates that combines an on-line and on-campus education, in short, semi-annual, seminar-type sessions at a regional locations.

    It might cost a bit more, but most young people (and even some older students) inherently need more structure in establishing educational goals and objectives and,just as critically, the opportunity to more fully develop their interpersonal social skills with their peers and faculty. It’s not surprizing that the major advantage of attending a brick and mortar college is not the courses, in and of themselves, but the person-to- person social skills, contacts and long-standing friendships that were developed. It seems to me that facebook “friends” are not true friends but just folks who like to add names to a collection.

  5. Miguel: I understand where you are coming from and I too would love for APUS to have an on-campus institution. That said, it’s common for traditional brick ‘n mortars to add online options, but I have yet to hear of an online for-profit expanding into an on-campus setting. It’s merely wishful thinking.


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