Honest Insider Review of Capella University’s Public Health Programs

By J.J. Thomas, MPH

One might think I would give this University very high marks as I am working on my second degree from Capella…and you might be somewhat wrong.  Let me caveat this statement. A couple of years ago, while starting the DrPH journey, Capella reached out to see if I could be an ambassador to promote the school. I agreed to this volunteer post as I thought it was important for the reputation of the school. After a number of prospective applicants to the DrPH or MPH programs contacted me via admissions advisors, it was evident I could not fully recommend Capella for their needs. This isn’t to say I am at odds with Capella.  On the contrary, I feel as though Capella is adequately matched with my needs towards a terminal degree. Allow me to frame this discussion within a few domains that schools should be judged: accreditation, value for time and money, and an understanding of the current professional doctorate landscape.

Accreditation

As I am sure many are aware, regional accreditation is a prime factor for selecting a University. Capella holds this accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission [1].  In other words, Capella has met a threshold for quality and transferability amongst universities. If one were to pursue teaching in higher education, regional program accreditation is one factor that a degree is analyzed. A shocking number of universities hold national accreditations but have not met the threshold requirements for regional accreditations.

Some also required additional accreditations for professional purposes.  For example, Capella holds CACREP for counseling degrees.  However, the body that provides additional accreditation for public health programs, CEPH, does not accredit Capella programs. Whether or not a person needs this stamp of approval is totally dependent on their needs.  For me, the CEPH accreditation was not a major necessity.

Value

Georgetown complied the difference in earning potentials based on degree level obtained [2]. On average, those tend to earn more over a lifetime with each academic degree level obtained. Thankfully the Georgetown paper also wrote of differences based on occupation, gender, and age.  Defining value from a degree program is very personal.  For me, the DrPH would be paid largely from a GI benefit so the monetary costs were not necessarily part of the equation though time certainly was.  Capella’s business model is less than desirable as it spends a large portion on advertising and web services, though other schools also spend a lot on other projects like expanding capital projects [3]. Tuition at Capella was actually less expensive than some of the not-for-profit schools at the time I was looking.

Current Landscape

Traditionally very few doctorates were obtained via distance means [4]. Most candidates were full time students / assistants in brick and mortar institutions working towards a PhD.  Distance delivered professional doctorates is a fact of life today. With working adults needing to obtain advanced degrees, traditional methods are not very practical. At the time I enrolled, Capella was one of the few institutions that offered a DrPH online while having a robust military policy for deployments / moves on orders.  I wanted to ensure that I could hit pause if my military commitments took a higher priority. Being in a cohort scheduled program could prove difficult in my working life, so Capella’s program fit this bill.   

Final Thoughts

When I sought out doctorate programs in public health, I had three factors in mind: regional accreditation, value for time, and the ability to hit pause if I should deploy.  The professors at Capella have been generally good, some better than others.  I’m glad I went to the DrPH at Capella – though looking around now, the EVMS Doctorate of Health Sciences would have allowed me to finish by now. This is a very personal decision to select schools and I hope prospective candidates are well informed prior to enrollment.  Capella works for me, but it isn’t for everyone.

References

[1] – https://www.capella.edu/capella-experience/why-choose-capella-university/university-accreditation/

[2] – https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/collegepayoff-complete.pdf

[3] – Harkin Senate Report, 2012

[4] – http://www8.esc.edu/esconline/cdlrev2.nsf/7ee05c19c4623d128525767800520634/26fea5d0ec3c9330852578a4004d0adf/$FILE/C.2.4..pdf