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American Public University is an online-only school that is made up of the American Military University and American Public University. It’s a private, for-profit school and one of the biggest online colleges in the nation. It boasts over 110,000 alumni from around the world each academic year, and draws about 50% of its students from the military sector.

APU owes its origins to American Military University, which began in 1991 to provide online education in military-focused areas like counterterrorism and military intelligence.

Is American Public University (APU) a Good School?

According to the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard, it has a graduation rate of 18%, although other sites state that the actual rate is 11%. The Scorecard also shows that the average annual income for graduates from APUS is $59,367. The fact that the school has such a poor graduation rate suggests that it’s not a good school for earning a four-year degree that is valued by employers.

In fact, 27% of graduates are in forbearance on their student loans, 21% are not making progress, and 19% have defaulted after two years of leaving the school. This suggests that graduates are not earning enough to pay for the costs of living and service their student loan debt. The graduation rate and student loan default rate speak to the quality of APUS. 

Is APUS Regionally Accredited?

No, APUS is regionally accredited, by the Higher Learning Commission, since 2012. Originally, APU was accredited by the national Distance Education Accrediting Commission, giving up that accreditation in 2012 with recognition by the HLC. APU’s accreditation was briefly in jeopardy over allegations of deceptive recruiting practices. A settlement with the state of Massachusetts allowed them to retain their accreditation.

In addition, APU carries multiple accreditations for its overall operation and degree programs. It carries accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission which enables the university to participate in federal educational entitlement programs that range from the GI Bill, corporate education assistance, and federal student aid programs. Other accreditations include:

  • Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC)
  • Health Information Management (HIM)

The university also carries professional recognition and affiliation from the following organizations:

  • Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL)
  • National Council on Family Relations (NCFR)
  • National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education
  • Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
  • American Sport Education Program (ASEP) (BS degree)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) (MS degree)

Pros and Cons of American Public University

The pros and cons of APUS tend to revolve around the fact it’s an online-only school with a for-profit motive. Students who figure out how to make the school work for them tend find satisfaction with their education, but the low graduation rate suggests that students transfer out with a high rate of frequency. The pros and cons can give insight as to why the graduation rate is so low.


There seems to be little oversight as to how some classes are run in terms of ensuring proper review of student work. The administrative side of the university comes across as less than competent when it comes to supporting the students. The teachers don’t always lead the classes and focus more on moderating discussion than educating. Teaching faculty is frequently unavailable for students in a timely manner.


Classes are flexible and students can engage in accelerated degree programs to graduate sooner. The school’s online format is easy to access and navigate, and students can watch recorded classes. Students can also get their work done ahead of the curriculum without being penalized. APUS focuses on providing an education to those in the military, and the online format makes it easy for military students to access classes no matter where in the world they are. 

Rankings for American Public University

American Public University receives rankings from various sites, and regularly ranks well in the U.S. News and World Reports “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs”, although the rank changes yearly. 

College Factual

College Factual gives APUS the #1 slot out of 31 for best value in a bachelor’s of entrepreneurship, #1 out of 10 for a bachelor’s in crisis/emergency disaster management, #1 out of 9 for a bachelor’s in accounting, and #1 out of 77 for a bachelor’s in science and kinesiology. 


GradReports has APUS ranked on 20 of its lists and bases its ranking on how much graduates earn a year out of college. It ranks #2 for best international relations master’s degrees, #5 for best online criminal justice master’s degree, and #2 for best liberal arts associate degrees.

American Public University Reviews

APUS provides access to students who want a higher education, but don’t have other options available to them. Student reviews are mixed with many students expressing frustration with coursework that doesn’t relate to the class they’re taking, a lack of support from administration, and the fact that courses are run at an accelerated pace. On the other hand, students who can make the format work for them report that they enjoyed their education and felt it was good value for what they received. 

Is American Public University Legit? 

Yes, APUS is legitimate in the sense that the education it provides is consistent with the standards set out by accrediting bodies. Students who earn their degree from APUS can go to another school to earn their master’s degree and find reasonable acceptance from employers upon graduation.

Like many other online colleges, APU is primarily valuable for working adults, military personnel and veterans, and other nontraditional students who need higher credentials to get better-paying positions or change their careers. On the other hand, American Public may not be the best choice for traditional-aged students who need more motivation.


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