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American Public University Review [2024] A Review of APU Online

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American Public University logo from website

The American Public University System is an online-only undergraduate and graduate school that is made up of the American Military University and American Public University. It’s a private, for-profit online university 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, though it welcomes civilian and international students.

APU (not to be confused with Azusa Pacific University) 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 undergraduate 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 and other financial aid. The graduation rate and student loan default rate speak to the quality of APUS. 

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Is APUS Regionally Accredited?

Yes, 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)

APUS’s Most Popular Programs

The majority of APUS students are bachelor’s and master’s students, with high numbers in Business Administration, Homeland Security, and Computer Science.

Program of StudyAssociateBachelorMasterDoctorate
Business Administration5432,2341,016N/A
Computer Science96622135N/A
Homeland Security2271,241401N/A
National Center for Education Statistics most popular degree programs.

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APUS Graduates’ Careers and Salaries

Some of APU’s top programs are business and computer science, and it shows. APU graduates make the most money in business and tech careers like intelligence analyst, project manager, and systems administrator.

Job TitleSalary RangeAverage Salary
Intelligence Analyst$57k – $110k$81,949
Operations Manager$51k – $124k$87,222
Project Manager$49k – $112k$87,420
Human Resources (HR) Manager$63k – $94k$76,665
Systems Administrator$49k – $113k$75,106
American Public University Top Jobs by Salary

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. 

Can APUS Graduates Pay Back Their Loans?

Like a lot of online schools, APUS graduates had trouble with loan default in past years. But changes in government policy, and a strengthening job market, have put those troubles in the past. NCES statistics show that no APU graduates were in default as of 2020.

APUS Fiscal Year202020192018
Default rate0%2.4%9.4%
Number in default02341,022
Number in repayment9,2149,58710,813
National Center for Education Statistics default rates.

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.

American Public University Pros and Cons

A “Pros and Cons” list may seem simple, but it does help in making important decisions. To get you started, College Consensus started a list for you as you compare schools with your goals. You may want to consider:


  • Flexible and accelerated courses
  • Easy online formats
  • Reasonable tuition/Financial Aid available
  • Military friendly
  • 91% retention rate


  • Inconsistency in timely coursework review of student work
  • Poor administrative to student support
  • Faculty not always available
  • Lack of student diversity

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