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School history

Founded in 1993, Capella University is one of the pioneer schools in offering online degree programs. At a time when the Internet was still in its infancy, Capella's founders had a vision for the future and saw what high quality "distance learning" could accomplish. One of the school's priority is encouraging students to develop real-world competency that emphasizes practical problem solving and professional acumen.

More than two decades ago, Stephen Shank, a former CEO of the Tonka Corporation, identified an under-served population of the college-age public. This demographic was working professionals who wanted to enhance their educational background. Shank and career academic administrator and highly experienced leader Dr. Harold Abel combined their experience to launch what would later become Capella University.

Dr. Abel, who had been a president of several universities over his forty-year career, brought an understanding of higher education, while Shank brought corporate organization and private sector insight to the task. Together they created an educational institution offering a wide variety of online programs.

Originally, the school offered master's and doctoral degrees in management, education and human services. As of 2015, Capella offers 43 online degree programs and 142 specializations. What started out as a core faculty of four instructing a few dozen students has developed into a thriving educational community with more than 30,000 students and a faculty that numbers in the thousands. While master's and doctoral degrees are available, the school also offers undergraduate degrees and professional certifications as well.


Capella has been able to develop alliances with more than 500 major corporations including 19 Fortune 100 companies. These corporations have selected Capella as an educational partner for their current employees and 96 percent of employers who employ Capella students report their job performance as exceptional.

The school focuses on "competency-based education" which means that classes and curriculum are developed around specific skills necessary in the workplace. 86 percent of Capella professors hold doctoral degrees but they are also current or former professionals from the private sector. Since many faculty and administrators at Capella come from professional backgrounds, and many still work in their fields outside of academia, the school is typically able to offer the most up-to-date lessons possible.

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.  The Higher Learning Commission is among the 6 regional accrediting bodies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Cost to attend

The cost to attend Capella varies depending on the level of education and the particular program in which a student is enrolled. Based on publicly available data on Capella's website in 2016, for a certificate, the cost can range from $340-$780 per credit hour. For a bachelor's degree, credit hour costs usually range from $336-$394. Master's degree costs can be $416-$780 per credit. Doctoral credit hours typically range from $425-$925.

Capella's FlexPath Self Paced Learning allows students to complete coursework without imposed deadlines for assignments. This may allow some to quickly complete certain assignments and prove certain competencies while allowing for more time with learning objectives that may be more challenging to complete. As of 2016, FlexPath is only available for business, information technology and psychology degree programs, but may be expanded in the near future.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics' (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) database, the average 2016-2017 tuition and required fees for full-time students at Capella were $13,998.

Financial aid

There are a variety of financial aid opportunities available at Capella. In the addition to the FlexPath approach, scholarships, grants and loans may be available to qualified students. Since Capella is an accredited institution of higher education, federal loans and other government-backed financial aid may also available to qualified students. Prospective and enrolled students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

Additionally, scholarships, grants and discounts are available through Capella. Many of them are funded by the school, but the school also conducts robust outreach efforts that may be able to help your identify scholarship resources from private and public entities including your own employer. Here are a few examples:

  • New Student Scholarship - This scholarship is not based on financial need and, unlike a loan, does not require repayment. If you meet eligibility requirements, you may be awarded up to $10,000 towards your college costs at Capella. View all available scholarships to find one you qualify for.
  • 10-15 percent Military Discount - Current and former service members and their spouses may be eligible for discounts as they progress toward their education goals. Capella also has a support staff with the express focus of assisting students affiliated with the military.
  • Employer & Association Discounts and Employer Reimbursement - Because Capella has so many alliances with corporations throughout the nation, certain students may qualify for a tuition discount with a Capella-affiliated employer or a recognized professional association. Many employers will also reimburse educational costs if a student qualifies.

Along with the above, Capella also offers streamlined classes, credit for transferred classes from other schools, and a wide variety of options for helping you complete your education in the most expeditious way possible.

Online offerings

All of Capella University's classes are available online exclusively. Many of the courses require in-person residencies, internships or other hands-on experiences but coursework, lectures and discussions are conducted online on a schedule that may be able to fit your lifestyle.

Highlighted programs

Capella's roots are in business and administration, but students can experience a rewarding educational experience in all of Capella's offerings. Degrees are available in:

  • Business
  • Counseling
  • Health Care
  • Higher Education
  • Human Services
  • Information Technology
  • Nursing
  • P-12 Education
  • Psychology
  • Public Administration
  • Public Safety
  • Social Work

Within each of these major areas of focus, students have the potential to refine their focus. A number of the programs offer certificates, bachelors, masters or doctoral degrees.

Student life data

Over the last two decades Capella has granted 47,557 degrees to more than 44,174 alumni. Because of its longevity as an accredited online university, the school can be an attractive educational prospect to working professionals from a wide variety of fields. Most courses are offered asynchronously, which means students can participate in class discussions, respond to assignments and watch recorded lectures on their own schedule.

Additionally, since the classes are offered online and available in many formats, students can log in and learn from any location that fits their lifestyle.

According to the IPEDS database, student body demographics for 2015-16 break down as follows:

Gender (Fall 2015)







Race/ethnicity (Fall 2015)





Black or African-American




Two or more races




American Indian or Alaska Native


Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander


Sorted by age group (Fall 2015)

Age bracket


24 and Under


25 and Over



"Competency-Based Education," Capella University, 2015, http://www.capella.edu/about/why-choose-capella-university/competency-based-education/

"FlexPath Self-Paced Learning," Capella University, 2015, http://www.capella.edu/flexpath-self-paced-learning/

"Free Trial Mini Course," Capella University, 2015, http://www.capella.edu/about/online-learning/mini-course-registration/

"About Capella," Capella University, 2015, http://www.capella.edu/about/

"Our History," Capella University, 2015, http://www.capella.edu/about/history/

"Scholarships, Grants & Discounts," Capella University, 2015, http://www.capella.edu/tuition-financial-aid/scholarships-grants/

"Tuition & Fees," Capella University, 2015, http://www.capella.edu/tuition-financial-aid/tuition-fees/

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