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Bachelor of Science inCriminal Justice

Program summary

Stand out among your peers with a highly respected online degree program, designed and taught by expert faculty in the criminal justice field. The bachelor’s degree program features courses that focus on criminology, ethics, policing, and more.

100% Online

Complete your Penn State course work at your own pace and 100% online.

Application deadline

Apply by June 30 to start August 26

Credits and costs

120 Credits$626/$671 per credit

Nationally Recognized

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Our bachelor's degrees are highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

Gain Skills to Excel in the Field of Criminal Justice

  • Learn the theoretical and practical knowledge of crime control and criminal behavior.

  • Enhance your ability as a problem-solver in the field of criminal justice.

  • Understand the legal foundations of the criminal justice system, including processing and correction of offenders and extent and types of crimes.

  • Build expertise in design, measurement, sampling, and interpretation of the study of crime, law, and justice.

Customize Your Course List

This program balances the theoretical and practical aspects of crime control as they relate to adult and juvenile justice. Many different course options are available to complete the program, allowing you to customize the degree to meet your specific goals.

Course topic areas include: 

  • criminology 
  • law, policing, and corrections in America 
  • ethics in criminal justice 
  • security and police administration 
  • alternatives to incarceration 
  • aspects of the juvenile justice and court system 
  • sociology 
  • psychology 

Elective courses offer the opportunity to specialize and focus on homeland security, child welfare, security management, and other topics. 

Deputy Sheriff's Training and Act 120 Program

Students with ACT 120, Pennsylvania State Police, or Municipal Police Training transcripts may receive up to 16.5 credits for the following courses:

  • CRIMJ 100: Introduction to Criminal Justice (3 credits)
  • CRIMJ 220: Courts and the Prosecution Process (3 credits)
  • CRIMJ 210: Policing in America (3 credits)
  • CAS 203: Interpersonal Communication (3 credits)
  • KINES 067: Physical Conditioning (1.5 credits) 
  • NURS 203: First Aid and CPR  (3.0 credits)  

Training from other states will be reviewed upon request.

Prescribed Courses (24 credits)

  • 3

    Explanations and measurement of crime; criminal law; characteristics of criminals and victims; violent, property, white-collar, organized, and sexual crimes.

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3

    Overview of the criminal justice system, including legal foundations, processing and correction of offenders, extent and types of crime, victims.

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3

    Police organization and operations in America.

    • Prerequisite

      CRIMJ 100 or concurrent CRIMJ 100

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3

    Purpose and function of criminal courts in society, organization, jurisdiction and staffing; prosecution, adjudication, and sentencing of offenders.

    • Prerequisite

      CRIMJ 100

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3

    Punishment and treatment of sentenced offenders, correctional institution organization, staffing, inmates, and subcultures.

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3

    Fundamental concepts of social science research, including design, measurement, sampling, and interpretation of the study of crime, law, and justice.

    • Prerequisite

      CRIMJ 012

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3

    Capstone course exploring past, current, and future developments in criminal justice.

    • Prerequisite

      Sixth-semester standing and CRIM 100 or CRIMJ 100

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

  • 3

    Ethical behavior in the criminal justice system.

    • Prerequisite

      CRIMJ 100 or permission of program

    • C or better

      A student enrolled in this course must receive a grade of C or better.

Additional Courses (select 15 credits)

Public and Private Policing

  • 3

    Interdisciplinary analysis of security and loss prevention; its administration, role in crime control and prevention, and relationship to criminal justice.

  • 3

    Principles of administration as they relate to a police organization and policy development.

    • Prerequisite

      CRIMJ 100 or CRIM 100 and CRIMJ 210

  • 3

    This course provides knowledge about government organizations charged with American border security, guiding laws, and policies.

    • Prerequisite

      6th semester standing

Diversity in Criminal Justice

  • 3–4

    Focuses on historical patterns and current status of racial, ethnic and cultural groups and issues locally, nationally, and internationally.

  • 3

    This course provides knowledge about government organizations charged with American border security, guiding laws, and policies.

    • Prerequisite

      6th semester standing

  • 3

    This course focuses on the significance of race, class, and ethnicity to criminal justice processing and criminal offending.

Special Populations and the Law

  • 3

    This course will explore the legal, emotional, and social responses to the process of victimization by offenders and third parties.

  • 3

    Common law and statutory crimes; constitutional rights of accused persons, liability of criminal justice professionals.

  • 3

    Control and treatment of offenders in the community, probation and parole organizations, diversion programs, innovative sentences, supervision techniques.

    • Prerequisite

      CRIMJ 100, and CRIMJ 113 and CRIMJ 230, or permission of program

  • 3

    Historical and contemporary view of juvenile justice system. Focus on analyzing components of the system, their interactions, processing, and handling of youths.

    • Prerequisite

      CRIMJ 100

Supporting Courses and Related Areas (select 21 credits)

  • 6 credits of courses taken from the following: PLSC, PUBPL, PSYCH or SOC. You may take 3 credits at the 200 level and 3 credits at the 300 or 400 level or 6 credits at the 300 or 400 level.
  • 15 credits of courses taken in consultation with adviser. Examples of relevant course topics include: Psychology, Sociology, Criminology, Human Development and Family Studies, Forensic Science, Communications, Legal Research, Law and Business Law, Organizational Leadership, Political Science and Public Policy.


Additional credits needed to meet the 120-credit degree requirement

General Education Requirements

Some General Education requirements may be satisfied by courses required for the major. Students should work with an adviser to select courses.

  • Foundations: 15 credits  
    All courses require a grade of C or better. Inter-Domain courses may not be used for foundations requirements. 
    • Writing/Speaking: 9 credits 
    • Quantification: 6 credits 
      3-6 credits are selected from mathematics, applied mathematics, and statistics; 3 credits may be selected from computer science or symbolic logic. 
  • Knowledge Domains: 15 credits  
    Inter-Domain courses may not be used for knowledge domain requirements.
    • Health and Wellness (GHW): 3 credits 
    • Natural Sciences (GN): 3 credits 
    • Arts (GA): 3 credits 
    • Humanities (GH): 3 credits 
    • Social and Behavioral Sciences (GS): 3 credits  
  • Integrative Studies: 6 credits
    • Inter-Domain course work: 6 credits  
  • Exploration: 9 credits 
    • Natural Sciences (GN) (may be Inter-Domain): 3 credits
    • GA, GH, GN, GS, and Inter-Domain courses: 6 credits  
      May include 3 credits of World Language course work beyond the requirements of the student’s degree program or at the 12th credit level, whichever is higher.

These General Education Requirements are for students who started in summer 2023 or later. Students who started earlier can review the prior version of the general education requirements

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.

Start or Advance Your Criminal Justice Career

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With this degree on your résumé and the support of Penn State career resources, you can be prepared and qualified to advance your career in such fields as protective services, law and corrections, crime-related prevention and support, security management, court administration, and social services.

Job Titles Related to This Degree

The following roles are often held by people with this type of degree:

  • Correctional Supervisor
  • Criminal Investigator
  • Detective
  • Police Officer

Employment Outlook for Occupational Fields Related to This Degree

Estimates of employment growth and total employment are provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and are subject to change. While these occupations are often pursued by graduates with this degree, individual outcomes may vary depending on a variety of factors. Penn State World Campus cannot guarantee employment in a given occupation.

Police and Sheriff's Patrol Officers

employment growth (10 years)
total employment

Detectives and Criminal Investigators

employment growth (10 years)
total employment

First-Line Supervisors of Correctional Officers

employment growth (10 years)
total employment

Career Services to Set You Up for Success

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From the day you're accepted as a student, you can access resources and tools provided by Penn State World Campus Career Services to further your career. These resources are beneficial whether you're searching for a job or advancing in an established career.

  • Opportunities to connect with employers
  • Career counselor/coach support
  • Occupation and salary information
  • Internships
  • Graduate school resources 

Ready to Learn More?

Get the resources you need to make informed decisions about your education. Request information on this program and other programs of interest by completing this form.

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Learn more about this program

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State bachelor's degree?

Apply by June 30 to start August 26. How to Apply 

Costs and Financial Aid

Learn about this program's tuition, fees, scholarship opportunities, grants, payment options, and military benefits.

Costs and Financial Aid

Undergraduate Tuition

Undergraduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register and the number of total credits you have accrued at or transferred to Penn State.

Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.

2023–24 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2023, spring 2024, and summer 2024 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester?If you have 59 or fewer creditsIf you have 60 or more credits
11 or fewer$626 per credit$671 per credit
12–19$7,602 per semester$8,206 per semester

Undergraduate students taking more than 19 credits will be charged the flat tuition rate plus the regular per credit hour rate for each credit above 19. 

2024–25 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2024, spring 2025, and summer 2025 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester?If you have 59 or fewer creditsIf you have 60 or more credits
11 or fewer$632 per credit$678 per credit
12–19$7,678 per semester$8,288 per semester

Undergraduate students taking more than 19 credits will be charged the flat tuition rate plus the regular per credit hour rate for each credit above 19. 

Financial Aid and Military Benefits

Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.

To view the detailed list of cost of attendance elements, select “World Campus” as the location on the tuition site.

Military Grant-in-Aid Benefits for Criminal Justice Students

The Military Grant-in-Aid is an undergraduate program that brings our tuition rate closer to the Department of Defense cap, making a Penn State World Campus education more affordable to our military students and their spouses. More details, including Grant-In-Aid forms, can be found on the Military Grants and Scholarships page.

Get a Jump-Start on Degree Requirements

Students with State or Municipal Police training, Deputy Sheriff training, Act 120, or Act 2 may receive up to 16.5 academic credits toward a criminal justice degree, allowing you to complete your degree in a timely, less costly manner. Training from other states will be reviewed upon request.

Benefit from a Highly Supportive Environment

You can take criminal justice courses with other licensed law enforcement professionals (police officers, FBI agents, and law enforcement officers), allowing you to engage with and learn from officers who understand the unique challenges of working on the front lines.

Set Your Own Pace

Adult student doing course work online while a child plays nearby

Whether you are looking to finish your program as quickly as possible or balance your studies with your busy life, Penn State World Campus can help you achieve your education goals. Many students take one or two courses per semester.

Our online courses typically follow a 12- to 15-week semester cycle, and there are three semesters per year (spring, summer, and fall). If you plan to take a heavy course load, you should expect your course work to be your primary focus and discuss your schedule with your academic adviser. 

To Finish Your Degree in Two to Three Years

  • Take 6 courses each semester

To Finish Your Degree in Three to Four Years

  • Take 4–5 courses each semester 

To Finish Your Degree in Five or More Years

  • Take 2–3 courses each semester

Convenient Online Format

This program's convenient online format gives you the flexibility you need to study around your busy schedule. You can skip the lengthy commute without sacrificing the quality of your education and prepare yourself for more rewarding career opportunities without leaving your home.

A Trusted Leader in Online Education

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Penn State has a history of more than 100 years of distance education, and World Campus has been a leader in online learning for more than two decades. Our online learning environment offers the same quality education that our students experience on campus.

Information for Military and Veterans

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Are you a member of the military, a veteran, or a military spouse? Please visit our military website for additional information regarding financial aid, transfer credits, and application instructions.

How to Apply to Penn State

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Apply by June 30 to start August 26

Application Instructions

Deadlines and Important Dates

Complete your application and submit all required materials by the appropriate deadline. Your deadline will depend on the semester you plan to start your courses.

  • Fall Deadline

    Apply by June 30 to start August 26
  • Spring Deadline

    Apply by October 31 to start January 13
  • Summer Deadline

    Apply by March 15, 2025, to start May 19, 2025

New students are encouraged to complete the FAFSA by March 1. Please visit the Office of Student Aid website for more information about applying for financial aid and recommended deadlines.

Steps to Apply

  1. To apply for this program, you must be a high school graduate, or have completed your GED.

  2. You will need the following items to complete your application:

    High school transcripts or GED transcript — First-year applicants are required to submit Self-Reported Academic Records (SRAR) when applying. Official high school transcripts for first-year applicants will only be required at the time a student accepts an offer of admission to Penn State.

    Transfer international students will need to submit their high school transcript before their application can be reviewed.

    Official college or university transcripts and/or official military transcripts (if applicable) — All college or university transcripts are required regardless of the length of time that has passed, the grades earned, or the accreditation of the institutions attended. Acceptance of transfer credit toward your degree is subject to final approval by the academic department. For detailed information, see the Transfer Students page.

    Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation.

    English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Language Proficiency section on the Undergraduate Admissions International Requirements page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.

  3. To begin the online application, you will need a Penn State account.

    Create a New Penn State Account

    If you have any problems during this process, contact an admissions counselor at [email protected].

    Please note: Former Penn State students may not need to complete the admissions application or create a new Penn State account. Please visit our Returning Students page for instructions.

  4. Accessing MyPennState

    The MyPennState Portal provides access to our online admissions services. Before accessing MyPennState, you must have a Penn State account that will be used to access all Penn State systems. After creating an account, you will receive a unique Penn State User ID. You will need to enter your User ID followed by when signing in to MyPennState and other Penn State sites. For example, you should be entering something like '[email protected]' in the Sign In field.

    The application consists of six sections:

    1. Application Setup
    2. Program of Study
    3. Citizenship and Residency
    4. Academics and Experience
    5. Miscellaneous
    6. Review and Submit
    Application Setup
    • Be sure to select "Online" for the "How would you like to complete your degree" question if you plan to attend Penn State World Campus.

    • The rest of this section will ask some basic questions about your education experience and military affiliation.

    Program of Study
    • You will choose the degree type and then the starting semester.

    • Your starting campus will be selected as Penn State World Campus by default as long as you picked "Online" in your Application Setup. Click Continue.

    • On the Choose a Program page, select your intended major from the list.

    • Review your selection on the summary screen and click Continue to move on to the Citizenship and Residency section.

    Citizenship and Residency
    • Complete the series of questions about your citizenship status, demographic information, Pennsylvania residency status, and family history.

    Academics and Experience
    • You will need to enter academic experience information about your high school and any attempted courses at a college or university after high school.

    • The Education Gap Statement offers a place to explain any time that has elapsed between your high school graduation and your anticipated enrollment at Penn State. Please provide a summary of why that gap occurred. Some examples that would explain a gap in your education include work, family, attending another college or university, etc.

    • In the Miscellaneous section, you will provide any program-specific requirements (e.g., a personal statement), information about activities, and financial aid information.

    Review and Submit

    Review your information, digitally sign your application, and provide payment for the application fee ($65 domestic or $75 international).

    High School Transcripts and Academic Record
    • After your application is completed, you will also need to self-report your high school course work before the application deadline. You will be directed to fill out the Self-Reported Academic Record (SRAR). It is helpful to have a high school transcript available when completing this section. In the third section, you'll select your program of study and campus.

    • Official high school transcripts or GED transcript, along with records from high school, are required, regardless of the length of time that has passed.

    • Include any college/university transcripts (required), military transcripts, and Proof of English Language proficiency (if applicable). SAT/ACT scores are not required if you are identified as an adult learner or transfer student.

    All official documents should be sent to: 

    Undergraduate Admissions Office
    The Pennsylvania State University
    201 Shields Building
    University Park, PA 16802

    You can also have your transcripts sent electronically through Parchment, eScript-Safe, or the National Clearinghouse directly to Penn State from the college/university where course work was attempted.


    After receiving your application, application fee, and all required materials, your application will be evaluated for admission. You can check your application status online. This will provide the most up‐to‐date information about the status of your application and is updated once daily, before 8:00 a.m. (ET). Once a decision has been made regarding your application, it will be available to you through the MyPennState portal.

    For information on when you can expect an admissions decision, visit the Dates and Deadlines page of the Undergraduate Admissions website. Make sure you click the "+" sign to see these dates for World Campus Applicants (First-Year and Transfer).

  5. 5. Complete the application.

Admissions Help

If you have questions about the admissions process, contact an admissions counselor at [email protected].

Contact Us

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Have questions or want more information? We're happy to talk.

To learn more about the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, please contact:

World Campus Admissions Counselors
Phone: 814-863-5386
Email: [email protected]

Learn from the Best

This program is offered in partnership with the Penn State Harrisburg School of Public Affairs. Our courses are taught by distinguished faculty who have special training and experience teaching in an online environment. You can expect the same caliber of academic quality that you associate with Penn State.


  • Eileen M. Ahlin

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland, College Park
    • Degree
      M.A., Sociology, George Mason University
    • Degree
      B.A., Administration of Justice and Sociology, Penn State

    Dr. Eileen M. Ahlin is an associate professor of criminal justice in the School of Public Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg. She joined the faculty in 2013 after 15 years with a private corporation, where she conducted criminal justice research at the federal, state, and local levels. Her teaching and research interests include violence, neighborhood effects, corrections, research methods, and criminological theory.

  • Shaun L. Gabbidon

    • Degree
      Ph.D. Criminology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
    • Degree
      M.S. Criminal Justice, University of Baltimore
    • Degree
      B.S. Governmental Administration with focus in Criminal Justice, Christopher Newport University

    Dr. Shaun Gabbidon is the author of more than 100 scholarly publications. The recipient of numerous awards, Dr. Gabbidon was awarded the 2015 Julius Debro Award for outstanding service and the 2016 Outstanding Teaching Award, both from the Division on People of Color and Crime of the American Society of Criminology. He teaches course in the areas of race, ethnicity, and crime; research methods; and private security administration.

  • Jennifer Gibbs

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Maryland, College Park
    • Degree
      Certificate, University Teaching and Learning, University of Maryland, College Park
    • Degree
      M.S., Criminal Justice Administration, Niagara University
    • Degree
      B.A., Psychology, Keuka College

    Dr. Jennifer Gibbs' research interests focus on policing topics, including violence against police, public attitudes toward police, diversity in recruitment and retention, and terrorism. Her work on social distance and attitudes toward police, co-authored with Dr. Jonathan Lee, received recognition in the 2016 Emerald Literati Network Awards for Excellence. At Penn State World Campus, Dr. Gibbs typically teaches courses on policing (CRIMJ 210: Policing in America; CRIMJ 408: Police Administration) and ethics (CRIMJ 465: Ethics in Criminal Justice).

  • Daniel Howard

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Sociology, University of Delaware
    • Degree
      M.S., Criminal Justice, New Mexico State University
    • Degree
      B.S., Sociology, The College of Wooster

    Dr. Daniel Howard joined the faculty at Penn State Harrisburg in 2012 after earning his Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Delaware. His research interests include correctional programming, treatment policy, and evaluation methodology. He teaches corrections classes for Harrisburg and World Campus programs and graduate seminars in criminal justice policy and administration. Dr. Howard's work has appeared in Justice Quarterly, Policing: An International Journal, Criminal Justice Policy Review, and Journal of Crime and Justice, as well as the Pennsylvania bar association magazine.

  • Don Hummer

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Social Science-Criminal Justice, Michigan State University
    • Degree
      M.S., Criminal Justice, Shippensburg University
    • Degree
      B.S., Sociology/Anthropology, Elizabethtown College

    Dr. Don Hummer is co-author/editor of The Culture of Prison ViolenceHandbook of Police Administration, and the forthcoming The Technology Revolution in Criminal Justice. His work, focused primarily on offender treatment and control, has appeared in peer-reviewed outlets such as Aggression and Violent BehaviorProbation Journal, Law & Policy, and The Prison Journal.

  • Philip Kavanaugh

    Ph.D., Sociology, University of Delaware

    Philip Kavanaugh is an associate professor of criminal justice. His latest work examines how harm reduction strategies to address the U.S. opioid crisis exist within and adapt to the broader war on drugs. His primary teaching duties are in the areas of drug policy and criminological theory.

  • Jonathan Lee

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Criminology, Sam Houston State University
    • Degree
      M.A., Criminal Justice, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.A., Economics, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

    Dr. Jonathan Lee is an associate professor of criminal justice at Penn State Harrisburg's School of Public Affairs. He specializes in quantitative research on sociology and psychology of deviance, police-public relations, and police decision-making. He is associate editor of International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, a consultant to Dauphin County DA's Office and police agencies, and principal investigator of criminal justice projects funded by U.S. Department of Justice.

  • Siyu Liu

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Criminology and Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SUNY)
    • Degree
      M.A., Criminology and Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SUNY)
    • Degree
      B.A.; B.S., Peking University

    Dr. Siyu Liu graduated from Peking University with bachelor’s degrees in biomedical English and psychology. She obtained her master’s degree in criminology and criminal justice in 2010 and a doctoral degree in the same field in 2014 from the School of Criminal Justice from the University at Albany (SUNY). She specializes in quantitative research on the topics of juvenile delinquency, police legitimacy, and the death penalty in China. Her research has a comparative focus through empirical studies of China and the United States.

  • Jennifer L. Schally

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Sociology, University of Tennessee
    • Degree
      M.A., Community Psychology and Social Change, Penn State
    • Degree
      B.S., Sociology, Penn State

    Dr. Jennifer L. Schally joined the faculty at Penn State Harrisburg in 2014 after earning her Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Tennessee. Her research interests are mainly in green criminology and crimes by the powerful, including harms to nonhuman animals. She regularly teaches courses in criminology and race and crime. Dr. Schally’s work has appeared in the Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, the American Journal of Community Psychology, and the Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Her book, Legitimizing Corporate Harm: The Discourse of Agribusiness, was published by Palgrave in 2018.

  • Emily R. Strohacker

    Ph.D., Sociology, University of Central Florida

    Dr. Emily Strohacker joined the School of Public Affairs at Penn State Harrisburg in August 2017 as an assistant professor of criminal justice. Her areas of research interest include criminology, deviance, and victimology, specifically in the areas of cyber victimization and sexual victimization. She regularly teaches courses in victimology, research methods, and criminology. Her published works have appeared in Crime & Delinquency, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, and Police Quarterly.


Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State bachelor's degree?

Apply by June 30 to start August 26. How to Apply 

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