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The Catholic Distance University


One of the most significant developments in
education in the last generation has been the
growth of distance education through online
learning. This rapid expansion has created
opportunities for students—young adults as
well as non-traditional working students of
all ages—to pursue higher education with
convenience and flexibility.
Not surprisingly, an increasing number
of Catholic colleges and universities have
been offering distance learning courses for
enrichment as well as for undergraduate and
even graduate degrees. But, although some
of the institutions profiled earlier this Guide
offer online graduate degrees, The Catholic
Distance University offers an undergradu- quick facts
ate degree completion program exclusively Founded: 1983
through distance study. Type of institution: Online
Indeed, CDU is a leader in the field, hav- Setting: Suburban
ing offered 7,500 students access to theology Undergraduate enrollment: 88 (2009)
courses since opening in 1983. According to Undergraduate cost: $239 (per credit hour
the school, CDU was created “to meet the 2008–09)
needs of adults who recognize that religious Undergraduate majors: 1
literacy is a life long process of growing in the
knowledge and love of God.” Five Key Points
The first president and chairman of the 1. The university has been in the
board was the late Bishop Thomas Welsh, vanguard of Catholic distance learning.
then of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia,
2. Half of the governing board are
where the school is located, and who later bishops and priests.
served as Bishop of the Diocese of Allentown,
3. An undergraduate completion program
in theology.
Originally begun as the Catholic Home
4. Program is flexible and convenient.
Study Institute, the name was changed in 1996
to The Catholic Distance University to reflect 5. Very affordable educational alternative.
its status as a degree-granting institution. Dr.

The Newman Guide 273
The Catholic Distance University

Marianne Evans Mount, the president, has The university is accredited by the Dis-
been with the university in several capacities tance Education and Training Council, a dis-
since its inception. tance learning accreditation agency recog-
Although its headquarters is located in nized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Hamilton, Virginia, a small town of about 900 The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops also
residents one hour west of Washington, D.C.,
its student body is widely scattered. Every From the
state as well as 57 foreign countries have been
represented over the past 26 years. There is Financial Aid Office
a growing interest in the university among
homeschoolers. “Planning is key to financing your CDU
Students are able to pursue a Vatican-ap- education. To assist our students, CDU of-
proved Catechetical Diploma, an Advanced fers several options to pay for tuition:
Catechist Certificate, a bachelor of arts degree
“Scholarships, grants, and military ben-
in theology or a master of arts degree in theol-
efits: While CDU does not offer scholar-
ogy. In addition, various non-credit programs
ships at this time, students are encour-
are available.
aged to research other sources to help pay
What most interests us, and what ac-
for a CDU degree. Many companies have
counts for including CDU in The Newman
tuition reimbursement programs and a
Guide, is that students interested in receiv-
growing number of Catholic parishes and
ing an undergraduate degree in theology
dioceses offer tuition assistance to adults
can take their final 36 credits at a high-qual-
studying at CDU. To serve current mili-
ity, time-flexible institution after completing
tary personnel, families, and veterans,
their general coursework elsewhere. This of-
CDU is a Yellow Ribbon school and fully
fers flexibility and cost savings to students
participates in tuition assistance and VA
who take advantage of a liberal arts core cur-
benefits for all U.S. military services.
riculum at another college—preferably one of
the solid Catholic institutions in The Newman “Payment plans: CDU offers a three-
Guide—then complete a theology degree from month or four-month payment plan
home. for undergraduate and graduate single
The B.A. completion program began in course enrollments. At the time of enroll-
2004. The first degree was awarded in 2006 ment, students select the option that best
and, as of April 2009, seven undergraduate meets their budget needs.
degrees were awarded through this program.
At the same time, CDU’s overall undergradu- “Sallie Mae private loans Graduate and
ate enrollment was 88 (from 32 states and undergraduate program students can
Canada) and the graduate enrollment was borrow at very competitive interest rates.
170. When adding non-credit students, about Sallie Mae Signature Student Loan pro-
700-800 students take classes each year. grams are quick and easy with many stu-
Students are mostly non-traditional dents receiving loans within a few days.
adults, but not exclusively. The vast majority,
“Tax credits: As a Title IV school, students
not surprisingly, are Catholics, but there are
may consider deferment of certain federal
a few non-Catholics as well. Many students
student loans and possible tax credits for
hope for positions in Catholic schools or other
tuition payments.”
religious education programs.

274 The Newman Guide
The Catholic Distance University

identifies CDU as an approved distance-learn- Public Identity
ing institution. The 36-credit Catechetical Di-
ploma is approved by the Vatican Congrega- The university is explicitly Catholic in its cur-
tion for the Clergy. riculum and public identity. Dr. Royal said
In addition to being faithful and flex- in an April 2009 EWTN interview, “Students
ible, especially for students who have work or who come to CDU know we are an Ex corde
family responsibilities, The Catholic Distance Ecclesiae university, and they help perpetuate
University is an incredible bargain. The un- it.” Not surprisingly, then, Ex corde is promi-
dergraduate tuition for 2008-09 was $233 per nently displayed on the university’s website.
credit or $699 for a three-credit course. The university’s motto is Gaudium de Veritate
or Joy from the Truth.
Governance Although the university does not have
speakers on campus because of the nature
The university is governed by a 16-mem- of the institution, it does have fundraising
ber board of trustees, half of whom are ei- dinners which are headlined by prominent
ther bishops or priests. The chairman of the Church leaders. The 25th anniversary cele-
board is Bishop Paul Loverde of the Diocese bration in 2008 featured a talk by Archbishop
of Arlington. Other board members include Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Wash-
Bishop Michael Bransfield of the Diocese of ington, D.C.
Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia; Auxil-
iary Bishop John Dougherty of the Diocese Academics
of Scranton, Pennsylvania; Auxiliary Bishop
Joseph Estabrook of the Archdiocese for Mili- The bachelor of arts completion program ac-
tary Services; Dr. Jude Dougherty, the highly cepts students either provisionally or fully,
respected former dean of philosophy at The depending on previous credits earned. Stu-
Catholic University of America; and noted dents need 90 credits to be fully admitted to
Catholic writer Russell Shaw. the program. Thirty-six credits, all in theolo-
Dr. Mount, who helped establish CDU, gy, must be taken at CDU; nine of these cred-
served as the executive vice president for 12 its can be electives. There is only one major,
years before she was named president in 2008. theology.
In addition to a graduate degree in religious All courses are taught in conformity with
education from the Pontifical University of St. Church teachings. According to Dr. Mount,
Thomas Aquinas, she has a doctorate in adult “All theology professors are reviewed and
learning and distance education from Virgin- approved by Bishop Loverde. We send their
ia Polytechnic Institute and State University. curriculum vitae to his office. The mandatum
She gave a talk titled “Transforming Faith may be obtained in a home diocese or from
in Online Learning Communities” during the where a faculty member is working. Some fac-
fall meeting of the U.S. Catholic Conference ulty have it through their own diocese or they
of Bishops in November 2008. may obtain it through the Diocese of Arling-
Among other administrators is the un- ton. We only hire faculty we know through
dergraduate dean, Fr. Bevil Bramwell, O.M.I., board members or current academic staff.”
who earned his Ph.D. at Boston College. The CDU has always been a distance insti-
graduate dean, Dr. Robert Royal, is a well- tution. From 1983 until 2000, it used a paper
known Catholic scholar and author. correspondence format. Increasingly, it has

The Newman Guide 275
The Catholic Distance University

gone online and describes itself as “an online tion student told us, “I was led to The Catho-
learning community that is global.” Instruc- lic Distance University in 2005 with 110 cred-
tion is now approximately 60 percent online its to finish a bachelor’s degree that had been
and 40 percent paper. There is no residency on hold since 1980. CDU awakened again my
requirement. desire to learn about holy things and to grow
One component of the program is a re- deeper in faith. The courses are well pre-
quired one-credit “Undergraduate Academic pared, affordable, faithful to the teaching of
Skills” course to help students develop tools the Church, and the online campus is acces-
needed for successful online college work sible from anywhere at anytime.”
such as study skills and time management. For those seeking an online program to
A recent undergraduate degree comple- fulfill prerequisites, CDU has a partner rela-

Message from the President

Dear Parents and Prospective Students:

Online learning at CDU may surprise you!

What you will find is a learner-centered experience. You have the luxu-
ry of choosing where and when to study. You have the pleasure of learning in
the comfort of home. In addition, you have choices about the way you learn.
Some courses offer audio lectures that can be downloaded to a CD or IPod;
many courses offer the printed text of your professor’s class lecture that you can print and re-
view, and a transcript of all class discussion. Your comments can be edited multiple times before
you commit them to text. At CDU you take time to think more deeply.

The Dean of Students teaches Academic Skills—reading, writing, research, time and space
management—throughout your program to ensure your success. You have access to faculty
through email and a help desk.

CDU has a real campus in cyberspace where you talk with real people like yourself from
all over the world -- Australia, the UK, United States. You can share a virtual cup of coffee in
the Café or pray in the virtual Chapel. Every course has a lively discussion area to interact fre-
quently with classmates and professor. Even the Dean of Students and President engage in lively
conversation with students.

Our inspiring programs rich in magisterial teaching, our carefully selected faculty, and
dialogic model of adult learning are modeled on the pedagogy of Christ. We look forward to
welcoming you to the CDU Family.

Yours in Christ,

Marianne Evans Mount

276 The Newman Guide
The Catholic Distance University

tionship with the College of Humanities and ments, the saints and the great philosophers
Sciences of the Harrison Middleton Universi- and theologians, such as St. Thomas Aquinas
ty, a Great Books-institution based in Tempe, and St. Augustine. The intellectual patrimony
Arizona. of the Church greatly enriches our spiritual
CDU also has arranged for students lives.”
to have library privileges with Woodstock
Theological Center Library, a 190,000-volume
library housed on the Georgetown University
Student Activities
campus in Washington, D.C.
There are no formal student activities. But
One special academic outreach is to pris-
there is an online “café” for general social in-
oners. Since its beginning, CDU has provided
teraction among all enrolled students. Also,
very low-cost correspondence courses to in-
there have been a few in-person gatherings of
carcerated Catholics whose names have been
students and CDU faculty and staff, includ-
put forward by their chaplains, according
ing a recent West Coast get-together and par-
to Dr. Mount. She said, “We seek those who
ticipation in the March for Life in Washing-
have an apostolic desire to hold classes for
ton, D.C. Students also may attend the annual
other inmates, work as a chaplain’s assistant,
fundraising dinner in the Washington, D.C.,
or serve in some leadership capacity.”
area. A pilgrimage is planned for fall 2009
through the Diocese of Arlington.
Spiritual Life
The Catholic Distance University has an on-
The Bottom Line
line chapel, and the undergraduate dean, Fa-
The delivery of education is rapidly chang-
ther Bevil Bramwell, O.M.I., celebrates Mass
ing, and online instruction is a growing and
daily at the administrative offices and posts
viable alternative to traditional education.
meditations online. He also is the full-time
The Catholic Distance University, currently
theologian-in-residence and teaches several
celebrating its 26th year of service, has been
courses. Students can contact Father Bram-
at the forefront of providing quality, faithful
well privately for guidance and post prayer
Catholic teaching to students seeking flexibil-
In his April 2009 EWTN interview, Dr.
The undergraduate completion program,
Royal said that while there is “some spiritual
which offers a degree in theology, can be an
formation” offered through CDU, it cannot
attractive and low-cost option to students who
be complete and is not meant to substitute
have completed or are contemplating com-
for a personal spiritual director. Consistent
pleting basic, non-major courses elsewhere.
with the nature of distance learning, students
Whether for work, location, family or
should not rely on CDU for spiritual or social
other reasons, more students are likely to
interaction, instead participating in parish
view The Catholic Distance University as a
life and Catholic apostolates in their commu-
unique opportunity to receive an education
which will enhance an understanding of their
But the courses do help to reinforce the
faith and to prepare to practice it in a number
spiritual life of students. According to Dr.
of important ways.
Mount, through the “riches and fidelity of the
courses, students are in touch with the foun-
dations of the faith: scripture, Church docu-

The Newman Guide 277
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