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Best Criminal Justice Schools of 2015

Criminal Justice Degree Schools Welcomes You

CJDS’s goal is to be the most thorough and trusted career and education guide for those interested in exploring, entering or advancing in the criminal justice and paralegal fields. Here, you will find information and resources on the best criminal justice schools and associated degrees, as well as profiles on 80+ criminal justice careers. The site also contains information on paralegal careers and paralegal degrees.

Online & Campus Criminal Justice Schools by State

Many criminal justice schools offer a number of online degrees and training programs, with several of them designed specifically for working professionals. The online schools listed on our site provide specialized training and education at your fingertips — complete your classes online, at your own pace, and graduate with the knowledge you need to begin your job search or advance your career. We feature only accredited criminal justice colleges, schools and universities and have created helpful resource sections like paralegal schools by state.

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US News’ Top Rated US Criminal Justice Schools

According to the US News, which ranks criminal justice programs based on a survey of faculty at 36 criminal justice schools 1, the top schools in the country are:

1. University of Maryland College Park – College Park, MD: The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland has one of the top graduate programs in the nation according to the US News and World Report. So sought after is this school that they have to enforce a cap on undergraduate enrollment. In addition to a bachelors program, the department has a Traditional Masters (with the option of taking courses in China), a Joint Master of Arts/Juris Doctor, and a Doctor of Philosophy. The internationally known faculty are current and former officers of the American Society of Criminology as well as editors for almost every major related publication in the field. The department website has an updated list of various internships, fellowships and grant opportunities for both students and professors.

2. University at Albany SUNY – Albany, NY
The School of Criminal Justice at the University of Albany- SUNY has available a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, a Minor, a Master of Arts, and a Doctorate. The graduate program at this university ranks second in the nation among criminal justice/criminology education centers, according the US News and World Report. Both the MA and PhD programs offer an Information Techology Concentration, a very useful tool for those who are wishing to further develop their expertise in quantitative research and data analysis. The superstar faculty are innovative researchers who supervise many collaborative projects within one or more of the current seven department research centers: Adolescent Work and Crime, Capital Jury Project, Capital Punishment Research Initiative, Incarceration and Life Outcomes, Rochester Youth Development Study (RYDS), Service Outcomes Action Research (SOAR), and Utilization of Criminal Justice Statistics.

3. University of Cincinnati – Cincinnati, OH: The School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati has one of the top graduate programs in the country according the US News and World Report. Students can pursue a BS, and MS (with a full online option), and a PhD. The school has two centers, the Institute of Crime Science and the Center of Criminal Justice Research, where students and faculty pursue their own projects. There are also three journals published by the School of Criminal Justice; Policing: An International Journal of the Police Strategies & Management, the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, and Security Journal.

4. University of Missouri St. Louis – St. Louis, MO: The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri – St. Louis has a Bachelor of Science in Criminology, a Masters in Criminology and Criminal Justice and a PhD program. This school is currently has six grant funded research projects including “Understanding the Crime Drop in New York” and “A Multi-method, Multi-site Study of Gang Desistance.” Over two dozen part time and full time faculty teach within the department and research emphases in prisoner reentry, youth violence and gangs, terrorism, victimization, and crime control policy. UMLS hosts a guest speaker series every year for its students with guests coming from other universities and government agencies.

5. Pennsylvania State University University Park – University Park, PA
Pennsylvania State University- University Park offers a Bachelor of Arts/Science, a Master of Arts, and a PhD in Crime, Law, and Justice through the Department of Sociology and Crime, Law, and Justice. The undergraduate program has over 650 majors and the graduate program has been ranked fifth in the nation among criminal justice/ criminology programs (tied with the University of California-Irvine) by the US News and World Report. The department has eight affiliate research programs and centers: the Population Research Institute, the Justice Center for Research, the Social Science Research Institute, the Center for Healthy Aging, the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission, the Social Thought Program, the Association of Religious Data Archives, and the World in Conservation Project. Numerous expert faculty members teach for the Crime, Law, and Justice programs, a large portion of which have research interests in how demographics relate to crime.

6. University of California Irvine – Irvine, CA
The Department of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California-Irvine offers a Bachelor of Arts, a Masters of Advanced Study, and a PhD in Criminology, Law and Society. The graduate program, according to the US News and World Report, is tied for fifth in the nation (with Pennsylvania State University-University Park) among criminology/criminal justice educational programs; and among the faculty are former presidents of the American Society of Criminology, the Law and Society Association, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the American Psychology-Law Society. There are six research centers with which the department is affiliated: the Center for Evidence-Based Corrections; Center for Inequality and Social Justice; the Center in Law, Society and Culture; the Center for Organizational Research; the Center for Psychology and Law, and the Newkirk Center for Science and Society. The Master of Advanced Study is an online graduate program that is designed for working and experienced legal and criminal justice professionals.

7. Florida State University – Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University has an entire College of Criminology and Criminal Justice where students can pursue anything from a certificate to a doctorate. Those who wish to jump straight from undergraduate to graduate study can enroll in the combined Bachelors-Masters Degree Program. FSU also offers fully online bachelors and masters degree programs for qualified students that are unable to attend the face-to-face classes. The college has three affiliated publications to which both faculty and students contribute articles; Criminology and Public Policy, Journal of Drug Issues, and Social Problems. Florida State is world renowned for its criminal justice programs and was even ranked 7th by the US News and World Report for graduate study.

8. Michigan State University – East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University has the School of Criminal Justice, which is the oldest program of its kind in the United States. Degrees at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels are available with a long list of specializations and tracks such as security management, judicial administration, and the CJ Masters Online. The School of Criminal Justice also has a Forensic Science Masters as well as a Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis Masters Program. Seven different graduate certificate programs are currently active, with Conservation Criminology and Homeland Security being among the most sought after. The faculty are world renowned experts in a wide range of research focuses including corrections, policing, youth deviance, and victimization.

9. Rutgers – Newark, NJ: The Criminal Justice Program at Rutgers University- New Brunswick is an undergraduate course of study that draws courses from multiple departments. In addition to the core methodology courses, students fulfill their thematic requirements by completing courses within two of three of the following concentrations: Human Behavior, Deviance, and Crime; Social Control Institutions; and Law and Ethics. The internship program allows students to gain professional experience through involvement with one or more of many organizations and agencies, but the Surveillance Investigator Internship and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center continue to soar in popularity among students. The program also offers pre-law advising for majors who are considering advancing onto law school.

10. CUNY John Jay College – New York, NY: The John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York has two dozen undergraduate degree programs such as the BS in Forensic Science or the BA in Culture and Deviance Studies, as well as ten graduate programs including International Crime and Justice, Forensic Psychology, and Criminal Justice. Students and faculty pursue their individual research projects through one or more of the dozen centers, such as the Center on Terrorism or the Center of Cybercrime Studies, and the five different institutes such as the CUNY Justice Academy and the Homeland Security Network. The dozens of faculty are experts in their fields and supervise research in highly specialized areas such as Corrections, Media and Crime, Terrorism, and Urban Crime. The John Jay College of Criminal Justice also offers a PhD in Criminal Justice and a PhD in Psychology.

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Profiles of Well-Known Online Criminal Justice Colleges

Arizona State University Online: Arizona State University Online offers a virtual Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice as well as a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (MACJ). The MACJ is a 33 credit hour program with the required capstone course, Theory and Practice in Criminal Justice in which students must present a paper on policy and practice. The online BS in Criminology and Criminal Justice program offers all the same courses that on-campus students have available to them, enabling even full time working individuals the opportunity to access one of the top criminal justice school in the nation. ASU online students also have access to many different scholarships that cater to those pursuing virtual instruction.

Ashford University: Ashford University offers seven distinct online criminal justice programs, all of which are Bachelors of Arts. There is the Social Science major with a Criminal Justice concentration, and the Social and Criminal Justice degree with six different emphases: General, Corrections Management, Forensics, Homeland Security, Political Science and Government, and Security Management. The BA in Social Science- Criminal Justice offers a more multidisciplinary curriculum while the other programs present students with a narrower, career- driven focus. Ashford University Online offer the Smart Track, and educational avenue that allows students to complete courses towards a masters degree while they earn their bachelors.

Boston University: The Online Master of Criminal Justice Program (MCJ) offered by Boston University comes with four different specializations: Law Enforcement, Courts, Corrections, and Homeland Security. Accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the online curriculum for this course of study has a heavy focus in cyber crime, digital security and fraud detection. 10 courses are taken one at a time and all 40 credits hours are completed within 20 months. Six criminal justice expert faculty teach an evolving inventory of courses that includes Cyber Crime, Terrorism, Youth Crime Problems, and Forensic Behavioral Analysis.

DeVry University: DeVry University offers both face-to-face and online options for its Bachelors of Justice Administration with four different specializations: Corrections, Digital Forensics, Emergency Management, and Policing. These are all 122 hour courses of study that require a minimum of 15 hours dedicated to the specialization of choice. DeVry also has other online degree programs with criminal justice related emphases such as the Computer Information Systems major with a Computer Forensics emphasis. The Digital Forensics specialization continues to grow in popularity as analyzing evidence requires more sophisticated technology.

Herzing University: The Public Safety division of Herzing University offers online programs, including and Associate of Science in Public Safety, a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice – Homeland Security Concentration, and a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with no concentration. There are two program options for students who wish to also pursue the online MBA: dual enrollment during the senior year or a 15 percent tuition discount for bachelors degree alumni. The Associate of Science in Public Safety is a 60 hour program while both BS courses of study are 125 hours. Students who choose the Homeland Security Concentration are required to complete Introduction to Fire Service, Introduction to Fire Science and Emergency Management, Domestic and International Terrorism, and Critical Incident Stress Management.

Kaplan University: Kaplan University has 10 distinct criminal justice programs available online with two graduate degrees, two bachelors degrees, one associates, and four certificates. The graduate courses of study are and MS in Criminal Justice and an MS in Homeland Security and Emergency Management, while the two four year degrees are the BS Criminal Justice Administration and Management and the BS in International and Comparative Justice. The two year degree is the AAS in Criminal Justice and the certificates include the Corrections Certificate, the Crime Scene Technician Certificate, the Management and Supervision Certificate in Criminal Justice, and the Private Security Certificate. The Kaplan University Commitment allows students to withdraw from the program after the first five weeks without any financial obligations, excluding the application fee.

Keiser University: Keiser University is a not-for-profit university that offers dozens of different degree programs, eight of which are in the criminal justice arena. The three associate degrees are designated as Criminal Justice, Homeland Security, and Paralegal Studies while the four bachelors degrees are in Criminal Justice, Homeland Security, Legal Studies, and Public Safety Administration. Students with a four year degree can pursue the Master of Arts in Criminal Justice. Keiser University has several financial aid programs for current and former military personnel.

Oregon State University Online: Oregon State University Online offers a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology with a Crime and Justice Option. All students are required to complete Introduction to Criminal Justice and three of the following courses: Deviant Behavior and Social Control, Juvenile Delinquency, Criminology and Penology, and Sociology of Drug Use and Abuse. This is one of 80 subjects available through virtual instruction at Oregon State University Online. Students have the option of enrolling in summer, fall and winter courses rather than adhering to the standard fall and spring semesters.

Penn Foster Career School: Penn Foster Career School is a distance-learning profession focused institution that offers a CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) Basics Certificate, a Private Investigator Career Diploma, and an associate and bachelors in criminal justice. The Crime Scene Investigation Basics Certificate consists of one course with five lessons: Basics of CSI, Crime Scene Assessment and Documentation, Processing Skills and Techniques, Special Scene Analysis and Reconstruction, and Crime Scene Lab Activity. The Private Investigator Career Diploma involves eight different Instruction Sets with lessons ranging from Legal Principles and Requirements to Executive Protection. Penn Foster Career Services is provided by CareerBuilder Career Services.

Rasmussen College: The School of Justice Studies at Rasmussen College offers numerous online bachelors degree, associate degree and certificate programs. The Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice comes with five specializations (Accelerated CJ Leadership and Management, Client Services/ Corrections, Criminal Offenders, Homeland Security, and Investigation/ Law Enforcement) and the Associates Degree in Criminal Justice comes with four specializations (Homeland Security, Corrections, and Law Enforcement). The School of Justice Studies also provides eight online certificates including Homeland Security and Law Enforcement. Four year degree students must complete the Criminal Justice Seminar and the Criminal Justice Seminar Thesis.

South University: South University’s online campus has three criminal justice programs: an Associate of Science, a Bachelor of Science, and a Master of Science. The Bachelor of Science comes with five distinct concentrations: Corrections, Crime Scene Investigation, Cyber Crime, Juvenile Justice, and Law Enforcement. The online Master of Science also has concentrations, which are Corrections, Cyber Crime, Homeland Security, and Public Administration. South University’s online campus is the only branch in the university system that offers these concentrations with the criminal justice degrees.

Strayer University: Strayer University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with four concentrations: Criminal Justice Administration, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Homeland Security Technology, and Computer Security and Forensics. Online classes come in two formats, synchronous (meet online at the same time) and asynchronous (attend class at any time). Those enrolled in synchronous classes listen to live audio from the instructor while asynchronous formatted classes provide recorded presentations. All BSCJ students must complete 27 credits (6 courses) in their designated concentrations.

The George Washington University: George Washington University offers a fully online Master of Professional Studies in Security and Safety Management. This graduate degree comes with two different foci, Cybersecurity and Strategic Security. This 12 course, 36 hour course of virtual instruction can be completed inn as little as 16 months and is also offered in a blended (both online and on-site) manner. 21 faculty specializing in Homeland Security teach the inventory of online and face-to-face Security and Safety Management courses.

UMassOnline: UMassOnline of the University of Massachusetts has eight distinct criminal justice programs. Students can pursue an MA in Criminal Justice, a BA in Criminal Justice Concentrations, and four undergraduate certificates (Security Management and Homeland Security, Domestic Violence Prevention, Forensic Criminology, and Criminal Justice Studies). There are also two Graduate Certificates in Security Studies and Victim Studies. All these programs can be completed at an accelerated rate with the ease that virtual instruction provides.

University of Cincinnati Online: The Master of Science in Criminal Justice offered by the University of Cincinnati Online is one of the top programs of its kind in the country. Coming from one of the top three Criminal Justice Schools, according to the U.S. News and World Report, the faculty were ranked No. 1 in publishing research by the Journal of Criminal Justice, 2007. Students on the part-time track can finish in two years while full-time students need only commit to one year. Individuals are also better able to afford an education from this institution, which was ranked within the Top 100 Elite Value.

University of Phoenix: The University of Phoenix has associates, bachelors, and masters online programs in criminal justice. There is a general Associate of Arts with a concentration in Criminal Justice and four Bachelors of Science (Criminal Justice Administration-Institutional Healthcare, Criminal Justice Administration-Human Services, Criminal Justice Administration-Management, and Organizational Security and Management). The only graduate program is the Master of Science in Administration of Justice and Security that is a total of 31 credit hours. All criminal justice bachelors degree students must complete Introduction to Criminal Justice as well as three more introductory classes.

Virginia College: Virginia College’s online programs include a Bachelors in Criminal Justice as well as a Masters in Criminal Justice. Undergraduate students have the option of doing a blended curriculum, enrolling in both online and face-to-face classes. MSCJ students are required to complete and present an Area Paper prior to graduation. Both programs cover a variety of specializations such as Juvenile Delinquency, Homeland Security, and Case Management.

Walden University: Walden University offers one online undergraduate program and three online graduate programs in criminal justice. The program inventory includes a Bachelor of Science, an MS in Leadership and Executive Management, and a Graduate Certificate. The BS program has five concentrations: Computer Information Systems and Security, Crime and Criminals, Criminal Justice Management and Administration, Homeland Security, and Human Services for Criminal Justice. The Accelerated Into Master’s (AIM) is a program that allows undergraduates to take up to five graduate level courses towards an advanced degree.

University of Wisconsin-Platteville: The online Master of Science in Criminal Justice offered by the University of Wisconsin-Platteville blends comprehensive coursework with the flexibility of online learning. The program is a perfect fit for law enforcement professionals looking to build upon their existing experience and move into leadership. Students develop an advanced understanding of theoretical and practical fundamentals of the criminal justice system, completing courses designed and taught by leading faculty. The curriculum includes the opportunity to specialize in either criminal justice theory, criminal justice management, or victim and offender services – or create an entirely unique course of study through a robust selection of electives. Students can also pursue a specialized Certificate in Child Advocacy Studies to prepare themselves to defend the rights of maltreated or at-risk children. The program provides a very affordable path towards diverse, advanced roles in law enforcement that can be completed in just two years. UW-Platteville also offers an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.

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Tuition and Costs

criminal justice schoolsTuition will vary depending on whether it is a bachelor’s or graduate degree, if you are in state or out of state, if it is an online or on campus program, and if it is a public or private school. An example is the John Jay College of Criminal of Justice at The City University in New York which has a tuition of $3,165 per semester for undergraduate students who are residents of New York.2 Out of state residents pay $560 per credit hour, or about twice as much tuition.2 Full-time graduate students will pay $5,065 per semester 3 for in-state tuition while out of state residents pay $780 per credit hour.3 The University of Cincinnati, ranked third in the country by US News, offers an online master’s in criminal justice with a tuition of $739 per credit hour for out of state residents.4 In addition to tuition, there are other costs such as textbooks, school fees, and travel or room and board.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements vary by school and may include a high school diploma and specified prerequisite college coursework for admission into an undergraduate program. Requirements for admission to a masters program (MCJ) may include letters of recommendation, a strong undergraduate GPA, and sufficient GRE exam scores.

Typical Courses at Criminal Justice Schools

Some typical courses that can be found in the curriculum of a program include:

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Introduction to Policing
  • Criminological Theory
  • Criminal Law
  • Sociology of Deviance
  • Drugs and Society
  • Community Policing
  • Sentencing and Punishment
  • Crime Prevention Planning
  • Principles of Criminal Investigation

Online Criminal Justice Schools

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Online Criminal Justice Degree Program Reviews

We have gathered over 200 school reviews from past students of criminal justice programs across the United States. You can read reviews of criminal justice programs in your state by clicking on your state on the map above.

Student Review: “As an adult working student (and parent) I appreciate the level of predictability of the University of Phoenix format. Everything is supplied (books, additional materials) so there is no need to hunt down the best deal for textbooks. I have had great experiences with enrollment, academic, and finance counselors who respond to any issues quickly and keep me informed of any requirements. The format allows me to complete assignments without monopolizing my whole week. This benefits me being employed full time. Some may feel like a number in this school, but the benefits of the program for those in my situation are invaluable.” -Jennifer V., student at University of Phoenix
Student Review: “I have been a student at University of Phoenix since June of 2013. I am taking online classes and I am working on my criminal justice major. Going back to school has been a challenge for me, but University of Phoenix has been there with anything I need. The criminal justice classes are extremely interesting and so far 90% of my instructors have been very helpful. Dedication, commitment and willpower play a major role in online college courses. With the support of the staff at University of Phoenix I will earn my AA degree in December of this year and two weeks later I will start working on my bachelor’s degree.” -Student at University of Phoenix
Student Review: “My experience with University of Phoenix was pleasant. The support staff and facilitators responded to my needs promptly and politely. The course load was easy enough to manage, as I was taking only 1-2 classes at a time. The material that I learned was very useful. The textbook literature was in-depth and provided up to date knowledge of the subject area. I enjoyed using the online learning format for taking college courses. I was mostly able to do my classes and independent assignments on my own schedule, since deadlines were always about a week after the assignment was given. The only issue that I ever had during my experience was with group or collaborative assignments. I felt that being paired with a weak team or partner was a disadvantage to a student who was performing highly.” -Katherine M., student at University of Phoenix
Student Review: “Taking online classes through Arizona State University was an important experience that shaped me as an adult and allowed me to build a foundation for a successful future. Online classes require you to stay on top of your schedule and use your time effectively because you do not meet with a professor regularly. However, you can request to meet with your professors during their regular offices hours and, in my experience, they are more than happy to help you cover material that you need extra time to understand. While ASU is one of the biggest public universities, the online community is much smaller at around 5000 students, which allows your professors to create a closer relationship and pay more attention to your needs. The online campus offers classes for almost every concentration, so you can earn credits toward just about any degree you desire.” -Katelyn P., student at Arizona State University Online
Student Review: “I have a 6-year old daughter and I have to do online classes. At Post so far, the professors have been great and 100% accessible. I am extremely happy with my financial aid and tuition planners. They are very quick to get my books to me with book vouchers through my financial aid because I just haven’t had the cash to buy all these expensive books. I am so excited to get my bachelor’s here and travel to Connecticut to get my diploma. I would love to meet some of my professors and staff I have been in contact with so far. While online school is more expensive, I love online learning more (I have done the classroom too) because I have to dedicate myself more and I feel that I learn more this way.” -Erin B., student at Post University
Student Review: “After working for several years I decided to go back to school and finish my degree. The classes at CTU were very fast paced and challenging. My instructors were working processionals who taught in their spare time. Several of my processors had even authored textbooks on the subjects they were teaching. The course materials were laid out in business scenario formats and mimic a real work environment. One of the ways that these classes mimicked real working environments was through the use of group projects. My only complaint about CTU is the cost. It was expensive, worth it in the end, but expensive. Also, their course tracks are in scheduled programs that you have to start from beginning to end. You cannot just take one class at a time and eventually graduate.” -Robert Y., student at Colorado Technical University
Student Review: “Choosing to take classes at ITT Tech was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Not only did I learn many of the things that I expected about my chosen field, I learned many things that I had not previously considered as well. I thoroughly enjoyed the online discussions held in each class; they allowed me to get to know my fellow students, and challenged my way of thinking about numerous topics. In addition, I found the format of the online classes easy to understand and maneuver. Finally, I also had great support on both the academic and business sides of ITT Tech. Whether I needed help with or clarification of an assignment, or assistance with a financial aid matter, all I needed to do was send one email, or make a phone call, and I got the help I requested. I would highly recommend this school to anyone who is considering it. -Shelli I., student at ITT Technical Institute
Student Review: “AIU Online offers a unique online learning experience that allowed me to create a flexible school schedule around my busy work schedule and home life. Working full-time and having a family makes it difficult to attend school, and AIU provided me with the tools to work successfully on my own. One of the most impressive aspects of the school is the level of expertise provided by the instructors. Most instructors have multiple degrees and are some of the most knowledgeable in their fields. I have since entered into a career and I am very happy, thanks to the opportunity I received from AIU. -Shawn H., student at American InterContinental University
Student Review: “I am quite happy with my online studies at Ashford University. I had never taken any online classes before, so I was somewhat nervous about how my classes would be set up and if I would be able to figure it out. Thanks to Ashford and their concise walk through of the online classroom, I was able to quickly learn my way around the site. My instructors and teacher’s assistants have been wonderful as well as all of my advisers. I have not personally met any of them, but when talking to them on the phone or via email, I tend to forget that we have never met, because they act like they have known me for years. That is really a nice feeling. I would recommend Ashford University to anyone who is looking into online courses. I have had the best experience thus far and I know that it will only continue.” -Kimberlee B., student at Ashford University

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Criminal Justice Employment Outlook By State

The CJDS Employment Outlook by state index has been moved to the Criminal Justice Careers page.

1. US News: http://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/2011/03/14/social-sciences-and-humanities-rankings-methodology-2012
2. John Jay College of Criminal of Justice: Undergraduate Tuition and Fees http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/undergraduate-tuition-and-fees
3. John Jay College of Criminal of Justice: Graduate Tuition and Fees: http://www.jjay.cuny.edu/graduate-tuition-and-fees
4. University of Cincinnati: Tuition and Fees http://cjonline.uc.edu/