The cybersecurity-focused SANS Technology Institute has received accreditation that will make it much easier for many students to receive tuition reimbursement from employers.
The institute announced Tuesday that it has been accredited by The Middle States Commission of Higher Education, which is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The commission approves the academic standards of about 530 colleges and universities, mostly in the mid-Atlantic region.
The SANS Institute, a cooperative research and education organization for security professionals, established the SANS Technology Institute in 2005 to offer a Master of Science degree in information security engineering and information security management. The institute is an independent subsidiary of SANS.
The accreditation is expected to improve many students' chance of receiving tuition reimbursement, because many companies will only pay for schooling at accredited institutions, William Lockhart, executive director of the SANS Technology Institute, said.
"If a graduate school isn't accredited, then the typical corporate employee benefit plan would decline a request for tuition reimbursement," Lockhart said. "With accreditation, we're typically eligible for that request to be approved."
Tuition for someone looking to complete the masters program in the minimum of three years would pay $15,000 a year. Companies typically reimburse from $5,000 to $7,000 a year for tuition, Lockhart said.
The institute differentiates itself from other masters programs in computer science by specializing in security engineering and management, Lockhart said. The majority of the instructors are not full-time teachers, but work either as consultants or employees of companies.
"Our niche is creating and developing the future cybersecurity team and organizational leaders and actors, and we do it with a particular focus on making sure they have technical skills comparable to the people they are going to manage," Lockhart said.
Because of limited resources, the institute has capped enrollment for 2014 at 100 students.
"If we take too many too quickly, we're worried that we won't be able to give the attention we give to each student's progress and program studies," Lockhart said. "We may be able to increase over the course of time."
The masters program is mostly completed online, because the institute does not have a campus. Students are required to attend at least three instructional-related events, which will occur in different cities throughout the year. However, many students choose to attend more than the minimum number of events.
"Most of our students prefer to maximize their time onsite, because the events are great, there are many networking opportunities and there are many other educational events that occur while the courses are taking place," Lockhart said.