ORANGE BEACH, AL–Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System, repeatedly ranked as one of America´s 50 best hospitals by U.S. News and World Report, recently partnered with Columbia Southern University to take advantage of a large selection of completely online degree programs. As the second largest acute care public hospital in Florida, Sarasota Memorial currently employs more than 3,000 people who, along with their spouses and children, will receive a 10 percent tuition discount as a result of this partnership.

"We are always looking for ways to enhance the educational opportunities for our staff," said Sarasota Memorial President & CEO Gwen MacKenzie. "Online degree programs like those offered at Columbia Southern University make it easier for our employees to fulfill their personal and professional aspirations, and since we offer generous tuition reimbursement benefits, easier for us to support them in their efforts."

Average savings come to around $1,000 for a bachelors or masters degree compared to the already affordable tuition rates. With a total price tag of approximately $15,000 for a bachelors degree and $8,000 for a masters, the cost of finishing an accredited program with Columbia Southern University is competitively priced.

"Columbia Southern University was founded on the principal that a quality education should be affordable and realistic for working adults," said Robert Mayes, Columbia Southern University President. "We keep our tuition low and online offerings high because we feel that everyone has a right to a quality education."

Another advantage of the agreement includes promotion of the hospital on the university website, marketing materials, and at conferences and speaking engagements. The Columbia Southern University website alone attracts visitors from all over the world and receives approximately 20,000 hits per week, giving the hospital global publicity opportunities.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital is an 806-bed regional medical center located just south of Tampa on Florida´s Gulf Coast. Founded in 1925, it is a full-service facility with specialized expertise in heart, cancer and neuroscience services. A Level Three Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, clinical research center, outpatient services, home health and long-term care are among its many programs.

Columbia Southern University also holds learning partnerships with 12 other corporations including Delta Air Lines, Boeing, Airtrek Air Ambulance and the Federal Protective Service.

All Columbia Southern University degree programs are accredited through the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), a nationally recognized accrediting agency with the U.S. Department of Education. For more information, call (800) 977-8449 or visit www.columbiasouthern.edu .

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