Catholic Distance University - Cardinal Newman Society

Catholic Distance University

Year Founded 1983
Number of Students 92
Location Charles Town, WV
Total Cost (Tuition, Room & Board) $10,175
Net Price (learn more) $10,175
Number of Majors 2
Catholic Students 100%
Catholic Faculty 100%
Median High School GPA

See the Q&A for more detailed information!

Catholic Distance University offers an associate’s degree in the Liberal Arts with a concentration in Catholic studies and an undergraduate degree completion program exclusively through online study.

The first president and chairman of the board was the late Bishop Thomas Welsh, then of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, who later served as Bishop of the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Originally begun as the Catholic Home Study Institute, the name was changed in 1996 to Catholic Distance University (CDU) to reflect its status as a degree-granting institution. Dr. Marianne Evans Mount, the president, has been with the University in several capacities since its inception.

Although CDU’s headquarters is located in Charles Town, West Virginia, its student body is widely scattered. Every state as well as more than 60 foreign countries have been represented over the past 34 years.

Students are able to pursue certificate and degree programs at the noncredit, undergraduate and graduate level and a Vatican-approved Catechetical Diploma at the undergraduate level. But what most interests us, is that students interested in receiving a bachelor’s degree in theology can take their final 72 credits at a high-quality, time-flexible institution after completing their general coursework elsewhere. This offers flexibility and cost savings to students who take advantage of a liberal arts core curriculum at another college—preferably one of the solid Catholic institutions in The Newman Guide—then complete a theology degree from home. Also, CDU associate’s degree program in the Liberal Arts with a concentration in Catholic studies provides a way for students to earn the AA degree first and then move into the bachelor completion program, all at CDU.

The B.A. completion program began in 2004. The first degree was awarded in 2006 and, as of mid-2017, CDU has awarded 113 undergraduate degrees and the graduate program enrollment was 118. 

Students are mostly older adults returning to college, but not exclusively. The vast majority, not surprisingly, are Catholics, but there are a few non-Catholics as well. Students come to CDU as a way to increase their knowledge of the Catholic faith, as well as to bring this knowledge to their families and into their professional lives. Some students hope for positions in Catholic schools or other religious education programs.

CDU is governed by a 23-member board of trustees, five of whom are either bishops or priests. The chairman of the board is Dr. Charles Wasaff. Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for Military Services serves as Chancellor of the University and vice chairman of the Board.  

Dr. Marianne Mount, who helped establish CDU, served as the executive vice president for 12 years before she was named president in 2008.  She earned a graduate degree in religious education from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas and a doctorate in adult learning and distance education from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

The academic dean, Dr. Peter Brown, is a scripture and theology scholar and author.

In addition to being faithful and flexible, especially for students who have work or family responsibilities, Catholic Distance University is a bargain. The undergraduate tuition for 2015-2016 is $915 per course.

The bachelor of arts completion program in theology accepts students either provisionally or fully, depending on previous credits earned. To be admitted to the bachelor of arts completion program in theology, students need 48 credits from an accredited college. Students then earn their remaining credits at CDU. The degree requires a total of 120 credits (39 Theology Major credits, 63 Core Requirement credits, and 18 General Elective credits). 

All courses are taught in conformity with Church teachings. According to Dr. Mount, “All theology professors are reviewed and approved by a board-level Academic Committee. The mandatum may be obtained in a home diocese or from where a faculty member is working.”

CDU has always been a distance institution. From 1983 until 2000, it used a paper correspondence format. Increasingly, it has gone online and describes itself as “a global Catholic online learning community.”  In 2015, CDU moved its online learning to the popular multimedia Canvas platform.

The Associate of Arts in the Liberal Arts program, with a concentration in Catholic studies, emphasizes study of the Catholic intellectual tradition. Upon completion of this degree, students have the option of transferring to another Catholic college or earning a bachelor’s degree in theology at CDU. In addition to maintaining an online library that is staffed by a librarian, CDU also has arranged for students to have library privileges with Woodstock Theological Center Library, a 190,000-volume library housed on the Georgetown University campus in Washington, D.C.

One special academic outreach is to prisoners. Since its beginning, CDU has provided very low-cost correspondence courses to incarcerated Catholics whose names have been put forward by their chaplains.

CDU maintains an Online Chapel where students can post prayer intentions, and Father Bevil Bramwell, a faculty member, posts a homily each week reflecting on the Sunday Mass readings. 

The delivery of education is rapidly changing, and online instruction is a growing and viable alternative to traditional education. Catholic Distance University has been at the forefront of providing quality, faithful Catholic teaching to students seeking flexibility.

The undergraduate completion program, which offers a degree in theology, can be an attractive and low-cost option to students who have completed or are contemplating completing basic, non-major courses elsewhere. Whether for work, location, family or other reasons, more students are likely to view Catholic Distance University as a unique opportunity to receive an education which will enhance an understanding of their Catholic Faith.

Questions & Answers

Answers from the college on the most important questions. Click a topic below to read more.

Is your institution accredited by at least one regional or national education association?


Please identify each accreditor and indicate whether it is approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) – yes 
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation – yes 
The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission has authorized Catholic Distance University to operate as an institution of higher education in West Virginia. CDU is certified to operate as an out-of-state institution by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. 

Please cite evidence of student or alumni accomplishment, such as graduation rate, graduate school placement, job placement, awards, etc.

The overall graduation rate is 70%. A number of our graduates have gone on to Ph.D. programs.

Please identify any notable public recognition of your institution’s academic quality in the last three years, such as rankings, awards, etc.

End of program surveys for 2016 describe 100% stating that they achieved their learning goals, 96% recommending the institution to another, and 96% expressing satisfaction with their studies at CDU. 

The 2016 graduates in the BA in Theology completion program completed the program with an average GPA of 3.63 in an average of 3 to 3.5 years.  Over the past five years, 88% of those eligible to graduate completed the program and were awarded degrees.   

Most students who enroll in the program are either seeking a Church-related ministry or desire to study the Faith more deeply so that in the future they can participate in volunteer ministries in their parish.  At the time of graduation, 57% had obtained Church-related ministerial positions, and the others expressed the desire to do volunteer or teaching ministries in the near future. 

In the Associate of Arts Degree Program with a concentration in Catholic Studies, 57% of the very first applicants eligible to graduate were awarded the degree with an average GPA of 3.78 spending an average of 2 to 2.5 years to complete. 

Additional Academic Quality information, clarification or description (optional)

All of CDU’s course materials are 100% faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Faculty members are selected from top Catholic educators and theologians and are trained in the most current methods of distance education and online community-building.

Are more than half of the current members of your faculty practicing Catholics?


Approximately what percentage of your current faculty members are practicing Catholics?


Are members of your faculty officially informed of their responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of the institution?


Please identify key undergraduate faculty who are noted experts in their field, have produced important publications, have leadership roles in academic associations, etc. and briefly describe such accomplishments (optional):

Many of our faculty members are accomplished theologians,historians, Scripture scholars, and Catholic writers and teachers. Some examples are: Matthew Bunson, Ph.D.; Aaron Urbanczyk, Ph.D.; and Sister Mary Brendon Zajac, SND, D. Min.

Are members of your teaching faculty expected, as a condition of employment, to respect Catholic teaching and comply with Catholic morality in their public actions and statements both on and off campus?


Additional Faculty information, clarification or description (optional):

As an online university, CDU instructors are mostly adjunct.  We are not limited by geographic proximity to the university campus allowing us to draw on experts to teach our online courses and seminars.

Does the institution have a department of Catholic theology, distinct from “religious studies” and other disciplines?

CDU is a school of Catholic theology so there is no need to have a distinct theology department.

Are courses in Catholic theology clearly identified and distinguished from other courses dealing with religion?


Do all faculty in the theological disciplines have a mandatum according to the procedures established by the local bishop or other competent ecclesiastical authority?

As our faculty are primarily adjunct, the mandatum is taken in the diocese of their full-time employment.

Do all faculty in the theological disciplines make the Catholic Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity?

As our faculty are primarily adjunct, this oath is taken in the diocese of their full-time employment.

Does your institution require that all theology courses be taught in a manner faithful to Scripture, Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium, and also to the principles and methods proper to Catholic theology?


Please identify the theology courses that are included in the undergraduate core or distribution requirements and the professors who routinely teach those courses:

For the BA degree:
Reading Scripture Theologically – Dr. Christine Wood 

Introduction to Scripture and Salvation History—Dr. Peter Brown  

Foundations of Catholicism—Christopher Padgett 

God, Man, and the Universe – Christopher Padgett 

Jesus Christ: God, Man, and Savior—Sarah Swaykus 

The Four Constitutions of Vatican II—Dr. Christine Wood 

Sacraments: Masterworks of God – David Bonagura 

Principles of Moral Theology—Alissa Thorell 

For the AA degree:

Church History I: Early Christians to the Middle Ages – Dr. Matthew Bunson 

Church History II: Renaissance to Modern Church – Dr. Matthew Bunson 

Introduction to Composition for Theology—Dr. Aaron Urbanczyk 

Ancient Civilization—Charles Rieper 

Christian Civilization—Charles Rieper 

A Global Civilization—Charles Rieper 

Elements of the Human Person—Dr. Aaron Urbanczyk 

Survey of the Old Testament – Steven Najera 

Survey of the New Testament – Steven Najera 

Catechism of the Catholic Church: Part I – Kathryn Vestermark 

Catechism of the Catholic Church: Part II – Kathryn Vestermark 

The Moral Life: Living the Virtues—Deacon James Pearce 

Please describe the place of Catholic theology in your institution’s undergraduate curriculum and how it is distinct from other institutions.

CDU was founded 35 years ago as an institution specializing in theological education and faith formation. Its mission has not changed in all that time, but its method of delivery has kept pace with technological advances in online learning.

Additional Theology information, clarification or description (optional):

CDU is faithful to the teachings of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

Please identify any course that every undergraduate student must take:

For the BA degree:
Reading Scripture Theologically
Introduction to Scripture and Salvation History 
Foundations of Catholicism
God, Man, and the Universe 
Jesus Christ: God, Man, and Savior
The Four Constitutions of Vatican II
Sacraments: Masterworks of God
Principles of Moral Theology 

For the AA degree:
Church History I: Early Christians to the Middle Ages 
Church History II: Renaissance to Modern Church 
Introduction to Composition for Theology
Ancient Civilization
Christian Civilization
A Global Civilization
Elements of the Human Person
Survey of the Old Testament 
Survey of the New Testament 
Catechism of the Catholic Church: Part I 
Catechism of the Catholic Church: Part II 
The Moral Life: Living the Virtues 

Please identity the courses that students may choose from in order to satisfy common curriculum distribution requirements:

Introduction to Composition for Theology
Biblical Greek I
Biblical Greek II
Church History:  Early Christians to the Middle Ages
Elements of Economics
Latin I
Latin II
Western Civilization, Part I
Western Civilization, Part II

How many credits are required for graduation and what percent are from core / distribution courses?

120 credits     29%
(for BA Completion program)

60 credits 30% for AA program

Is every undergraduate student required to take one or more courses in which they are taught authentic Catholic doctrine and practice?


If yes, please describe them generally and note how many courses are required?

CDU offers a BA completion program and the Catechetical Diploma at the undergraduate level. Students earn most general education requirements at other accredited colleges. Therefore, all of the courses taken at CDU at the undergraduate level teach authentic Catholic doctrine and practice.

Our AA in Catholic Studies degree is a 60 credit program with 18 core credits required in courses that teach authentic Catholic doctrine and practice. Many of the elective options include courses in Church history, Latin, and Sacred Scripture.

Is every undergraduate student required to take one or more interdisciplinary courses relating theology or philosophy with other disciplines?


List the major, minor and special program areas that students may choose for specialization while pursuing an undergraduate degree:

CDU offers:
AA in the Liberal arts with concentration in Catholic studies
BA in Theology Completion Program
Catechetical Diploma


What are the three most popular majors or specialty disciplines for undergraduate students, and about what percentage of undergraduate students specialize in these disciplines?

1.      N/A

2.      N/A

3.      N/A

Does each undergraduate degree program require Catholic ethical formation related to the student’s major field(s) of study?


Does your institution regularly provide academic events to address theological questions related to specialized disciplines?


If yes, please describe:

Does your institution require cooperation among faculty in different disciplines in teaching, research and other academic activities?


If yes, please describe.

Does your institution offer Mass on campus at least on Sundays and other days of obligation?

Mass is offered occasionally throughout the year.

Does your institution offer daily Mass to students?

No, they are prayed for in our daily intentions.

Are you aware of any graduates from your institution (not including seminary students, if any) who are ordained to the priesthood or have entered religious life? Please describe.

Yes, several of our graduates have entered religious life.

Has your institution’s diocesan bishop (or other competent ecclesiastical authority) officially recognized the institution as Catholic?


Do your institution’s governing documents include or reference the General Norms and Particular (United States) Norms of Ex corde Ecclesiae?


Do your institution’s governing documents or institutional policies require conformity to the General Norms and Particular (United States) Norms of Ex corde Ecclesiae?


What is your institution’s mission statement:

The mission of Catholic Distance University is to communicate the mind and heart of the Church in a digital world. Using distance education, the university educates teachers and learners worldwide in Catholic theology, the liberal arts, and faith development for the growth of faith, ecclesial service, and leadership for the New Evangelization.

Does your institution have a written policy regarding speakers and honorees that at a minimum meets the standards established by the United States bishops in “Catholics in Political Life?”


What is your institution’s policy for approval of speakers and honorees?

Underlying all CDU policies is the principle of fidelity to the teachings of the Magisterium.

Describe the makeup of your institution’s undergraduate student body with regard to sex, religion, home state/country and type of high school (public, private, homeschool):

Total number of undergraduates: 92

Male: 57%  Female: 43%

Catholic: 100%  Other Christian: %
Jewish: %  Muslim: %  Other: %

Number of states represented: 32

Top three states: California, Virginia, Texas

Students from top three states: 26%

Catholic HS: N/A Homeschool: N/A
Private HS: N/A Public HS: N/A

Most up-to-date information provided by the University 

Please provide information on your institution’s statistics on criminal incidents as reported to governmental authorities for 2008, 2009 and 2010:


Additional Student Body information, clarification or description  (optional):


Are prospective and current members of your institution’s governing board(s) informed of their responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of your institution?


Are more than half of the current members of your institution’s governing board(s) practicing Catholics?


Do Catholic members of your institution’s governing board(s) make the Catholic Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity?


Is your institution’s president a practicing Catholic?


Does your institution’s president make the Catholic Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity?


President's Note

A message from the president.

Dear Prospective CDU Student,

Thank you so much for considering CDU in your educational plans. Our programs integrate inspiring, Catholic content, always faithful to the Church’s teachings, with state-of-the-art learning management technologies that enable you to access your education in the comfort of your home or wherever you choose.

CDU has been a pioneer since 1983 using flexible, convenient distance technologies to bring high quality educational programs to each learner. You will explore the riches of Sacred Scripture, Church documents, Papal documents, and the wisdom of the saints and Doctors of the Church.

You will never be alone at CDU. Our outstanding faculty and friendly staff will guide you every step of the way. Every day our students from all over the world experience the communion of the Church by praying for one another in our online chapel, catching up in the online cafe, and sharing their family milestones through the online photo gallery. Our online campus, easy-to-navigate learning platform called Canvas, and our carefully chosen faculty encourage an engaging, dialogic approach to learning that is modeled on the conversational pedagogy of Jesus Christ in the Gospels. In each of our courses, we emphasize the importance of faculty-guided discussion and student interaction that research confirms is the best way for adults to learn.

I encourage you to find out more in these pages and on our website,, to discover if Catholic Distance University is the next step for you to further your spiritual and professional goals.

Sincerely in our Lord,

Marianne Evans Mount, Ph.D.

Contact Catholic Distance University

888-254-4238 ext. 700

115 W. Congress St.
Charles Town, WV 25414

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