Columbia Southern University has always maintained a student-first philosophy. By establishing a family-oriented culture among faculty and staff, founder Robert Mayes, Sr., began his higher education career providing educational opportunities through distance learning to nontraditional students.

His experience in developing and presenting training programs in environmental compliance and occupational safety for small businesses led to the establishment of two certificate programs in the field, and later, the founding of CSU in 1993.

To fill the void of formal online degree programs for safety and environmental managers, two bachelor’s degree programs were developed in the areas of occupational safety and health and environmental management. In 1996, online programs beyond the safety and environmental career fields were developed and included business administration, computer science, criminal justice administration and health care administration.

Achieving accreditation had been a university goal since its inception, and that goal became a reality on Jan. 15, 2001, when the Distance Education and Training Council granted institutional accreditation to CSU.

In 2002, the university achieved the first of many articulation agreements with partner institutions, as well as received Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) and Veterans Affairs approval.

In 2003, CSU expanded its international offerings by being one of the first U.S. universities to offer a degree program in Vietnam. The opportunity to earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree was offered to students in Vietnam with student support centers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Between 2002 and 2004, CSU expanded its degree offerings to include associate degrees, six new bachelor’s degrees and launched the Learning Partnership program, providing opportunities for partner members and their families to receive benefits such as tuition discounts, application fee waivers and scholarship opportunities.

In September 2005, Robert Mayes, Jr., transitioned into the role of president after the passing of his father and CSU founder Robert Mayes, Sr.

In 2006, CSU continued to grow and was reaccredited by the Distance Education and Training Council. CSU was also honored by being selected among the first group of colleges and universities to be accepted into the Air Force Academic Institution Portal, and into the U.S. Army’s Centralized Tuition Assistance Management (CTAM) program, ArmyIgnitED (formerly GoArmyEd).

In 2008, CSU received approval by the U.S. Department of Education to offer Federal Student Aid. In the same year, CSU broke ground on its Orange Beach campus, which opened in 2009.

In 2011, CSU’s MBA program became the first distance learning program to be accredited by the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training.

In 2012, the corporate structure of the organization was changed to introduce Columbia Southern Education Group (CSEG). In 2014, CSU was named one of the Best Companies to Work for in Alabama by Business Alabama magazine.

In May 2018, CSU’s President Robert Mayes, Jr., made the decision to focus on his role as chief executive officer of Columbia Southern Education Group, making way for Chief of Staff Ken Styron to transition into the role of president.

In December 2022, CSU was granted institutional accreditation by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Through achieving this accreditation, CSU became one of the most affordable, completely online, SACSCOC accredited universities in the U.S.

In 2023, CSU celebrated its 30th anniversary as well as boasted more than 100,000 degree conferrals since its founding in 1993.

The university has been awarded several Quality Matters™ and Blackboard, Inc., awards for its outstanding course design, community engagement and excellent course content. CSU boasts a faculty and staff who diligently focus on continuous improvement of CSU’s academic programs, services and operations while maintaining an exceptional standard of customer service.

Today, CSU continues to focus on building long-term relationships while providing an exceptional student experience, affordable tuition and a flexible learning format to more than 22,000 students.