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President of Citizens High School

Dr. James P. Etter

Dr. James Etter, the founder of the American Public University System and the American Military University, and currently president of Citizens High School, is a longtime distance education advocate who is now bringing cost-effective, high-quality education to high school students nationwide. A true visionary, Jim Etter sees education in America as a wonderful tradition, geared originally to training young people to he happy, successful factory workers, that needs to be pulled into the digital 21st Century. He is ferociously inclusive, determined to make education more accessible and better for people of all socioeconomic groups.

New approaches for a new era. 

Jim is currently crafting a new approach to teaching Civics in America—and even what we call Civics. He is at once embracing tradition but championing activism. Summer2021 marks the launch of an online course for this summer that gives high school credit for activism, blogging, and community organizing. It’s an uncommon point of view for a retired US Marine major who fought on the ground and in the air over the course of several decades. Jim doesn’t accept
that there is a box, so he doesn’t need to think outside it!


Creative thinking required

Jim Etter looks at most problems differently from others. He doesn’t accept that there is a box, so he doesn’t need to think outside it. He’s been told his ideas were wrong-headed, impossible, and had no future. He’s never believed the naysayers…and he’s been right! 

At CHS, Jim developed courses that are in both Spanish and English not just so bilingual children can learn, but–and perhaps more importantly–so bilingual parents can be fully involved in education. And he’s teaming up with school districts (so far in NC and MS) to offer credit recovery for students left academically stranded by COVID. 

Background info

Dr. Etter is the founder of American Military University, American Public University, and the American Public University System (“APUS”).  Dr. Etter started the University in his basement in Stafford, Virginia in 1993 with 18 students, and shepherded its development through its initial accreditation with the Distance Education and Training Council in 1995 and further accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the Northern Central Association in 2004.  APUS is currently a public traded company (NASDAQ: APEI) with over 120,000 students majoring in over 80 degree programs.  Dr. Etter was President and Chairman of the APUS Board from 1991 until 2004, when Dr. Etter left APUS.

Prior to founding APUS, Dr. Etter was commissioned in the United States Marine Corps (“USMC”).  Highlights of his military operations include a combat tour of service in the Vietnam War and several tours of duty as a Naval Flight Officer.  Mr. Etter has participated in a number of military education and training programs, is a graduate of the Naval Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun), and served as primary instructor at the USMC Amphibious Warfare School.

Dr. Etter holds an honorary doctorate from American Military University, an M.A. in History from George Mason University and a B.A. in History from Virginia Commonwealth University and is a graduate of the United States Naval War College and the USMC Amphibious Warfare School.

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