Online liberal studies degrees, available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate levels, provide a strong academic foundation for students who want to use education to broaden their general understanding of the world or who are naturally drawn to a particular subject in the humanities or science disciplines. The interdisciplinary umbrella of liberal studies includes subjects such as biology, English, music, and physics, among others. We highlight the best 25 schools, based on tuition rates and alumni salary data provided by PayScale.
2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Liberal Studies Degrees
The 25 schools on this list are the best value options for obtaining an online bachelor's degree in liberal studies based on alumni salaries and low tuition rates. Saint Louis University-Main Campus is ranked #1, offering a B.A. in General Studies for $19,500 per year. Graduates of the school reported a median salary of $142,100. University of North Dakota, ranked #2, offers a tuition rate of $11,970 per year. Alumni reported a mid-career salary of $137,667.
Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.
2020 Online Colleges Offering Liberal Studies Degrees - Ranking Details
#1 Saint Louis University-Main Campus
Annual Tuition: $19,500
Median Salary: $142,100
Locations: St. Louis (MO)
Established in 1818, Saint Louis University is a Roman Catholic institution with an enrollment of nearly 13,000 students. The school offers an online Bachelor of Arts in General Studies where students choose a minor, certificate, or liberal arts focus. Flexibility is built into the program for busy adults with family and professional obligations; six accelerated, eight-week terms per year mean that students can begin the program when it is most convenient for them. A total of 120 credits are needed for the degree, and it can be completed in eight semesters and four summer sessions over four years. A capstone is required in the final regular semester.
#2 University of North Dakota
Annual Tuition: $11,970
Median Salary: $137,667
Locations: Grand Forks (ND)
Established in 1883, the University of North Dakota, located in Grand Forks, is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state. The university offers an online Bachelor of General Studies that lets students choose courses from various areas, including social sciences, humanities, fine arts, and natural sciences and mathematics. The program can be taken on campus or fully online. The degree requires 120 credits, and the program can be completed in four years. Applicants who hold an associate degree from an accredited institution may transfer credits and have the general education requirements waived. Distance learners have access to 24/7 online tutoring, writing help, tech support, and career advice.
#3 Indiana University-Southeast
Annual Tuition: $19,346
Median Salary: $135,100
Locations: New Albany (IN)
Located in Albany, Indiana, Indiana University Southeast offers a Bachelor of General Studies and a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS), both as online programs. The online BAS is available with an individualized track for students who have an associate degree in a field other than health care or the sciences. It is a two-year completion program that requires a total of 60 credits. The BGS is a four-year program that is designed for adults who have professional and family responsibilities. A total of 120 credits are required to complete the degree; a maximum of 64 credits can be transferred from prior college coursework.
#4 University of Pennsylvania
Annual Tuition: $19,040
Median Salary: $123,200
Locations: Philadelphia (PA)
Established in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania is one of the few universities in the country that was founded before the War of Independence. The university offers an online Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences that is available with eight different concentrations. Thirty-course units are required (one-course unit converts to a four-credit course), and students spend two weekends on campus. A capstone project is required. In the individualized studies concentration, students can customize the degree by choosing four courses from three-course blocks; a total of 17 blocks are available in such areas as cinema, climate change, creative writing, music studies, and neuroscience.
#5 University of Arkansas
Annual Tuition: $7,568
Median Salary: $112,800
Locations: Fayetteville (AR)
Comprised of 10 colleges and schools that offer more than 200 programs, the University of Arkansas is the largest school in the University of Arkansas System. A fully online Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies is offered through the U of A Online. Students can customize the degree by choosing three minors that correspond with their interests and career goals; seventeen minors are available to choose from. Academic advisors are available to help students create their plan of study. A total of 120 credits are required to complete the degree, and a minimum of 48 credits must be taken at the U of A.
#6 Rowan University
Annual Tuition: $12,103
Median Salary: $110,500
Locations: Glassboro (NJ)
The Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies - Humanities/Social Science program is for individuals who need a flexible way to finish their degrees as they balance work and home responsibilities. Students must have already completed at least 24 college credits (45 are recommended) in order to enroll in this 120-credit program. The liberal studies major includes 39 credits of asynchronous online coursework combined from the Philosophy and Religion Studies majors and the PR in the Workplace program. The result is a curriculum that helps equip students with skills in analysis, decision-making, communication, and cultural sensitivity, helping to prepare them for leadership roles in a variety of work settings. The courses are eight weeks long, and students may start in the fall, spring, or summer sessions. Full-time students can complete the program in seven semesters. To apply to this program, students must submit an online application form (fee applies), transcripts from all colleges attended (minimum of 2.0 GPA is required), and a resume. After acceptance, students meet with an academic advisor to formulate a success plan; these advisors provide support to students throughout the duration of the program. Other campus services include career development, tutoring, and disability services.
#7 Southeast Missouri State University
Annual Tuition: $9,000
Median Salary: $105,167
Locations: Cape Girardeau (MO)
Individuals seeking a flexible way to complete their undergraduate degree as they balance responsibilities at work and home have two options at Southeast Missouri State University: the Bachelor of General Studies and the Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies. Both programs are offered 100% online in an asynchronous format as classes are facilitated by the same award-winning professors who teach the on-campus programs. These online liberal studies degree programs allow students to design a plan of study that aligns with their personal and professional goals. In the Bachelor of General Studies program, students often choose a minor to help further specialize their education, while in the Bachelor of Science program, students choose two to four areas of specialized study. Both programs allow for hands-on experience with internships and clinical practicums. Students have access to opportunities such as study abroad programs and career services. Prospective students must have completed less than 75 credits to be admitted to either program. To apply, students may use the Common App or apply online; a paper application is also available.
#8 University of Louisiana-Lafayette
Annual Tuition: $11,198
Median Salary: $104,957
Locations: Lafayette (LA)
Accreditation: SACS COC
The Bachelor of General Studies program at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette allows students to complete their undergraduate degree completely online. There are three concentrations to choose from — Arts and Humanities, Behavioral Science, and Applied Science. Students are able to take classes in a wide variety of subject areas, allowing them to customize this liberal arts degree online program in a way that supports their personal and academic goals. Graduates of the program will have the education and skills necessary to pursue career opportunities in a variety of fields. The program is facilitated during the traditional semester format (16 weeks), with courses offered in the fall, spring, summer, and winter intercessions. Though this program is offered completely online, the University of Louisiana-Lafayette is not authorized by all 50 states — students must confirm that their home state will allow them to enroll. To be considered, students must have earned at least 45 credits either at another school or in another program at UL Lafayette. The minimum GPA required of transfer students is 2.25, while UL Lafayette students need a 1.5 GPA for re-entry to the school. Students can apply with an online application.
#9 University of Missouri
Annual Tuition: $11,622
Median Salary: $100,450
Locations: Columbia (MO)
The University of Missouri offers two online liberal studies degree completion programs: the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies and the Bachelor of General Studies. The programs feature asynchronous courses that are 8 to 16 weeks in length. Students have up to six months to complete each class, providing even greater flexibility in studies. The core classes cover a wide range of topics, including arts and science, and students choose from two to three areas of specialization. The BA in Interdisciplinary Studies program has a 12–13 credit foreign language requirement. To transfer into the General Studies program, students need to have completed at least 66 credits, while transfer students applying to the Interdisciplinary Studies program need at least 85 credits. Both online Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree programs require 120 credits to graduate. Online students have access to many campus services, including academic advising, military and veteran support, and disability services. To apply to either program at the University of Missouri, students must submit an online application with transcripts from their previous schools.
#10 Mount Saint Mary's University - CA
Annual Tuition: $41,592
Median Salary: $111,200
Locations: Los Angeles (CA)
The Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts at Mount Saint Mary’s University – CA is designed for individuals who wish to explore careers in a variety of different industries in the public or private sectors. It is also ideal for those who want to pursue law school or graduate studies in the humanities, social sciences, or public administration fields. Classes in this liberal arts degree online program are taught in an asynchronous format so that students can achieve a work-life balance as they earn their degrees. Students can also choose a blended on-campus/online format if they prefer. The curriculum features a 50-credit general studies core, which includes classes in communications, critical thinking, foreign language/culture, and philosophy and religion. The liberal arts major consists of 34-36 core credits and 44 elective credits in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, including art, music, anthropology, history, political science. A total of 124 credits are needed to complete the degree. Online students have access to campus resources such as academic and career advising, library databases, and more. Prospective students should apply online with their transcripts from high school or previously attended colleges.
#11 Jacksonville State University
Annual Tuition: $11,310
Median Salary: $96,000
Locations: Jacksonville (AL)
Accreditation: SACS COC
The Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Studies at Jacksonville State University is an option for those who wish to earn their college degree while they balance work, family life, and other commitments. This asynchronous online program is suited for both first-time college students and those who are returning to school. The 120-credit curriculum is multidisciplinary and allows students to create a plan of study that will align with their own academic and professional interests. Graduates of the program will receive a broad-based education that will help them develop skills in critical thinking, research, and interpersonal communication, which they can apply to career opportunities in a variety of industries. Like their on-campus counterparts, students have access to a range of student services and resources, including academic and career advising, counseling, tutoring and writing support, disability services, and more. To apply to this online Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree program, prospective students should fill out the online application and submit transcripts from previously attended schools.
#12 University of Virginia
Annual Tuition: $13,260
Median Salary: $96,500
Locations: Charlottesville (VA)
Accreditation: SACS COC
The Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Virginia is a program for adult learners seeking a flexible way to return to college to finish their degrees. Several program concentrations are available, including one in the Liberal Arts. Students transfer to this 120-credit online liberal studies degree program in their third year and must complete 60 credits at UVA in order to graduate. The curriculum is facilitated through online evening classes for working professionals; some classes are offered in an asynchronous format. Students typically take two to three classes each fall, spring, and summer and graduate in three to four years. A two-semester capstone course allows students to pursue a research project of their choice, under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Academic advising, career development, and library resources are among the campus services available to online students at UVA. Prospective students should apply online, though they can also have their transcripts reviewed first by a pre-admission advisor, who can provide guidance on completing a strong application.
#13 California State University-Fullerton
Annual Tuition: $7,650
Median Salary: $93,075
Locations: Fullerton (CA)
The Bachelor of Arts in Humanities and Social Sciences at California State University- Fullerton is an online degree completion program geared toward adult learners. The wide-ranging curriculum enables students to hone their communication, critical thinking, research, and analysis skills — all of which are valued by employers in a variety of fields. The asynchronous online program is 51 credits; students must have at least 69 credits ready to transfer. Students have access to services, including academic support and advising. To be considered for this online Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree program, students must have a 2.5 GPA or higher, be in good standing at their former school, and fulfill one of the following requirements: an associate degree for transfer, a California State University General Education Breadth/Completion Certificate, or at least 48 CSU credits, including the “Golden Four” requirements with C grades or higher. Prospective students should request an advising appointment as they start the application for guidance through the process.
#14 University of Alaska Fairbanks
Annual Tuition: $8,877
Median Salary: $91,500
Locations: Fairbanks (AK) (and 1 other)
Students who want a flexible way to finish their college degree can do so at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary General Studies are ideal options for adult learners who want a broad education that can be applied to a variety of fields and sectors. Both asynchronous online liberal studies degree programs allow students to keep their options open instead of committing to a specific major. For those who want to focus further, there is a goal-specific option that requires a capstone experience with the support of faculty members from at least two disciplines. Otherwise, students may opt for the General Studies concentration that offers the most flexibility in completing the degree. Online students at the University of Alaska Fairbanks have access to services and resources like academic advising, career counseling, library tools and databases, tutoring and academic support, and more. To apply for either program, prospective students must submit an online application with transcripts from previously attended schools; first-time college students must also submit SAT or ACT scores.
#15 The University of Montana
Annual Tuition: $21,600
Median Salary: $96,075
Locations: Missoula (MT)
The online Bachelor of Arts in Art at the University of Montana allows creative-minded students to complete their college education in a flexible online format. While the curriculum focuses on art and design, it also encourages skill-building in communication and analysis that can be applied to other fields. Graduates of this program have pursued careers in art and other fields such as business, nonprofits, and science. Students must complete a capstone project in their final year, which can include anything from art exhibitions to videos to multimedia presentations. This fully online art program consists of 120 credits; students must complete 60 credits in the School of Art, and the others can come from the general education curriculum. Services available to online students include career development, academic support, disability services, and more. To apply to the University of Montana, students must complete an online application and submit high school transcripts or college transcripts if they are transfer students. First-time college students must also submit ACT or SAT scores for consideration.
#16 University of Kansas
Annual Tuition: $11,916
Median Salary: $90,008
Locations: Lawrence (KS)
The Bachelor of General Studies in Liberal Arts and Sciences degree at the University of Kansas allows students to study a broad range of subjects in the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences. This asynchronous online liberal studies degree program offers more than a dozen academic disciplines from which to choose, allowing students to customize their education to match their career goals. The BGS program is highly flexible, making it suitable for students who want to build a broad base of skills or enhance a technical degree or certificate they already earned. Students must complete 120 credits to receive the degree. Eligible students may join the honors program to challenge themselves academically. Although the online format does allow for more convenient study, the academic rigor of this program matches its on-campus counterpart. Online students have access to campus services like academic advising and library resources. To apply to the University of Kansas, students must submit an online application with their transcripts and ACT or SAT scores; the score requirement may be waived for transfer students with 24 or more approved credits.
#17 California State University-Chico
Annual Tuition: $5,742
Median Salary: $87,513
Locations: Chico (CA)
For students who wish to obtain a multidisciplinary college education, California State University- Chico offers two options: the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and the Bachelor of Arts in Social Science. Both are degree completion programs that provide flexibility for students who want to return to school. The BA in Liberal Studies is suited for students who wish to become K-8 or special education teachers. This asynchronous online program is offered through the School of Education; students will be able to apply for certification when they graduate. The BA in Social Science has two options for students to customize their experience: the Multidisciplinary Studies track and the Specialization Studies track, in which online students can choose from either sociology or career and life planning. Online students have access to services such as library resources and career and academic advising. To apply to either of these programs, students must submit an online application (a fee applies) through Cal State Apply and submit their transcripts from high school or college (transfer students).
#18 University of North Alabama
Annual Tuition: $10,500
Median Salary: $88,900
Locations: Florence (AL)
Accreditation: SACS COC
At the University of North Alabama, students wishing for a broad college education in the liberal arts and sciences have two options: the Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies and the Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies. The BA program has a humanities focus, while the BS is suited for those wishing to prepare for career opportunities or advanced study in the STEM field. Students in both asynchronous online programs must complete general education coursework and choose an area of concentration. These areas of specialization include Arts, Business, Health, Humanities, Organizational Leadership, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Technology, and Women’s Studies. Students may also opt for the applied entrepreneurship track, in which students can apply technical training to their degree. A three-course sequence involving research and a project is required for graduation; students conduct research under faculty supervision. In addition to academic advising, online students can take advantage of other campus resources like career development and library databases. To apply for either program, students must fill out an online application and submit their transcripts from high school or any previous college attended.
#19 Excelsior College
Annual Tuition: $15,300
Median Salary: $90,700
Locations: Albany (NY)
Excelsior College offers two online programs that offer a broad liberal arts education that will prepare graduates for a range of career paths: the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts. The BA curriculum focuses more on the humanities. A capstone research course that focuses on critical thinking, diversity, ethics, and communication is required for graduation. The BS focuses more on the STEM field and offers concentrations in Logistics and Operations Management, Population Health, and Professional and Technical Writing. Both of the asynchronous online degree programs require 120 credits. Students can transfer up to 113 credits of previous coursework and military experience into the BA program. Students in the BS program can take UExcel exams to earn credit faster. Online students have access to a variety of student services, including military/veteran assistance, career development, and academic support. To apply to either program at Excelsior, students must fill out an online application and submit all transcripts from previous schools.
#20 Liberty University
Annual Tuition: $11,700
Median Salary: $88,100
Locations: Lynchburg (VA)
Accreditation: SACS COC
At Liberty University, adult learners can return to school to finish their Bachelor of Science in Liberal Studies degree. This 120-credit program allows students to complete a broad education in the liberal arts and sciences, including classes in the arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. It is facilitated completely online in an asynchronous format, and students can transfer in up to 75% of college credits from a previous program. Other academic options in the liberal arts and sciences at Liberty University include the Bachelor of Science in History, the Bachelor of Science in Government (concentration is available in Politics and Policy), and the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (concentration is available in Green and Sustainable Management). Students enrolled in the online liberal studies degree programs at Liberty have access to a variety of services and resources, including academic advising, counseling services, the online writing center, and more. Applicants must have a 2.0 GPA or higher and submit school transcripts with their online application (the fee is charged only on admission).
#21 University of Toledo
Annual Tuition: $17,573
Median Salary: $90,050
Locations: Toledo (OH)
The University of Toledo offers online programs for adult learners to return to college and finish their degrees. There are three program options for students interested in a multidisciplinary education that allows them to seek employment in a variety of fields: the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in University Studies and the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies. Students in the University Studies program confer with an academic advisor to create a personalized plan of study that aligns with their interests and goals. Students take online seminars and can finish the coursework on their schedules. All three online degree programs allow students to advance in their programs faster by applying previous credit, work, or military experience, or by testing out of classes. Students will typically finish these programs in two years. A success coach and technical support are available to help them at any time during the program. To apply, students must submit an online application with their transcripts. Adult learners 25 and older are not required to submit test scores.
#22 University of Kentucky
Annual Tuition: $17,100
Median Salary: $89,729
Locations: Lexington (KY)
Accreditation: SACS COC
The University of Kentucky offers students returning to college to complete their degree a flexible option of online study: the Bachelor of Liberal Studies. This online liberal studies degree program provides students with a foundation in the liberal arts and sciences, allowing them to pursue entry-level career opportunities in various fields and advanced studies at the graduate level. Students in the program learn communication and cultural sensitivity and gain skills in analysis, research, and decision-making. Adult learners balancing school with work and personal responsibilities can start this asynchronous online program during one of three session starts: fall, spring, or summer. They will have access to campus tools and resources, including academic advising, career development, and technical support for the duration of their program. Students can finish the program in as few as 2.5 years. Applicants must have completed at least 45 credits and submit an online application with transcripts for consideration.
#23 West Texas A & M University
Annual Tuition: $7,953
Median Salary: $85,567
Locations: Canyon (TX)
Accreditation: SACS COC
The Bachelor of General Studies at West Texas A&M University is designed for students looking for an individualized degree program that will help them meet their unique personal and career goals. This program offers a foundation in a variety of disciplines within the broad liberal arts and sciences curriculum. The program is appropriate for both first-year students and transfer students. Up to 81 credits can be transferred into West Texas A&M, allowing transfers to earn their degree within about two years. While all coursework is completed online, students and their advisors meet on campus during the semester. This allows remote students to forge a connection to the school. Resources for online students include library and career services. Scholarships are available for transfer students who enroll full-time. Students who do not meet the minimum GPA of 2.0 or other admission requirements will be considered on a case-by-case basis. All prospective students are encouraged to apply using the ApplyTexas online application process.
#24 Youngstown State University
Annual Tuition: $15,006
Median Salary: $87,800
Locations: Youngstown (OH)
The online Bachelor of General Studies at Youngstown State University offers a way for adult learners with an associate degree to complete their undergraduate education. Coursework covers a breadth of subjects in the arts, sciences, humanities, and social sciences, giving students a strong foundation with which to pursue careers and advanced studies in a variety of fields. In addition to completing the core requirements, students must choose two focus areas of study, one of which is covered by an associate degree already earned. Students must also complete classes in foreign language and diversity, and a capstone course is required to graduate. At the full-time level, students can finish the 60-credit online liberal studies program in four semesters. Online students at Youngstown State University have access to campus resources like academic and career advising and disability services. To apply, students must fill out an online application and submit college transcripts indicating a GPA of 2.0 or higher.
#25 Northern Illinois University
Annual Tuition: $11,146
Median Salary: $85,910
Locations: Dekalb (IL)
The Bachelor of General Studies program at Northern Illinois University is designed for adult students looking to return to college to finish their degrees in a way that is convenient for their busy schedules. Students who have already earned an Associate of Arts or an Associate of Science degree are ready for this program. The 100% online curriculum (asynchronous format) allows students to take classes throughout the College of Arts and Sciences, such as literature, psychology, foreign language, and more. Online students are granted access to various campus resources, including library services, career development, academic support and advising, disability services, and technical assistance. Graduates of the program may pursue career opportunities in a wide variety of industries, including education, business, and human resources, as well as graduate-level studies. Sessions start in the fall, spring, and summer. To apply to this online program, students must submit an online application (there is a fee) with their transcripts. No test scores are required, but students may need to provide other supporting documentation for consideration.
Online Liberal Studies Degree Overview & Career Information
Online students hoping to prepare for transfer to a four-year college or university may want to pursue an associate degree in liberal studies. These online degrees are typically offered through community colleges and cover the general education requirements of a bachelor’s degree through classes in composition, social science, natural science, and humanities. Online bachelor’s degrees in liberal studies provide a larger foundational knowledge in the arts and sciences and tend to offer students flexibility in the courses they choose. Depending on the school, bachelor’s students may even have an opportunity to specialize their degree. For example, students interested in writing could tailor their liberal studies degree to include creative writing, modern literature, and nonfiction writing.
Online master’s degrees can afford greater career opportunities and the chance to perform research. For example, a student with an undergraduate degree in political science could complete an online master’s in liberal studies and develop a thesis based on political science theories. Doctoral degrees in liberal studies traditionally focus on training scholars for advanced research and teaching careers. Students in these PhD programs take advanced coursework and collaborate with a faculty advisor to develop a hypothesis and research project.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Liberal Studies
The bachelor's in liberal studies is a comprehensive four-year degree that includes courses in art, science, and the humanities. Students who enroll in these programs often do so because they have many interests and don't want to pinpoint one specific major, or they may choose liberal studies if they are interested in becoming an elementary school teacher and need a strong foundation in all of the core subjects. Liberal studies bachelor's degrees can lead to any number of possible careers, ranging from medicine and research to teaching and writing.
Applicants to online bachelor's degree programs are required to have a high school diploma or associate degree and must submit transcripts from high school and any colleges they may have previously attended. Many schools will require applicants to submit standardized test scores and some may have minimum GPA requirements for admission. Online bachelor's degrees usually take about four years to complete.
The courses required for an online liberal studies major will vary by school and by students' interests and chosen concentrations. Almost all programs will require general education credits which usually include a combination of math, science, writing, history or social studies, and sometimes fine arts or foreign languages.
Composition classes, which train students to write effective essays, are often some of the first classes that first year students take. Writing papers is an important part of all liberal studies programs, so students are usually taught right away how to do so in a creative, academically compelling manner. They will then apply these skills in liberal arts courses such as history. History classes encourage research, which is also a critical component of liberal studies.
Psychology classes are some of the most popular electives, and are often mandated by liberal studies departments. Psychology is the study of human behavior and thinking, and many students choose to minor in this discipline. Philosophy is another popular course option for liberal studies students, involving the study of various ways of thinking, with special focus on the different philosophical movements. Because sciences are also included in this degree, most students are required to take at least one (usually more) basic science course, such as physics or biology.
The Importance of an Accredited Online Liberal Studies Degree
Liberal studies students are strongly encouraged to select an online degree or certificate program at a school that has been accredited by an agency recognized by the United States Department of Education. Because accreditation is only granted to colleges and universities that have volunteered to have their degree programs, faculty members, and student resources carefully evaluated, students who attend these schools can feel more confident that they are getting a valuable education. Accreditation also enables students to transfer credits to other higher education institutions and apply for financial aid.
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