Board OKs business plan for UF Online
Published: Friday, September 27, 2013 at 4:51 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 27, 2013 at 4:51 p.m.
The University of Florida plans to throw open the doors to the nation's first fully online bachelor's degree program in January, nine months after Gov. Rick Scott signed the law authorizing the creation of the online institute.
In that time, UF administrators, faculty and staff are expected to have fully developed online curriculum in five majors, with two more majors ready to launch by the summer.
On Friday, the Board of Governors unanimously approved the business plan for that ambitious undertaking.
“To think that classes will be starting in January is just amazing,” said John D. Rood, chairman of the Board of Governors strategic planning committee as well as the advisory board appointed to help develop the business plan.
Rood said the plan is innovative, meets the high academic standards of UF, and makes the same education available on campus accessible and affordable to students who for whatever reason can't come to Gainesville for a four-year education.
UF Online is the result of legislative efforts to create a 13th university that would be completely online from freshman year to graduation.
The driving force for the institute was House Speaker Will Weatherford, who got the Legislature to approve the $300,000 to hire the Parthenon Group consulting firm to advise on how to best expand the state's postsecondary online education opportunities.
In 2013, the Legislature passed a law signed by the governor establishing UF as the state's pre-eminent university and giving it the mission of creating an online bachelor's degree program that meets the same academic standards as UF.
With that legislation comes $10 million in startup money, and $5 million a year for the next five years to help develop course curriculum, programming and technology to deliver the program.
UF hired Elizabeth “Betty” Phillips, a former UF provost and current provost at Arizona State University, to run the online institute. She has “tremendous experience” helping develop ASU's online program, UF Provost Joe Glover said.
UF is fully committed to maintaining the quality of its programs, and will only accept students to its online program that meet the same qualifications as the students who come to Gainesville to attend class, Glover said. “We will only admit students who can accomplish and fully complete degree programs,” he said. “We expect an excellent class of capable students whose performance… will burnish the reputation of university.”
According to the business plan, UF Online is expected to have 24,000 students and $76 million in revenue in its 10th year. Associate provost Andy McCollough said by that time, UF should have a fully dedicated staff of 250 supporting the online institute.
That ambitious plan calls for a 57/43 split between in-state and out-of-state students, who will pay at least four times what in-state students pay for tuition.
Tuition for in-state students is capped by law at 75 percent of regular in-state tuition, or $112 per credit hour, while the university can charge whatever the market will bear for out-of-state students, which current research showed could be about $400-$500 per credit hour, McCollough said.
Board member Ed Morton said he worried that the plan relied too heavily on the out-of-state students and feared that students would figure out a way around paying for etextbooks.
He also said he was concerned that the program would cannibalize students potentially going to UF, and hoped the savings from the online program would help reduce costs overall and create a surplus that could be spent on other needs.
Ultimately, the university plans to have 35 majors offered online. All majors will be evaluated constantly by students and educators, McCollough said, to ensure that the curriculum is lean and responsive to the needs of the state and the students.
“There will be no curriculum for which there is no demand by the workforce or the students,” he said.