On Friday, the State University System of Florida Board of Governors approved the business plan for UF Online, a new, fully online bachelor’s degree program at the University of Florida that will allow the university to admit thousands of students that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to attend UF due to overstuffed facilities. Applications are now being accepted.
“Many students have the academic skills to get into the University of Florida but haven’t been able to attend, either because we don’t have enough space on campus or because their life circumstances prevent them from leaving home,” UF President Bernie Machen said. “This online undergraduate initiative removes both of those roadblocks, providing access to all students in Florida and around the world who have what it takes to be a Gator.”
Because the UF campus is filled to capacity, the number of freshmen enrolling each year has remained steady at about 6,400. Since the turn of the millennium, though, the annual number of applicants has surged nearly 60 percent to more than 29,000. UF has had to turn away thousands of students who meet admissions criteria. Upcoming online students must meet the same admission standards as UF’s residential students.
W. Andrew McCollough, the associate provost for teaching and technology, said that the program is designed to be appealing to brand new, first time in college students, but he wouldn’t be surprised if a large number of their applicants turn out to be transfer students.
For the first full online year, beginning next fall, McColllough said that the university envisions about 1,500 newly enrolled students. Ten years out, that number could be as high as 24,000.
McCollough also said that the program will not be self-sufficient for some time. UF is receiving a $15 million startup grant from the state to get the program running and then a $5 million fund each year for five years. The program is also in the early stages of staffing financial aid officers, teaching assistants, technology specialists and professors.
The legislation caps online tuition for in-state students at 75 percent of the price of on-campus classes. Out-of-state students will pay market rates. In-state students will not only save on tuition, but they also will be exempt from many on-campus fees. The only fees they will be responsible for, according to McCollough, are the financial aid fee, technologies fee and what’s called the Capital Improvement Trust Fund, which goes toward construction of new buildings on campus. In addition, they will save an estimated $8,400 a year in room and board costs they would incur if they moved to Gainesville.
UF Online starts in January with five majors:
· Business administration
· Criminology and law
· Environmental management
· Health education and behavior
· Sport management
Two more majors will be added in June: Biology and psychology.
In the next five years, UF anticipates topping out at 35 majors. Classes start in January for those completing a bachelor’s degree, with the first freshmen class expected next summer. Professors will use either the Sakai online course management system, or the Canvas course management system, which McCollough said is a little more user-friendly.
UF recently named Elizabeth D. “Betty” Phillips, Arizona State University’s provost and executive vice president and a former UF provost, as executive director of UF Online.
With UF Online, UF and the state will put an entire undergraduate experience online for some of the most popular majors and for those identified as meeting the state’s critical workforce needs. As UF Online matures, university officials plan to augment academics with the many other important elements of the college experience. Along these lines, the university is developing an orientation specifically for online students. UF is expanding its academic advising and career services, creating many opportunities for student engagement, and is expanding its counseling resources to best serve distance students.
The application deadline for the 2014 freshman class is Nov. 1. Students must apply for either UF Online or the traditional residential program. They cannot apply to both.
To read the full UF Online plan, visit: http://tinyurl.com/kpw5t45.