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Davis, California

Friday, June 14, 2024

Obama administration to minimize online course options

The U.S Department of Education issued a regulation last October aiming to cut down on for-profit colleges by 2014.

The regulation requires institutions offering online classes to seek permission from every state in which they enroll so much as a single student. This requirement, along with the high costs of complying with 50 different sets of state licensing criteria, schools ranging from community colleges, state universities and small liberal arts schools have already begun to rid themselves of their online options.

Most notable of the online educators is the University of Phoenix, who saw enrollment of 420,700 students by the end of May 2009.

Many students enrolled in these online courses choose to take classes on the internet because it accommodates their hectic lifestyle by cutting commute times, allows them to work more and at a pace that is comfortable to them.

“My experience was great,” said Spencer McNamara, a senior computer engineering major at UC Davis. “I took deductive logic through [Brigham Young University] and liked that I had the ability to work on my own time. I watched videos of my professor’s lectures and was able to e-mail my professor when I had any questions. He always responded to my questions very quickly.”

Brigham Young University Independent Study, one of the more popular online programs, gained notoriety when it was revealed that Michael Oher, current offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens, had taken many online courses from BYU during his high school years. Oher, whose life story was made into the 2009 film The Blind Side, took these courses in order to become academically eligible in high school, although this was never shown in the film. This prompted many to protest that these courses are easier than the average class.

“The courses are challenging,” said Justin Johansen, director of the Independent Study. “They’re engaging. They’re able to bring together the right tools to teach the right principles and concepts. They align carefully with courses that are taught on campus or with state published standards.”

“It was a lot harder than I thought,” McNamara agreed. “I thought it was going to be an easy A, but I ended up getting a B.”

Recent UC Davis graduate Asher Cohen took a pre-calculus course from the UC Berkeley extension one summer and said it was a lot like taking a regular class except there was no actual class time.

“I believe I learned just as much as I would have from a regular class,” he said. “What I basically did was read the textbook, took tests and did homework which seemed to work pretty well.”

Under the proposed regulations, students like Oher, who grew up in Memphis, and McNamara, who grew up in Albany, would not have the benefit of taking classes from the Utah based Brigham Young due to the increased fees and paperwork.

Students living in Massachusetts will most likely be limited the most by this regulation, as their permission scheme is both extremely expensive and the application fee is very difficult. Massachusetts requires a nine-page application, a $10,000 application fee, a $4,000 annual fee for the first five years and a $2,000 fee for every degree awarded. It also sometimes requires a site inspection, to be paid for by the affected college.

Community colleges will also likely be affected by this new legislation. In a survey conducted by the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies, where 215 colleges with online programs responded, 59 percent of the community colleges stated that they would cease to enroll students in some states in lieu of complying with the authorization standards.

ELLIS CLARK can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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