UC Online Strives To Compete In An Era Of Free Courses

Online education was going to revolutionize the University of California system, drawing thousands to the selective institution's online courses and bringing in new revenue to help allay budget cuts.

That was the pitch for UC Online, started two years ago with the belief that millions in seed money could easily be raised from foundations or other private sources to get the bold effort off the ground.

But UC Online now appears to be struggling, even as other highly selective colleges rush to offer their courses online at no charge (and, unlike the University of California, with no credit).

University of California officials failed to rustle up those private donations and were forced to take out a $6.9-million loan from the system's Office of the President last year to prop up the effort, with strong opposition from faculty members who did not want university money used for the project. And key figures driving the project have stepped back or moved on, including Daniel Greenstein, formerly vice provost for academic planning, programs, and coordination in the university system, who left this summer to take a job at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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