Four-year university embraces for-profit online education model

Competition. Life long learning. Freedom from time and place constraints.

These are just a few of the reasons the University of Illinois cited to justify launching a new for-profit online education model, dubbed University of Illinois Global Campus.

According to findings in the university’s final report for the Global Campus initiative, developing a greater presence in the online arena is a necessity.

“Considering the attractiveness, value and rapid growth of online education, the question is no longer whether the university can afford to launch the Global Campus, but whether it can afford not to.”

Citing a healthy annual 23 percent growth figure and revenue of about $5 billion a year, it’s no surprise that four-year schools are beginning to place more importance on developing their online education programs. The numbers of students enrolled in the online powerhouses – University of Phoenix at 130,000 students and University of Maryland University College at 50,000 students – are also a big draw for the University of Illinois, which only has 6,900 students enrolled in its online programs.

The 48-page report details the rationale behind the proposed program, including information gathered on the state of online education, a competitor analysis and plans for the new Global Campus.

This new for-profit branch of the university would provide programs that meet “student demand and societal need.” Some of the proposed programs would be in areas such as baccalaureate completion, business, nursing and education.

The Global Campus would offer a variety of degree types, ranging from baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral programs to certificate and professional development programs to training programs for the corporate world and state and municipal leaders.

The proposal for the program will be presented to the university’s board of trustees later this week, said Thomas Hardy, Executive Director of University Relations. The news of whether the program has been green-lighted won’t come until at least November during the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting. If a decision isn’t made at the November meeting, January 2007 is the next chance the board will have to make an announcement about the program’s fate.

Given board approval of the program, the Global Campus could begin enrolling students shortly thereafter. Hardy said the proposal plans for the program to be launched in January of 2007.

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