Online Classes Mean No Dorm, Gym or Debt

Numerous articles and commentaries from inside and outside of academia are raising the alarm that American public higher education faces an unprecedented financial crisis.

For years, state legislatures have been disinvesting in public colleges and universities, leaving campus administrators to struggle with how to make do with less. The result: rising debt, deferred maintenance for aging facilities, reductions in programs and course offerings, dismissals, elimination of many student and faculty services, and loss of talented faculty — many of whom haven’t received pay increases in years — to private universities.

To try to offset some of these challenges, universities are raising tuition and fees to historically high levels. The cost of tuition alone has soared from 23 percent of median annual earnings in 2001 to 38 percent in 2010.

Given the pressing demands on state budgets, it is unlikely that funding for higher education will return to pre-2007 levels anytime soon. In fact, analysts predict just the opposite: Financing levels will continue to decrease in the years ahead to the point where a number of colleges and universities may be forced to close.

In some states, campuses are being consolidated. In others, enrollments have been capped. With the average cost of providing one year of on-campus education at a public university now topping $32,000 and the average tuition covering only 20 percent of that, the problem is real and it isn’t going away.


Websites Accessibility

Campus Technology is a higher education technology magazine that provides updated information about advanced networking for the campus enterprise. In the November issue they talk about website accessibility and how universities are missing the mark. Take a look:

Making university websites and course content accessible may be the law, but many institutions have a long way to go toward compliance. CT looks at three key elements of a more proactive approach to accessibility on campus.

State regulations for online courses

A recent article (October 20, 2012) in The Chronicle’s Wired Campus entitled “Facing Backlash, Minnesota Decides to Allow Free Online Courses After All” describes an issue that is being discussed by the federal government and state legislatures around the country. Do universities that offer online courses (for free or for a fee) have an obligation to register (and pay fees) with the states where their online students reside? The issue is being presented as a matter of concern for the quality of the content being offered by online course providers.

An August 7, 2012 article in The Chronicle noted that states were moving ahead with requirements in spite of the failure of the federal government to require compliance in this area:

“The federal government tried to strengthen states’ roles with a 2011 regulation known as the state-authorization rule. That rule, which was opposed by lobbyists for colleges, required institutions to be authorized in each state where they were operating as a condition of being eligible to accept federal student aid for students in that state.

A court blocked the rule almost as soon as it took effect, however, and a federal appeals court upheld that decision in June, finding that the U.S. Education Department had not followed proper procedures in issuing the rule. The department has the right to set such a rule, the appellate court’s opinion states, but it will have to reissue the rule under the proper procedures before it can enforce the provisions that apply to online programs.

More recently, the Education Department released a letter saying that it would not enforce the state-authorization requirement, leading to speculation that it would not reissue the rule but perhaps would try instead to insert such a regulation into the next renewal of the federal Higher Education Act.”

The University System of Georgia maintains a web site that tracks states’ regulations for online course providers USFSP’s Division of Academic Affairs, under the leadership of Regional Vice Chancellor Dr. Norine Noonan, is monitoring this situation closely for how it might affect the online courses and programs being developed at USFSP.