FranU academic programs provide solid foundations for lucrative careers in management, health care - The Advocate

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As more college classes move online, some MN schools are charging extra - Press

As more college classes move online, some MN schools are charging extra - Press

As more college classes move online, some MN schools are charging extra - Press

Posted: 27 Jul 2020 04:33 PM PDT

Despite a statewide tuition freeze, students at some Minnesota State colleges and universities will pay much more than expected this fall as more of their classes are delivered online.

The institutions for years have charged higher tuition for online courses to make up for extra costs associated with remote learning, such as technology, faculty training and test administration.

A dramatic increase in online course delivery because of the coronavirus pandemic means many more classes will be charged at those higher rates, which can add hundreds of dollars to tuition bills, depending on the school.

"The (Board of Trustees) made a clear statement that we're not going to increase tuition for the fall, and this seems like an underhanded way to raise tuition while saying you're not," said Mike Dean, executive director of LeadMN, which represents students at the state's two-year colleges.

Minnesota State did not charge differential tuition for courses that suddenly moved online during the spring semester or for the summer term. That they will do so for the fall semester reflects investments they've made in the quality of those courses, according to the system office.

"They've really been making significant investments in redesigning those courses for online instruction in ways that will give students the best experience possible," said Kimberly Lynch, senior system director of educational innovations.


Minnesota State's use of online courses is exploding after slowly creeping up in recent years. This fall, at least 44 percent of courses across the system will be fully online, up from 25 percent two years ago.

That's not to say all of those 44 percent will be charged at the higher rates. It's ultimately up to each college and university to decide how it charges students for courses moving from in-person to online delivery this fall, and the system office hasn't yet collected information on what each campus is doing.

Minnesota State University, Mankato, said Monday it is not charging the online rate for classes moving away from in-person instruction this fall.

The system office has advised that the higher rate should be charged only for courses that have been "designed for online instruction with the additional investments made to provide for a quality experience," said Bill Maki, vice chancellor for finance and facilities.

Any classes making a temporary switch to online delivery because of the pandemic should be charged at the lower, in-person rate, Maki said.

"These are not classes that were never intended to be taught online that are being assessed an online differential tuition rate," he said.


A 2017 study by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education found 54 percent of colleges and universities charged extra for online courses.

In Minnesota, student advocates have lobbied against online differential tuition for the last four years or so.

As a result, lawmakers ordered Minnesota State to produce a report justifying the extra costs of online delivery; they also directed the higher education system to work toward cost parity between online and in-person courses.

According to Minnesota State's January report, during the 2018-19 school year:

  • Its 30 colleges received $15.6 million from online differential tuition but said online instruction cost them $19.5 million.
  • Its seven universities received $16.9 million but spent $17.6 million.
  • The additional tuition charged for online courses varied widely by institution, from $4.50 per credit at Winona State University to $88.40 at St. Cloud State University.

In a separate report to the Legislature, the University of Minnesota said its online courses cost more than in-person delivery but that it hasn't tallied the difference.

The U does not charge higher tuition for online courses. However, some online courses do come with an extra fee, which in 2018-19 raised $2 million in revenue. Fully online students, though, don't pay certain fees paid by traditional students.


In St. Paul, students have succeeded in getting Metropolitan State University to reduce its extra charge for online courses.

Last month, urban education graduate student Blair Hanson learned from a classmate that they would be charged the online rate for a course that used to be delivered in-person: graduate students would pay an extra $127 per credit and undergrads $76.

It took Hanson by surprise.

"We're being charged for having to take online classes. That's not something that ever occurred to me. It's not a choice we made," she said.

After a group of students complained to university leaders, the extra charge was reduced to $20 per credit — equivalent to an 8.5 percent cost increase for undergraduates and 4.8 percent for graduate students.

Metro State also is discounting the differential rate for students enrolled in classes that previously were scheduled to be online.

"We recognize the hardships our students are facing during the ongoing pandemic and economic upheaval," President Ginny Arthur said by email.

Metro State describes its discounts as "COVID relief credits."

"Giving us relief for a cost that shouldn't have been ours in the first place, that's not impressive to us," Hanson said.

Four key things students say they want from college this fall (opinion) - Inside Higher Ed

Posted: 28 Jul 2020 12:11 AM PDT

Despite their best efforts to train staff to deliver virtual lectures, troubleshoot IT issues, respond to student queries and tackle dozens of other challenges that accompany the decision to take the fall 2020 semester online, colleges and universities are still faced with the big question: Will it all be enough?

Nearly half of high school seniors in the United States are likely to defer enrollment or look for a different institution if faced with remote learning this fall, according to a McKinsey and Company report, and 50 to 70 percent of college students expect tuition discounts if online lectures are the new normal in the approaching semester.

Not exactly encouraging numbers for beleaguered institutions, which are already battling revenue losses on multiple fronts and are in no position to reduce tuition. It is also worth noting that high school seniors, who have already had to settle for virtual graduations and online prom, aren't keen to begin college life from their bedrooms and have had a nice, long lockdown to figure out what else they could be doing with their time come September.

So how can colleges justify charging the same fees, without losing pupils to deferred admissions requests?

They need to make sure they offer students the best chance to start a rewarding career in the midst of an economic crisis and a global pandemic. A tall order, but an entirely manageable one, if colleges leverage the resources they already have to cater to an increasingly discerning student body. Fewer students can afford to go to college simply because it is the natural next step in their education, so those that do care far more about career outcomes. Colleges that are quick to recognize that and adapt their offerings to address these newfound priorities will emerge from this crisis as leaders in higher education.

Based on our research, here are the top four asks students, both undergraduate and graduate, have for colleges in order for fall 2020 to be worth their while.

No. 1: Evidence of investment in initiatives that support career building during the pandemic. Aseem Saxena, a machine learning engineer at Panasonic, chose to forgo the fall semester of his master's degree in robotics in Oregon in favor of beginning next spring. "I'm definitely worried about the impact online classes will have on career services," he told us. "The university where I got my undergraduate degree had a great program where students got to work on relevant projects, through a partnership between the university and industry. I'd really like to see some version of that now, especially since we're all worried COVID-19 will hurt the job market in general."

Students are quickly realizing that online and blended learning will feature more prominently in their college experience than they had initially bargained for. Most see this as a compromise to getting a traditional, on-campus degree with the luxury of face-to-face peer interaction and full-time access to facilities like laboratories and libraries. This means they will re-evaluate whether college is still their best shot at the career they want.

It is incumbent on higher education institutions to prove their value in helping students lock down job offers. In a 2016 report, more than 80 percent of students said that getting a job was a key factor in their decision to attend university; one can only imagine that number rising in a world teetering on the brink of an economic downturn.

Colleges must be laser focused on preparing students to be as career ready as possible and must play a bigger role in facilitating co-ops, externships and project-based learning through industry partnerships. Regular check-in emails from institutions are unlikely to capture the interest of students mulling a gap year unless they directly outline initiatives to boost internship opportunities, build real-world skills and connect with employers.

Now is the time for college decision makers to shake up their budgets and invest in new programs and technology that will prepare students for careers in 2020. Increased financial support for students who want remote internships, partnering with ed-tech firms with a track record of upgrading the learning experience and even investing more in mental health services could go a long way. It's all about showing students that colleges are in touch with the real world and are committed to preparing them for it.

No. 2: A real answer to the question "What will college look like in the fall?" Divya Mirlay was meant to move to Hamburg, Germany, to start a two-year writing program in July, but she decided to defer her admission by four months. "They offered us an online alternative but didn't go into much detail about what that would look like," she said. "After a few days of asking around, I decided I didn't want to risk it. What would've made me feel better is if they gave me a detailed road map and said things like: here's how the school will help you make industry connections if internships aren't possible for the next eight months -- here's what's going to happen instead."

While regular communication and transparency from universities is high on most wish lists, students are very clear that they are not impressed by hollow updates from the university communications office. Luckily, it is fairly easy for universities to rectify this by improving on the content of their communication with students, without having to bear additional expenses.

The upcoming semester will be a period of uncertainty for everyone, deans of colleges included, but students still want a full understanding of what a typical day of remote learning will look like.

"Should I defer my fall 2020 admit?" is the top question being asked on all their group texts right now, and most feel they can only make that decision when they know exactly what to expect.

No. 3: Reassurance that colleges will adapt without compromising traditional benefits. Anisha Mascarenhas, who works at a tech company in India, was due to begin graduate school in North Carolina this fall. However, when she read the university's plan for online classes for her computer science degree on the college website, it didn't inspire confidence. She decided to defer her admit by a year. "I just don't want to be part of that guinea pig batch that gets experimented on!" she explained to us. "One of the biggest reasons I wanted to study in the United States was to get to experience life on campus with other students. Now I don't even know if I'll get regular opportunities that students usually have -- will there still be TA and RA jobs that I can apply for?"

Mascarenhas makes a good point. Whatever plans colleges are making for the year ahead, every student wants to know how the new normal will play out for them. This means as much specificity as possible: personalized communication from department heads that outline projects, opportunities or campus jobs available for individual classes are likely to be received more positively than a general update meant for the entire student body.

No. 4: Clarity about networking opportunities with peers, alumni and employers. Singapore-based Bhavana Balakrishnan and her husband, Sai Visesh Suresh, both applied for M.B.A. programs in Chicago and were accepted by Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, respectively. Balakrishnan had quit her job to attend college by the time the pandemic gathered force, and Suresh had already deferred his admission once. In addition, they were both keen to complete business school and live in the same city together, so they decided not to alter their plans to attend in the fall.

"We've second-, third- and fourth-guessed our decisions to attend this year, but for us it boiled down to personal factors," Suresh admitted, adding that he was empathetic to peers who had decided differently. "It's borderline unjustifiable to spend the kind of money an M.B.A. needs under normal circumstances. But with such a potentially diluted experience, there's no wonder there's a huge uproar."

Balakrishnan agrees. "For an M.B.A., 75 percent of the degree is the social aspect, which everyone knows just won't be the same this year."

Colleges must actively promote remote icebreaker events or brown-bag lunch hours over Zoom or Google Meet and announce active partnerships with industry. Students want to be assured that they aren't losing out on networking opportunities. It is more important than ever to harness alumni networks and roll out online career mentorship programs, so students don't feel isolated.

Career services departments will have to prove they are crucial to the job hunt, rather than merely helpful.

How higher education institutions handle the fall 2020 semester will be vital in determining student behavior over the next few years. While there is a general sense of optimism that life will go back to normal within a year's time, those that are innovative in the coming months stand to benefit if students who do choose to attend college have positive experiences.

At this point, the future is still uncertain for the higher education industry, but the one thing we know for sure is that student perspectives should form the basis of every institutional policy.

Back-to-College Plans Devolve Into a Jumble of Fast-Changing Rules - The Wall Street Journal

Posted: 28 Jul 2020 08:14 AM PDT

Spelman College announced on July 1 that the Atlanta campus would welcome back students to dorms and classrooms for the fall semester. Last week it reversed course. Classes would be online only.

In Waterville, Maine, Colby College plans to open most of its campus to students and faculty with one of the more ambitious testing protocols in higher education. The small school expects to administer about 85,000 Covid-19 tests this fall, including testing students, faculty and staff at least three times during the opening weeks...

Are online colleges the future of education? - SmartBrief

Posted: 10 Jul 2020 12:00 AM PDT

Sign up for our daily edtech news briefing today, free.

The college campus ethos is changing, and the current pandemic has certainly brought more attention to updating traditional models in recent news. In reality, the status quo of dorm rooms, frat parties, dining halls, and the stereotypical college experience in general, have been evolving for some time.

As a point of fact, nontraditional students are the fastest-growing demographic for college attendance. Working adults, veterans, students with disabilities, and parents are all now students of higher education. These working professionals lead busy daily lives, making traditional college options nearly impossible. As such, accredited online colleges and universities have stepped in to fill their needs.

virtual learning

The Virtues of Going Virtual

As campuses closed around the world, more students are taking advantage of the virtual classroom technologies and support services that their schools offer. The distance education option at most schools is considered less popular when compared with shiny research facilities and state-of-the-art gyms. But some institutions have broken through the brick-and-mortar tradition and begun operating solely online with no physical campus.

Imagine a college free from housing costs, meal plans or parking permits. Tuition and fees would instead go to virtual support services and remote-learning tools. And while few colleges have piloted this model exclusively, it seems to be working.

Western Governors University, with its career-focused online program offerings and no actual campus, consistently reports high graduate employment rates and a low annual tuition. Moreover, as education technology rapidly improves, so do the experiences of online learners.

online colleges and universities

Extensive Student Support

Without traditional expenses weighing them down and education technologies constantly advancing, online education programs can be more student-centric. Many online programs employ a self-paced, adaptive learning process that students can access at any time. In this way, students juggling busy schedules can complete assignments when most convenient for them, skipping ahead or spending more time on lessons as needed.

Learning management systems, like Blackboard, Canvas, or Desire2Learn, provide the tools and materials students need for online classes. Prominent features include discussion boards, video conferencing software, and links to research articles, all in one user-friendly hub. Most even have a mobile application, so students can choose to access their online courses from anywhere. 

Online learners need different support services and accommodations than traditional students, but this requires investment and adaptability. Fortunately for virtual colleges or universities, robust online support services are the only kind they need.

These institutions use various technologies to provide virtual tutoring, peer mentoring, career counseling, access to academic advisors, student enrollment support, mental health counseling, veteran services and faculty office hours. Support professionals employed by online colleges and universities are trained specifically to deliver the same level of assistance in an online environment.

teaching with technology

Teaching with Technology

Online-specific orientations introduce students to time management tips, distance-learning tools and other resources. Field experience and internships can be coordinated within one's own community with support from the school. Institutions use open-source materials and free software, such as Zoom, WebEx or Google Hangouts.

Digital libraries house research databases and a live-chat feature with a reference librarian. Technical assistance is often available 24/7. There are social media groups, virtual student organizations, and even study-abroad opportunities. 

Future in Flux

The higher education landscape is in flux, and many wonder if the four-year residential model will recover post-pandemic. For years, online schools and degree programs have been stigmatized as lower-quality or less competitive. Now, the traditional college experience is taking a crash course in education technology and relying on best practices learned from the successes of distance learning.

If you enjoyed this article on why students should consider getting college credit and earning a degree from an online college or university, please sign up for our daily edtech news briefing. For more great content, subscribe to any of SmartBrief's 275+ email newsletters.

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