Out-of-State Universities Woo California Students to Their Online Programs

Higher Ed

by James Paterson

Dive Brief:

  • A California newspaper is reporting that large out-of-state universities are blanketing the state with marketing materials to entice students to enroll in their online programs. One source said one reason for this uptick in markeCalifornia has had difficulty meeting demand from its residents for its public colleges.
  • The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that institutions such as Pennsylvania State University, the University of Arizona, Purdue University and the University of Maryland, along with primarily online institutions such as Southern New Hampshire University and Grand Canyon University, are using public advertising space and television to promote their online programs.
  • Arizona had 12,000 online students in California in 2016, up from 3,400 two years prior, and Southern New Hampshire about 8,000, up from 2,500 in 2014. Penn State had about 1,500 online students in California in 2016, but an official suggested that number had grown because of its name recognition.

Dive Insight

The newspaper points out that while online degrees are gaining in popularity and colleges are growing the programs with a third of college students reporting they took at least one online course in 2016, it also notes that the degrees can be expensive and faculty members don’t believe online course work can match face-to-face instruction. Other research says students often don’t complete the course or the degree and frequently don’t examine online programs for their cost and value.

A positive report in April from Arizona State University about the increased value of online courses to learners and colleges has been challenged in some circles, where others claimed evaluation of the trend must be more nuanced and detailed. In addition, certain learners may have less success online, researchers have found, including male students, black students and those with low grade point averages. Overall, they found students had worse outcomes.

Colleges, too, are finding they have to give online offerings more scrutiny and that the programs may be more complex and expensive to operate than first thought. However, some experts point to online courses as an essential part of the future mix for higher education, particularly for struggling small colleges.