The goals for the campus: to expand online offerings, make quality more consistent among the online programs, improve the dropout rate for online students and attract more out-of-state students.
“With online education growing steadily and the number of online degree programs increasing, Broward College is committed to supporting and exceeding the changing needs of our students,” said President David Armstrong.
Miami-Dade College embraces a similar philosophy through its “Virtual College” while Palm Beach State College promotes a more blended model of online and brick-and-mortar classes.
In the past, the classes were run by individual departments within the college, with varying degrees of quality. Online students drop out at a rate about 7 percent greater than students at traditional campuses. The college hopes to improve that with a campus dedicated to online education, Shulman said.
“We’re going to ratchet up the quality. We have a good program, but we’re trying to take it to the next level,” he said.
The college also plans to make a big push toward out-of-state and international students, emboldened by a new law that gives state colleges more flexibility in how much tuition they charge those students. Out-of-state tuition for full-time students has been about $10,000 a year, more than three times what in-state students pay. Broward College plans to lower that, but hasn’t decided by how much, Shulman said.
Once considered a niche market offered mostly by for-profit colleges, online education has gained mainstream acceptance with the growth of public providers, including Colorado State University and the University of Massachusetts.
“There is a ton of competition in higher education at the moment, and it is almost all based on online education,” Shulman said. “It’s a very important area for the college to have a strong presence in.”
While the new UF program, which starts in January, will have cheaper tuition than traditional classes, most other online programs in the state charge a fee on top of regular tuition. Broward College charges a $27 per class distance learning fee, cheaper than Palm Beach State ($36), Miami Dade College ($45) Florida Atlantic University ($111) andFlorida International University ($174).
Despite perceptions that online education is cheaper due to savings in building and utility costs, Shulman said they actually cost schools more due to expenses such as networkingequipment, software and a 24-hour help desk.
Shulman said the college is trying to provide more free online textbooks for students to help offset the costs.