Champlain College will slash tuition by half for online undergraduate degrees and certifications in an effort to boost digital enrollment.
Starting this fall, the cost for online learning will be $318 per credit, college president Donald Laackman announced at a press conference Tuesday. Many adults have the ambition to earn a post-secondary degree, Laackman said, quoting results from a Champlain-commissioned national survey conducted last year.
"But they view college as out of reach due to costs and student debt," he said. "We call this the hope gap."
Champlain aims to increase enrollment in computer-delivered courses from the current 3,500 to around 5,000 over the next few years.
About 2,200 traditional students are enrolled at Champlain and attend courses in person on its Hill Section campus in Burlington. Their tuition is $40,000 a year, which brings the sticker price for a bachelor's degree to about $160,000, although many receive financial aid.
Online students who enroll at the discounted rate would pay around $38,000 total to earn a four-year degree.
Laackman predicted that because of the price cut, three to five positions would be added to the 50 or so people who currently work in the college's not-for-profit digital school, known as Champlain College Online. Many of the faculty who teach online courses live elsewhere, and some will be asked to add courses, he said. So the expansion won't necessarily affect local faculty hiring.
Champlain established an online branch in 1993 and now offers some 60 online degrees and certifications. Accounting, cybersecurity and health care administration are among the most popular degrees.
Nationally, some critics of online education have pointed to dismal graduation rates and, in some cases, high levels of student debt among people who never finish degree or certification programs.
Laackman said the expansion will not undermine quality. The college's online curriculum is designed by Champlain faculty, and students are guided by Champlain advisors, he said, adding that it's not a "prepackaged"
About 670 Vermont students are enrolled in Champlain's online degree programs, and the college hopes to grow that by at least 125 next year. Other states with significant enrollment are California, Maryland and Texas.