UMass Generates Over $78 Million in Revenue from Online Programs

Online classes are growing rapidly at the University of Massachusetts (UMass), with the school offering more than 120 online degrees and certificate programs. It’s showing up on the balance sheet, too: UMass President Robert L. Caret said that the university is generating more than $78 million in revenue annually from its online education programs.

Caret made his remarks ahead of a presentation on the online program in Amherst to the board of trustees eager to hear a report about the state of online education. The board is expected to approve a five-year $3.8 billion capital plan, writes Diane Lederman of The Republican, in the midst of a changing higher education landscape.

UMass launched its online division in 2011 and currently it now supports more than 59,000 enrollments in the 1,500 courses offers each year — one of the largest online programs in the country.

The university offers no online degrees. Student can apply to a particular campus and can access the online program, and the university allows students to take a mix of classes or opt to have their education all on-line.

Trustee Margaret D. Xifaras, who is the head of the committee on online education, said having the program “helps to fulfill access.”

John Cunningham, chief executive officer for UMassOnline, provided an overall update and campus representatives talked about various ways in which online education is used. “The courses are coming from the campuses. We don’t compromise (on quality,)” Cunningham said. And he said that 92 percent of the revenue remains on the campus where the course originated while 8 percent pays to run the program.

Professors are, overall, satisfied with the performance of online programs. According David J. Gross, who teaches to biochemistry, he “has reduced the amount of in person class time for his upper level biochemistry class but having an online class allows him to provide more one on one attention.”

Gross noted that students did 12% better on the identical material in a blended class compared to only an in person traditional class. He has created an online interactive textbook for the class that is free to his students.

Cunningham said they are looking at having classes offered from one campus that could be taken by students on different campuses that would satisfy common course requirements. This would “get the highest quality (of education) and eliminate redundancy.”

UMass is not raising its in-state tuition next year at all campuses, thanks to a timely increase in state aid. According to Peter Schworm writing for The Boston Globe, this is the first time that the system won’t be imposing a tuition hike in more than a decade.

The legislature voted to approve a higher education budget that is 17% greater than it was last year following years of cuts. Five years ago, before state revenues took a hit due to the impact of the worldwide recession, state funding covered more than 55% of public universities’ operating cost while student tuition covered the rest. In 2012, the percentages were reversed.