UMass Working to Expand Online Course Offerings


Incoming University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan recently met with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in an effort to encourage the public university system to expand on their online course offerings.

Meehan met with the governor and state Education Secretary James Peyser for 30 minutes.  The conclusion of that meeting was that increasing online learning opportunities, including certificate courses required by by certain businesses and industries, is “an economic development issue.”

“It’ll help make the economy more robust and grow jobs,” he said. “It’ll help companies. So we’re going to expand it right across the board at UMass. The secretary of education mentioned we should look to expand it in our community colleges and state universities as well, which I’m hoping to do because we do have the infrastructure to do that at UMass.”

According to school data, 53% of graduating students at UMass Lowell took at least one online course last year, which Baker referred to as a “win-win” for schools and students.  Students benefit from the reduced cost, and schools benefit from the additional students who enroll in the courses, writes Marie Szaniszlo for The Boston Herald.  Baker added that online courses offer students more flexibility to add courses to their schedules.

“If you’re a working kid or a working adult who wants to pursue a degree, the opportunity to take a class when you can take it on an online basis and not have to take when it would disrupt your job or other parts of your life is a good thing,” Baker said.

Baker went on to say that he was impressed that the college brings in about $40 million in online courses each year, adding that he is “a big believer in a three-year degree program.”  He said that he would like to see more universities take on a practice similar to Northeastern University’s co-op system, which has students attending traditional classes while also gaining real-world work experience.

Meehan said he was committed to ensuring that UMass will become one of the premier public-education systems in the country, rivaling that of the University of California system.  At the same time he hopes to keep tuition and fees as low as he can, although he could not report a specific amount, reports Steve LeBlanc for The Lowell Sun.

“I just think, it’s not transparent and our billing system lacks integrity when students and parents get a bill that says tuition is $2400 and fees are $8900. So we want tuition retention,” he said.

UMass has around 73,000 students throughout its campuses in Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell and a medical school in Worcester.