Oakland Community College in Michigan will reduce its online course offerings this year by nearly a half because the college didn't get the course accreditation it sought from the Higher Learning Commission, one of the six regional institutions that set standards for online degrees and provide virtual campus college accreditation.
The school plans to re-apply for accreditation next year.
Michigan's largest community college sought virtual campus accreditation by the HLC that would enable the college to offer online degrees in addition to online courses. This did not happen, and as a result the school is withdrawing nearly half of its online courses.
Federal law states that the HLC has to authorize online programs when students take more than half of their courses virtually. That means if OCC students take more than half their courses online instead of in traditional classrooms, they won't be able to earn degrees.
The school will re-apply for accreditation next year, but for the time being about half of more than 250 course offerings will be removed.
Even though Oakland Community College is accredited to offer online courses, it has to provide campus-available services to its online students to be authorized to offer online degrees as well. Required services include tutoring, financial aid, bookstores and counselling services for online students.
A total of 3,000 students — 12% of all Oakland Community College students — take their courses online. OCC vice chancellor of external affairs Sharon Miller explained the move:
"We're going to reduce the number of offerings that we have for now, so that we can put those vital services in place for students."
DetroitNews reports that initially OCC faculty was told that all online courses would be cancelled, OCC spokeswoman Janet Roberts said. The school has yet to announce the exact number of online courses that will be cancelled.
Cathey Maze, OCC Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, reassured that there's room for online students to take courses in traditional classrooms during the winter term.
According to Patch.com, Mary Ann McGee, the President of OCC's Faculty Association, said that it is highly likely that the college will have to scrap most of its online offerings, something that will result:
"â¦ in an exodus of students as they look for other online learning options and exacerbating issues with declining enrollment," the article says.
"This is very inconvenient for students," McGee said. "We have enrollment issues already, steady decrease for several semesters â¦ This is just one more problem."
McGee says that OCC's enrollment has been on the decline since 2010. Presently the school has 24,000 enrolled students while five years ago OCC had more than 29,000 students.