The University of Florida has introduced five new online degree programs, and if the Florida Board of Governors approves the idea, will be charging students market-rate tuition.
A charge of market-rate tuition will allow the institution to charge more to out-of-state students based on the market value of each degree.
While some degrees may actually lose the college money through a market-rate tuition schedule, three out of five of the new degrees offered at UF have a market price higher than what the university is currently charging. Those three degree programs a master of science with a concentration in medical microbiology and biochemistry, a master of arts in medicine, and a master of science in pharmacy.
Two of the programs, the doctor of pharmacy and doctor of medicine degrees, would be offered at a lesser rate than the current cost to bring the programs in line with what other universities are charging, allowing the institution to better compete for students.
If approved, the programs will be introduced throughout 2015, beginning with the master's degree in arts of medical arts in January.
The market-rate tuition plan was introduced four years ago in a pilot program by the Board of Governors, allowing schools to submit up to five new programs each year for consideration. The goal of the program was to see if schools could charge enough money for an online graduate program to make the degree self-sustaining.
The program was supposed to end in 2013, but was extended an additional two years. At the end of that time the Board of Governors will assess the success of the program.
"What the market rate allows us to do is earn excess revenue for these programs without being held to a strict cost recovery process," Provost Joe Glover said.
The university has also decided not to offer a political science degree online. The department voted against the idea after concerns arose about quality amid the state's changing leadership.
UF Online is geared toward first-time-in-college students, or students between the ages of 18 and 22, rather than adult learners.
Ultimately, staff members did not come to the conclusion to not offer the political science program due to feelings about online courses, as the department currently offers online versions of several of its courses. Faculty members did not approve of putting an entire program entirely online, many of whom were not sure about the quality of an online education. In the end, about 2/3 of faculty members had voted against offering an online degree program.
"We felt that there were so many things [students] weren't going to be exposed to," said senior faculty member Kenneth D. Wald, listing in-class debates, specialized upper-level courses and face-to-face mentoring. "It was going to be effectively a second-class degree."