The University of Florida has created a new online university, UF Online, to offer the nation's first fully online bachelor's degree programs starting in January 2014.
The online degree programs are starting with five majors: business administration, criminology and law, environmental management, health education and behavior, and sports management, according to Jerome R. Stockfisch of The Tampa Tribune.
Two more majors – biology and psychology – will be added in June 2014. Over the next five years, the university plans to add dozens more and anticipates topping out at 35. Classes start in January for those completing a bachelor's degree, with the first freshmen class expected next summer, according to a University of Florida statement.
On September 27, the state board of governors, which oversees the Florida public university system's 12 institutions, approved the business plan for UF Online.
Recently, UF appointed Elizabeth D. Betty Phillips, Arizona State University's provost and executive vice president and a former UF provost, as executive director of UF Online. The university, within 10 years, expects to be serving more than 24,000 online students, bringing in $77 million in revenue to the school and $15 million in profit. A staff of roughly 250 will serve the online operation.
"Many students have the academic skills to get into the University of Florida but haven't been able to attend, either because we don't have enough space on campus or because their life circumstances prevent them from leaving home," UF President Bernie Machen said. "This online undergraduate initiative removes both of those roadblocks, providing access to all students in Florida and around the world who have what it takes to be a Gator."
The application deadline for the 2014 freshman class is Nov. 1. Prospective students can apply for UF Online or the traditional on-campus program, but they cannot apply to both.
As part of the legislative mandate, UF Online will charge in-state students no more than 75% of the going rate for on-campus resident tuition. That works out to about $84 per credit hour, down from the $112 charged to on-campus students. Out-of-state students will pay the market rate, which university officials have estimated at $400 to $500 per credit hour.
"UF Online is a game changer for the delivery of public higher education in Florida and around the world," Weatherford said. "Starting next semester, distance will no longer be a barrier to obtaining a world-class education from a state university in Florida. I appreciate the leadership of President Machen, Ambassador John Rood and Vice Chair Carlos Alfonso to help make this online institute a reality."