A vote Thursday by the trustees of the University of Arkansas System approved plans to open an online-only university by the fall of 2015. Plans have been in the works since 2012 but officials now have the go ahead for more intensive planning for what is being called eVersity.
System President Dr. Donald Bobbitt said the funding for existing UA campuses and their online components will not be affected.
“We were very frank with the trustees. We have no intention of submitting the student semester credit hours that we generate at the eVersity to the state for formula funding. That means that the amount of money the state is spending on higher ed right now and distributed to each of the campuses, not just those at the U of A System but across the state, we really don’t have an interest in that. If we can’t make it go with tuition dollars that we’re going to charge then we’re not going to be able to offer that program or we’ll have to close the doors,” said Bobbitt.
He argued it won’t siphon off students already enrolled in online classes at existing universities.
“My expectation and our experience, the experience not only of us but others in other states, is that these completely online students who tried college and perhaps weren’t successful for a variety of reasons, they are not going to come to a traditional campus. Our initial assumption is, and I think it’s based upon some sound evidence, is that these will be net new students that we will attract,” said Bobbitt.
He argued the competition will primarily be against online-only for-profit universities. But Bobbitt does acknowledge there will be some overlap in online courses already offered by existing UA campuses. Bobbitt said the university may also pursue unconventional semesters, perhaps offering as many as eight different six week semesters a year.
The proposal passed without dissent from trustees.