A stand-alone, online-only branch of the University of Arkansas System for the first time began taking applications on Tuesday. The UA System is hoping the new offering will put a dent in the roughly 350,000 Arkansans that at one time started college but didn’t finish.
On the first morning of enrollment the UA Sytstem’s Vice President for Academic Affairs said there’s already evidence of “pent up demand.”
“The response has been fantastic. We’re over double digits in our applications just this morning.” Moore said he thinks people want the “quality that comes along with the name University of Arkansas System. A lot of providers with online degrees are for-profits and tend to be very expensive. People would rather have a degree from a brand they recognize.”
The eVersity is intended to be a cheaper, more flexible option for non-traditional students. Dr. Moore touts that the cost of eVersity’s education is only tied to the courses in which one’s enrolled.
“Tuition is very simply to understand, we keep it at $165 per credit hour and we actually lock you into that price the entire time you take courses with us. There’s no additional fees, no lab fees, no building fees, no intramural fees, no book fees,” said Moore.
Unlike traditional campuses with fall, spring, and summer semesters eVersity’s enrollment period will be year-round. The first of seven, six-week terms is scheduled to begin in January.
There were some initial reservations from existing UA campuses, such as UALR which has a high percentage of non-traditional students and enrollment in online courses. Previously Chancellor Joel Anderson has said it could have potentially adverse effects on UALR. Enrollment concerns extend to staffing; one of eVersity’s first three hires was UALR’s former Director of Financial Aid Tammy Harrison.
However, UALR's Interim Director of eLearning David Montague said he doesn't hold any concerns about competition from eVersity.
“No, not at all. There are several entities within the UA System that teach online. We’ve been doing it a very long time,” said Montague. “The goal is the same for all of us, to educate as many Arkansans as possible and improve this state.”
Montague said UALR already offers an online experience that doesn't have the fees associated when enrolled on-campus.
“We also have what we call the fully online campus. The brand name for that is UALR Online. We actually have, if you take a course from UALR Online you’ll notice that if you sign up for one of the fully online programs you actually do have a reduced flat rate tuition. It’s much cheaper than if you were taking courses face to face and online combined. So, it’s much cheaper and there’s no fees,” said Montague.
The launch of eVersity as a new institution under the UA System umbrella follows the Clinton School of Public Service in 2004. It's been in the works since a 2012 resolution by the UA System Board of Trustees.