Thompson continues to push for a system-wide online education program


University of Wisconsin Interim System President Tommy Thompson continues his efforts to push for a system-wide approach to online education. Thompson says a unified front on behalf of all campuses in the UW system is the best way to compete with the high-spending out-of-state colleges in Wisconsin to attract working adults to take classes.

At a UW board meeting on Thursday, Thompson sounded the alarm bells about increased competition for working adults with college credit but without a degree.

“The barbarians are at the door,” said Thompson. “The State of Arizona, the governors of the west and the University of Southern New Hampshire are important, they come to advertise. And they host about, I would say, 35-40% of our students. ”

According to a UW System review of 25 online programs with the highest enrollment in Wisconsin in the 2018-19 school year, UW System campuses made up 37% of the total. Wisconsin technical colleges enrolled 32 percent while out-of-state universities enrolled 37 percent.

Anny Morrobel-Sosa, UW System vice president for academic and student affairs, said national census data shows there are about 815,000 residents with college credits but no degrees. Of those, she said about 300,000 indicated they were pursuing online courses.

“These 300,000 are indeed those who wish to continue their studies through certificates, micro-diplomas or non-credit vocational training, while others are indeed interested in obtaining a diploma,” he said. declared Morrobel-Sosa.

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She told the regents that these students want an “unbundled” education, which means they can earn the degrees needed for career advancement without committing to longer study programs. She said that over the past four years, the competitive environment for online education has become more crowded, “presenting a greater threat to our institutions and our system.”

“We need to recognize the need to involve these working adults more and to be more responsive to their professional aspirations and those of the employer and the business community,” said Morrobel-Sosa.

The state’s 13 universities and branch campuses have offered online degree programs for years, but Thompson told the regents he believed all the funds he could get from state lawmakers to expand the Online courses would be better spent in centralized online programs like the UW Extended Campus. That way, UW will have a better chance of competing with universities that spend hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing campaigns in states like Wisconsin.

“And I’m not even sure we’ll be able to do it,” Thompson said. “But at least if we don’t start, we don’t stand a chance at all.”

In his first budget request to head the UW System, Thompson asked for $ 15 million to expand online education.


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