Several Texas colleges are using private recruiters for online classes

More than 100,000 students have been recruited to online classes in Texas since 2007.

Several Texas public universities have turned to private companies to help enroll thousands more students — not for classes on campus, but online.

Some state leaders want to explore expanding that model. They see potential to educate more Texans at lower cost.

But others worry a massive online expansion could hurt academic quality, while sending millions of tuition dollars to for-profit ventures.

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“I would always have concerns about the quality in those circumstances,” said Peter Hugill, a geography professor at Texas A&M University and an officer with the American Association of University Professors. “What you’re risking doing is substantially lowering the quality of the overall education.”

With state universities under the gun to cut costs while enrolling and graduating more students, the discussion often turns to online education.

Gov. Rick Perry has challenged colleges to offer a $10,000 bachelor’s degree, with distance learning playing a role. The chairman of the University of Texas System board of regents has suggested boosting UT-Austin’s enrollment by about 18,000 undergraduates and slashing tuition charges — a goal that would likely require online classes.

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