Several Texas colleges are using private recruiters for online classes

He stressed the professors and curriculum are “100 percent ours.” A separate spinoff company, Instructional Connections, provides online teaching assistants, but they’re hired subject to UTA’s approval.

UTA student Ha Nguyen, 33, is earning her bachelor’s nursing degree online through Academic Partnerships. She was skeptical at first. Would the online classes be watered down? (No.) Could she learn without having professors lecture in person? (Yes.) Now she’s a fan of the program, though she said it’s not for everyone.

“You’ve got to be really self-disciplined and very motivated to get through the program,” she said. The on-campus program lasts two years, while the online one is compressed into 15 months. Like traditional students, she does clinical rounds in a hospital setting to get hands-on experience.

The bachelor’s of science degree in nursing through Academic Partnerships costs $16,332, about $1,400 less than what a student in the traditional on-campus program would pay.

The approach hasn’t always received warm welcomes.

In Ohio, the University of Toledo and Cuyahoga Community College dropped plans to partner with Academic Partnerships because of faculty opposition, according to news reports.

Toledo professors feared the partnership with the company, then known as Higher Ed Holdings, would “commodify students and curriculum in a way that violated the university mission,” Inside Higher Ed wrote in 2009.

At Arkansas State University, one professor called the arrangement a “scam,” saying the university had chosen “quantity over quality.”

In those cases, though, professors also objected because they felt they had been left out of the process. Officials interviewed at UTA and Lamar said that’s not the case and that their faculty have been on board.

Academic Partnerships has approached other universities, including UT-Pan American and UT-El Paso, administrators there say. They’re considering such partnerships but haven’t committed to anything.

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