Universities use online programs in uncertain future


The combination of bad publicity and stricter government oversight has slowed for-profits’ recent growth. In 2011, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Keiser University took the unusual step of switching its status from for-profit to nonprofit, but the school still had to contend with a Florida Attorney General’s office investigation that began before the switch.

Keiser last year agreed to a settlement with Attorney General Pam Bondi in which the school would offer free retraining to thousands of former students, while also changing its policies to add new consumer protections. At the same time that for-profits have struggled, traditional public and private colleges have aggressively expanded their menu of fully online degree programs.

But some schools, such as the University of Miami, have been hesitant to join the mad dash toward offering fully online degrees. UF has a staggering array of graduate-level online degrees — 70 in all.

This fall, UM will unveil its first online degree: a bachelor’s in general studies that targets adult learners who have some college experience and want to get enough credits to finally graduate.

“Overall, UM sees itself as coming cautiously to this party, and wanting to look very carefully at what the implications are for making the shift to online learning,” said Rebecca Fox, UM’s dean of continuing and international education.