Arkansas colleges look to boost online programs

Officials said increased online offerings may boost graduation rates.

online-learningArkansas education officials say there’s a push among colleges around the state to boost online offerings as a way to help improve graduation rates.

Director Brett Powell of the state’s Department of Higher Education said that online programs are important for adults with families who must plan their courses around work schedules and family responsibilities.

An estimated 350,000 Arkansas adults have taken some college courses but haven’t earned a degree, according to a recent report by the Lumina Foundation, which seeks to increase the number of people with higher education credentials.

“There has been a renewed emphasis on improving the college attainment rate, whether certificates or degrees, of adult Arkansans, and online education is an important component of that effort,” Powell told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The new online-only eVersity, managed by the University of Arkansas System, is set to open to students in October. It’s a stand-alone school that will offer one six-week, online course at a time to adults seeking to finish a degree.

Other schools around the state also are shoring up their online programs.

The University of Central Arkansas in Conway is offering two undergraduate degrees specifically designed for students who have some college education but have stopped. They are a bachelor of science in professional studies and a general business major.

School spokeswoman Christina Madsen said the college has offered graduate-level courses for years online but is now tapping into the undergraduate degree market.

Arkansas State University has submitted letters of notification to the state’s Higher Education Department to offer more undergraduate degree programs and at least one more graduate degree program online in the coming academic year, said Thilla Sivakumaran, the executive director of global initiatives.

Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,

Copyright 2015 and distributed by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Laura Ascione