Burck Smith wanted to give college students a way to earn course credits and kick-start their higher-education careers while slashing first-year college costs by more than half.

Smith, CEO of StraighterLine, introduced the online service this fall, giving adults resuming their education or recent high school graduates a chance to complete online classes that will transfer to colleges and universities across the United States.

Smith said the company would focus on general education, meaning StraighterLine will offer classes equivalent to those a college freshman or sophomore would have to complete before advancing to the final years of undergraduate studies.

Students can take a StraighterLine...

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