NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 12, 2006

While overall higher-education enrollment in the United States is virtually stagnant, online enrollment is skyrocketing, and the recent repeal of a federal rule requiring colleges to provide at least half of their instruction on campus will boost it more, says Daniel Golden of the Wall Street Journal.

By early 2008, one out of 10 college students will be enrolled in an online degree program, Boston-based market research firm Eduventures estimated last year. Already the numbers are impressive:

  • At the University of Massachusetts, online enrollment has quadrupled to 9,200 students since 2001.
  • At the University of Illinois' Springfield campus, 42 percent are taking at least one online course this semester, and online enrollment is up 30 percent.
  • Pennsylvania State University has 5,691 students taking online courses, up 18 percent from the prior fiscal year.
  • The University of Maryland University College, the open-enrollment arm of the state university, had 51,405 online students in fiscal 2005, up from 9,696 in 1998.

Public schools are driving much of the growth. Overcoming skepticism among some faculty members, state universities are capitalizing on their traditional advantages -- quality education at affordable prices -- to attract a nontraditional student body: online learners who often live out of state.

This growth has cut into the market share of for-profit schools like University of Phoenix. But Brian Mueller, president of Apollo Group Inc., which operates the university, predicts that demand for online education "is going to so outstrip the supply in the next five years" that there's room for all comers.

Source: Daniel Golden, "," Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2006

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