Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Arizona State Makes College Credit More Attainable Than Ever

Last week, The New York Times published an article about a new online education initiative that just might change the way we approach getting a college degree. Arizona State University has partnered  with edX, a non-profit online enterprise founded by both M.I.T. and Harvard, to create a program that will offer one full year of university credit to anyone in the world with Internet access and a desire to continue their education. This "Global Freshman Academy" will consist of MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, which have been offered by many colleges and universities before (Harvard and M.I.T. being just two examples). The difference this time is that Arizona State's MOOCs will now count for college credit and can equal up to a full freshman year under the school's respectable moniker. And the deal gets even better: Each credit hour will only cost $200, and students will not have to pay in full until they actually pass (and get credit for) the course. This means that, in total, a year's worth of college courses will cost less than $6,000.

For anyone who has wanted to continue their education but has lacked the means to do so, this offering is an ideal set-up. "Leave your G.P.A., your SATs, your recommendations at home," says Anant Agarwal, the chief executive of edX. "If you have the will to learn, just bring your Internet connection and yourself, and you can get a year of college credit." This concept of democratizing higher education comes in response to the concern of many individuals who are confronted with the exclusivity of higher education; many people feel that college is unattainable. The Global Freshman Academy with ASU has now turned that notion on its head, making policy experts hopeful that this could be the beginning of an entirely new educational era.

This isn't the first time that Arizona State has made an attempt to be more inclusive to students. Last year, they partnered with Starbucks to offer employees of the coffee franchise an opportunity to complete their degree online and free of charge at ASU using subsidies from Starbucks itself. It was always important to the university that their students would receive credit for whatever online courses they would be taking. Elite universities like Harvard offer hundreds of classes online for free, but no credit is given, and usually the students are people who have already completed their degrees; as a result, completion rates are statistically low. ASU and edX are hopeful that the Global Freshman Academy will attract a new class of student, one who is actively interested in pursuing higher education and earning a college degree, but who has, until now, been unable to do so.

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