Colorado State Approves New Online University to Increase Access for Underserved Groups


Note: CSU-Colorado has been changed to CSU-Global Campus

The Colorado State University Board of Governors today approved the creation of a new online university within the CSU System designed to bring the excellence of one of the nation’s top public research universities to those distant from campus.

Larry Edward Penley, chancellor of the Colorado State University System, spearheaded the new university, called CSU-Colorado, to offer students an online learning program that is driven by market and job demands.

"Colorado needs flexible and local access to advanced education if we want an educated citizenry," said Penley. "A working adult with a family wants to go to school in a convenient way that allows him or her to work, raise a family and improve his or her career potential. CSU-Colorado is directed at this type of individual."

To dramatically increase access to public higher education, CSU and the Colorado Community College System are working together to ensure that associate degree students have four-year and advanced degree options in their communities.

"As a 21st century land-grant institution, Colorado State is committed to its outreach mission of dramatically increasing access to a high-quality education in Colorado without the infrastructure costs of a traditional campus," Penley said. "To address the Colorado paradox and substantially increase opportunities for Colorado residents, we must reach broader student populations, particularly those who are geographically isolated or fall into non-traditional categories because of family, work and financial need."

"The Colorado Community College System is pleased to partner with CSU in providing an opportunity for our graduates to pursue a respected baccalaureate degree without the additional cost of relocation," said Nancy McCallin, Colorado Community College System president. "The ability for the faculty from both institutions to collaborate on the design and implementation of programs specifically designed to meet the unique needs of Colorado communities is a win for everyone but most importantly for the students of Colorado."

CSU-Colorado will also target non-traditional students who are qualified for and capable of earning an advanced degree, but do not want, or cannot afford, the traditional university experience. A growing number of postsecondary students in the state are nontraditional. They include those who are single parents, self-supporting, working part-time, working full-time while enrolled in school and/or geographically isolated.

"Serving Colorado’s educationally underserved population enables economic growth, which is a critical piece of Colorado State University’s land-grant mission," said Lou Swanson, vice provost for Outreach and Strategic Partnerships at CSU in Fort Collins. "The CSU online learning program, working with Colorado’s community colleges, businesses, government agencies, non-profit communities and Colorado’s learners, will give us the ability to quickly assemble high-quality educational programs that fit real-time needs with world-class curriculum design, development and online technology."

CSU-Colorado will seek independent degree granting authority and full accreditation, enabling it to more quickly adapt curriculum and degrees to meet changing needs of the state’s employers and make courses more relevant to the workforce.

CSU-Colorado expects to begin enrolling students as early as the second quarter of 2008 with classes beginning in the third quarter. Additional baccalaureate, master’s degree and professional development programs are scheduled to debut continuously. Courses will normally run eight weeks; high-enrollment programs eventually will begin every four weeks.

Public universities that have launched similar online learning programs, such as the University of Massachusetts, have demonstrated they can generate significant cash flows, and that their online education programs can be a significant source of funds for their systems.  In addition, in a recent Sloan Consortium report, studies indicate that high-quality online programs are as effective – if not more effective – than classroom instruction.

Demand for higher education in the state is expected to more than double over the next 20 years with population growth. One recent study suggests that distance education will absorb much of this growth and is expected to grow at a compounded rate of 33 percent.

"Colorado – like every other state – cannot afford to build enough four-year university campuses to meet the current or future education growth and economic development needs of the state," Penley said. "Today’s technology and proven online teaching and learning techniques enable a new form of university extension, leveraging our current academic resources. Colorado needs such innovative solutions or we will face increasing numbers of poorly educated young people with inadequate skills."

Enhancing statewide outreach is among the aggressive goals set by Penley through the university’s strategic plan and recent reorganization.