Arkansas’ only 100 percent online university is ready to go global. That’s the assessment of administrators who say while the three-year-old eVersity isn’t quite a global brand – yet – all the pieces are there.
“Do we have the bones in place? Yes, I think the framework is there,” said Dr. Michael Moore, vice president for academic affairs at University of Arkansas System. “We have a very innovative institution that I think is prepared to continue to grow.”
The impetus for the institution was to improve Arkansas’ woeful college degree attainment ranking. Nationally the state ranks 49th on that measurement with an estimated 350,000 residents who have completed some college but never finished. Even though the state’s colleges and universities already offered online options, eVersity was constructed specifically with these students in mind.
“eVersity was intentionally designed to serve a very, very specific kind of student,” Moore said. “The broad parameters are that it’s the state’s only 100 percent public online university. Does that mean that we’re the only people operating 100 percent online degrees? It doesn’t mean that at all. But what it does mean is that we are the only people that have thought about what a university should look like to serve that population, adult learners.”
“And, more specifically, an online university that is trying to serve a particular population of adult learners who have complicated, busy lives.”
Beyond the quality of instruction, the primary drivers for such an institution, Moore said, are time and cost. Unlike regular online programs, eVersity allows students to take only one six-week class at a time to help ensure completion and help students from becoming overextended. The institution supports a liberal credit transfer policy and it’s also a far more affordable option than most, at the all-in price of just $165 per credit hour with no additional fees or book charges.
“The tagline we like to use a lot is ‘College should be hard, but going to college shouldn’t be,’” Moore said. “What we mean by that is, classes ought to be demanding and rigorous, very challenging. You ought to be proud of the degree you earn because you’re really going to have to work hard for it in the classroom.”
“But the process of going to school should not be difficult. It ought to be easy. What you need is a way to finish your degree with as few obstacles as possible.”
Early returns show the eVersity model to be enormously successful. Moore said 94 percent of students pass their classes and after completing one course, 87 percent re-enroll for another. Moreover, students are averaging almost one full letter grade higher over their previous college GPA.
“That speaks volumes about the support that we’re providing our students and the efforts that we go to to keep them engaged and moving forward toward their degrees,” Moore said.
Earlier this year, the program earned accreditation through Distance Education Accreditation Commission, the leading accrediting body for online institutions, which allows students to apply for federal financial aid and lends luster to the degree for employers. Moore said this attainment is a major turning point in the short history of eVersity, but far from the last.
“What was limited to only in-state students is now available to anybody in the world,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of applications from out-of-state yet, because we’ve just started making those marketing pushes, but we do have applications starting to come in. Anyone located anywhere can apply to eVersity and take advantage of this new format, this new opportunity.”
“We are constantly looking on the horizon to try to find those innovative practices out there that can continue to bring value and support to our students. We’ve got lots of ideas that, when you’re building something from the ground up, you kind of have to put on the parking lot. Now that we’re starting to get a little more experience, we’re circling back to some of these really cool ideas that we have and finding ways to implement them.”