The University of Florida’s Online Bait and Switch

Florida’s flagship state university has an innovative new admissions program: force people to study online as their only chance for admission into the school.

According to an article in the Washington Post:

Some 3,100 students accepted as freshman by the University of Florida for the fall got a big surprise along with their congratulations notices: They were told that the acceptance was contingent on their agreement to spend their first year taking classes online as part of a new program….

The… applicants accepted this way to the university — above and beyond the approximately 12,000 students offered traditional freshman slots — did not apply to the online program. Nor were they told that there was a chance that they would be accepted with the online caveat. They wound up as part of an admissions experiment.

UFloridaOnline

Welcome to the future of college admissions. American college students will no longer be merely accepted, rejected or wait-listed at college. Now there is a third option. Apparently they can be University of Phoenix-ed.

They can be told that they might be able to get into the college that they want, eventually, but only if they pay $4,700 for the program and take it in an unpleasant, untested way.

It’s really a very creative move on University of Florida’s part, but it’s pretty terrible for students.

Many state colleges and universities have had something a little like this for decades. Marginal students are sometimes allowed to attend the school through a year-long period of enrollment in a college of continuing education, the non-degree granting open admissions schools run to provide classes for members of the local community. They’re sort of like community colleges. It’s long been a good way for people who, say, didn’t earn good high school grades to still get into good colleges. It’s also usually a specific agreement between the university and the student (and the credits transfer automatically), so it’s safer than attending another school and attempting to transfer.

But the forced online option is trouble for one specific reason: online college has a notoriously low completion rate. It’s pretty hard for students to focus closely enough to earn an entire year of college credits online. And students forced into this program also won’t be able to enroll somewhere else, so the program could actually reduce their chances of ever graduating from college, anywhere.

Note that all students already have the option to go the University of Florida online. If they want to do that they can just apply. The fact that they aren’t doing this indicates that it’s probably not an option that interests them.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer