Daily Hampshire Gazette: UMassOnline is outpacing rivals on all fronts

Daily Hampshire Gazette: UMassOnline is outpacing rivals on all fronts

UMassOnline is beating its rivals both in revenues and enrollments, the University of Massachusetts announced last week.

The three-year-old distance-learning program for the five campuses is thriving, officials said in an annual report meant to gauge the program's progress.

Revenues for the program, supported by each of the five campuses, grew by 39 percent, to $12.7 million from $9.1 million, while enrollments reached 14,787, up from 11,239 the previous year. Statistics have been calculated for this fiscal year based on enrollments in the summer, fall and spring semesters.

UMassOnline is outpacing rival distance-learning programs, according to the "The Survey of Distance & CyberLearning Programs in Higher Education, 2004 Edition," which reports that revenues of national college distance-learning programs' revenues increased by a mean of 9.67 percent and enrollments increased by 27.64 percent in 2003.

"We are very involved in a number of wonderful programs that are showing very, very strong growth," said Leslie Granese, director of marketing for UMassOnline in a telephone interview from Boston.

UMassOnline currently offers 37 graduate and undergraduate programs online, including more than 300 courses, through the continuing education departments at UMass Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell. At Amherst, 58 percent of the students are enrolled in graduate courses and 42 percent in undergraduate courses. Throughout the UMass system, the ratio is reversed with 66 percent in undergraduate courses and 33 percent in graduate courses.

The program has a national and international scope, she said. About 75 percent of inquiries come from outside Massachusetts, and enrollment is worldwide.

Each campus provides specific courses and programs for UMassOnline, with Amherst leading the way in business, nursing and public health, and hospitality and tourism management.

"The (Isenberg) School of Management online is one of our marquee programs. They are growing rapidly and are very successful, very professional," she said. Doctors, dentists and other well-educated, busy professionals with families find the online programs to be ideal for their needs, she said. "They are very interested in getting the skill set and credentials but are not able to go on the road and drive to a class at night," she explained.

Nursing professionals also appreciate the program, she said.

"The convenience is a wonderful perk, but the quality of the program is why I am ultimately there," said Jennifer Morton, a registered nurse in Maine whom Granese described as a "full-time, working mom." Morton is enrolled the UMass Amherst online master's of science in nursing and public health dual degree program.

Professors receive special training in developing and teaching online courses.

"Providing high-quality distance learning continues to be central to the UMass mission of serving the community here in Massachusetts and beyond," said UMass President Jack M. Wilson, in a prepared statement. "The dramatic growth in UMass Online enrollment and revenue is evidence that the University of Massachusetts is meeting a critical need and that our faculty and campuses are fully engaged in highly innovative, collaborative efforts to create new learning options for our citizens."

Wilson, who became UMass president a week ago, came to Massachusetts in 2001 as the first director of UMassOnline. The current interim director is David Gray. The Web site is www.UMassOnline.net.

Cheryl B. Wilson can be reached at cwilson@gazettenet.com

Date: 04/07/04