Boston Herald - Online course selection keeps UMass wired for revenue

Boston Herald - Online course selection keeps UMass wired for revenue

By Marie Szaniszlo -

At an average cost to students of up to twice as much as a traditional class, the University of Massachusetts' online course selection has become one of its biggest moneymakers in the midst of a growing budget crunch, UMass President Jack M. Wilson said yesterday.

The university's online classes now have more than 20,000 enrollees and produce more than $20 million in revenue annually.

"We're meeting a huge need," Wilson said in a meeting yesterday with the Herald's editorial board, "but also we're producing needed revenue."

Most of those students are between the ages of 25 and 45 and work full time, he said.

Many are seeking advanced degrees and are willing to pay nearly double the price of a regular class for the convenience of taking it online, Wilson said.

Although both classes have the same admissions requirements and the same curriculum, a master's of business administration course, for example, costs roughly $2,000 online, compared to $1,000 on campus, he said.

The extra revenue online courses are generating comes at a time when state funding for UMass's $2.2 billion, five-campus system has been slashed to 20 percent, despite badly needed infrastructure improvements, Wilson said.

"Where we'd love some investment from the state is in fixing some of the buildings they haven't in the past," he said, mentioning the UMass-Boston's garage, which also serves as the foundation for several buildings.

To save money for such projects, UMass has done away with its practice of having separate payroll and student information systems at each of its five campuses, Wilson said.

Date: 5/17/06