Cal State opens online degree program

The California State University (CSU) launched its new online degree program on Monday. “There are thousands and thousands of students who begin at a CSU campus but do not complete a degree because they get a job, make lifestyle changes or get a family,” CSU spokesperson Michael Uhlenkamp said.

Sean McMinn

The California State University (CSU) launched its new online degree program Monday, a venture the university system says will increase access for students throughout the country.

The CSU is marketing Cal State Online as a “degree-completion program” for students who have earned some college credit at a CSU, but cannot attend classes at a physical campus to finish their degree.

CSU spokesperson Michael Uhlenkamp said when California invests money in a student to begin their college education but that student does not graduate, it becomes a failed investment by the state.

“There are thousands and thousands of students who begin at a CSU campus but do not complete a degree because they get a job, make lifestyle changes or get a family,” Uhlenkamp said.

Cal Poly, however, has no plans to offer a degree through Cal State Online, according to Vice Provost of International, Graduate and Extended Education Brian Tietje. He explained that because of Cal Poly’s traditionally residential student population, the university decided to let other CSU campuses take the lead in online education.

Tietje did note, however, that Cal Poly offers one online graduate degree: a master of science in fire protection engineering. Students in that department have the option of taking classes at Cal Poly, but Tietje said many out-of-state students turn to the Internet because of its convenience. This, he said, will likely be the future of Cal State Online.

“I think it (Cal State Online) will complement what’s happening at the campuses,” he said. “It’s very important for many student populations that there be the flexibility that an online program affords — especially when you’re talking about returning adults and working professionals, or folks in the military who can’t be full-time students on campus.”

The first program officially available through Cal State Online is a bachelor’s degree in business administration that CSU Fullerton originally managed. As Cal State Online moves forward, other campuses will form a “collation of the willing” that will offer online programs for former CSU students, Uhlenkamp said.

“You’re just talking about moving online existing programs under Cal State Online so that there’s now that leading, cutting-edge technology and support,” Uhlenkamp said.

Cal State Online will support itself, Uhlenkamp said, which means the amount of money students pay to “attend” classes will fully fund the cost of operation. This cost includes hiring staff that will provide 24/7 student access to online support.

“You can take it at your own convenience,” Uhlenkamp said. “So if you have a job and you need to do five hours of work on a Saturday, you can do that.”

Though the university system has not yet set a price for tuition, Uhlenkamp said it will likely be somewhere between $400 and $500 per-unit. The per unit cost at the Fullerton program is $500, but the CSU Board of Trustees will take up the issue at its January meeting to examine a change.

There are approximately 60 online programs that CSU campuses operate, Uhlenkamp said, but the Fullerton degree is the only one offered by Cal State Online. Campuses at Dominguez Hills and Monterey Bay will both open new Cal State Online programs in the fall — one undergraduate and two graduate degrees from Dominguez Hills, and two graduate degrees from Monterey Bay.