Skidmore Blames Economy as Its Online Degree Program Falters

Despite reports that the sagging economy may lead more students to enroll in online courses because they are cheaper and offer flexibility, Skidmore College's decades-old distance learning program may soon shutter its doors.

Skidmore's University Without Walls distance and online learning program first began in 1971 as an independent study and distance learning program. It has been losing more than US$100,000 a year since 2003, The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

University Without Walls costs full-time students about $6,300 per semester, compared to the $25,000 that regular residential students pay. The accredited program offers degrees in many disciplines, including computer science, chemistry, biology, business and art. Last year, the program had about 130 enrolled students, The Times Union reported.

School administrators mentioned that the program might be shut down last March, and students protested. They criticized administrators for not marketing the program well, The Times Union article stated.

"It's the wave of the future, so why quit before the miracle?" student Marc Gouran, 49, told The Times Union. "This is the direction education is going."

Skidmore's Dean of Special Programs, Jeff Seagraves chalked it up to the economic downfall.

"In these current very uncertain economic times, colleges, particularly ones like us, are facing very difficult strategic choices. Skidmore is too," he told The Saratogian News.

In a public forum two days ago, University Without Walls students and alumni expressed their distress over the possible closing.

"They're sad to see (that this could) pass," Seagraves said in the interview. "The program is for many of them a powerful moment in their careers and their lives."

Faculty will vote on the issue in a private meeting on February 27th.

Administrators at the University Without Walls did not respond to an Industry Standard request to speak with school officials or students.

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