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UC's For-Pay Online Course Draws 4 Non-UC Students 177

Posted by Soulskill
from the let-the-market-decide dept.
slew writes "In the shadow of Stanford and Harvard offering free on-line courses, The University of California has been attempting to offer pay-courses for credit. UC online took out a $6.9M loan from UC and spent $4.3M to market these courses. For their efforts, they've been able to quadruple their enrollment year over year. The first year results: only one person not already attending UC paid $1,400 for an online pre-calculus class worth four credits. Now four non-UC are signed up. 'UC Online has to pay back the loan in seven years and expected to sell 7,000 classes to non-UC students for $1,400 or $2,400 apiece, depending on each course's duration. China was thought to be a lucrative potential source of students, but few expressed interest. The U.S. military also fell through.' Methinks head will roll on this one..."
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UC's For-Pay Online Course Draws 4 Non-UC Students

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @05:56PM (#42524629)

    I could go full-time to my local community college for less than that. Hell, I could almost go full time to my local 4-year university for that (paying in-state tuition). And UC isn't even that prestigious.

    They seriously thought the Chinese were going to pay that kind of tuition, for a single course at the fucking University of California, that probably isn't even applicable to a degree? And the U.S. military? Hey, the military may be legendary for wasting money, but even they have limits.

    For that, you would think they would at least have offered a complimentary reach-around.

    • Agree 10000% (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chibi Merrow (226057) <[ten.ytinifniyeknom] [ta] [worremrm]> on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:02PM (#42524695) Homepage Journal

      It's been about six years since I've been in school, but even my most expensive semester of graduate school was only about $1750. Last I checked prices were still in the low $2000 range there. That's for 12+ credits (9+ credits in Graduate School), not a single 4 credit course.

      These big schools and their even bigger price tags. What the flying fsck are they smoking?

      • by hurfy (735314)

        I thought that sounded a bit rich. $1400 for ONE class ?!?

        I don't really think we need to say much more.

      • It's just a bit more pricey these days.

        I paid about $2000 for 20 credits at my local community college this quarter, and right now the 4 year college I want to go to charges about $4000 for 12 to 18 credits.

        So yeah, I'm not interested in their deal.
      • Re:Agree 10000% (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rgbscan (321794) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:38PM (#42525105) Homepage

        Well considering they only offer 4 classes, and have 6 more pending approval.... that's a very, very limited audience available. I mean, one of the classes offered is "The Joy of Computing". Really? I actually would be interested in this sort of thing, as an adult college student with my employer picking up a lot of the tab. The class selection really leaves something to be desired though! If I could really knock out most of my degree online thru them I'd be interested. Having 4 weird elective classes online isn't going to attract anyone.

      • Re:Agree 10000% (Score:5, Insightful)

        by magarity (164372) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:45PM (#42525183)

        These big schools and their even bigger price tags. What the flying fsck are they smoking?

        Not only that but they expected China to be a major market? Chinese students have US University level pre-calculus in elementary school.

        • Not only that but they expected China to be a major market? Chinese students have US University level pre-calculus in elementary school.

          Not only that, but thinking that China would be a major market for online classes shows a complete and utter lack of understanding of international students. One of the major reasons Chinese students go to American schools is so they can live in the US for several years. You can't get a student visa to take online classes.

      • by lymond01 (314120)

        And UC isn't even that prestigious.
        It's the best state school system in the U.S. Admittedly, the way the budgets are falling, it'll go private one of these years...

        These big schools and their even bigger price tags
        But you know, brick and mortar, textbooks, electri...oh, right. Online. You think there'd be some sort of discount. Especially for a class I took in Junior year of high school. I can see paying $1400 for a specialized course like Nuclear Physics or Laser Science. But pre-calc?

      • by neurovish (315867)

        At the University of Florida (a "best value" school), graduate tuition is $524.56 / credit hour for a resident. Undergrad is $204 / credit hour. Non-resident undergrad courses are....$947 / credit hour. Where did you go to school?

    • UOFP costs less then that and they offer more classes as well.

    • by Grashnak (1003791)

      They seriously thought the Chinese were going to pay that kind of tuition, for a single course at the fucking University of California, that probably isn't even applicable to a degree?

      I totally agree. I was very excited this morning to discover some predictive analysis graduate level courses online at Northwestern. I stayed excited right up until I spewed coffee all over myself when I saw that they wanted $3800 per course. I don't need that course to predict that I won't be taking it.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        A predictive analytics course at Northwestern is a different thing - that's trying to cash in on wall street traders and so forth, i.e. people who already have money. Top business schools can charge quite a bit to go teach courses at companies. "Cyber security" is the same way - if you can put together computer security and enterprise/national security in the right way you can charge a lot for a seminar or class.
      • that's the other Northwestern college is not the the big ten one.

    • Advertising (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PraiseBob (1923958) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @07:17PM (#42525519)
      Where on earth did they spend that huge advertising budget? They could've bought a superbowl ad, hundreds of regular tv spots, thousands of radio spots, tens of thousands of online impressions. But nobody here has even heard about it, including current UC students.

      Why pay so much when you can audit most courses for $10 - $200 at almost any university? Ivy League schools like Princeton charge a paltry $150. It is a tough sell getting someone to spend $1400 to audit a boring online course at a state school.
    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      Careful how you define 'course'.

      Typical tuition here is 7k-11k for a local student for 10 courses lasting 12 weeks each (4 month courses, 12 weeks of instruction + exams). If a 'course' is actually an 8 month then 1400 dollars per course is about right.

      Now the catch: Tuition for a foreign student is 20k/year. Ah ha. That's why the chinese market is so interesting. UC is a very prestigious school if you're in india or china, because even bad north american universities are way better than most of the sc

    • by daniel_mcl (77919)

      I dunno what you mean by "UC isn't even all that prestigious," but the Times Higher Education Supplement rated UC Berkeley as the #8 university in the world and #6 in the U.S., behind Caltech, Stanford, Harvard, MIT, and Princeton. In particular, they feel that it's better than the entire university system of every country that isn't the U.S. or the U.K. I'd say that's pretty good. UCLA is world-class as well, and UCSF is one of the top three or four medical schools in the world. Even the lesser-known cam

      • by bhiestand (157373)

        You're not allowed to mention UCLA, Irvine, and Riverside without giving UCSD some credit. They have some top ten programs, and have been doing lots of incredible research lately.

        I'd say depending on the student's level and area of study, UCSD and UCLA are roughly on par. I'd rather do engineering, biotech, or IR/PS at SD. Poli Sci is a toss-up depending on research focus. LA has a ton of great programs, too... and even the worst UCs are better than most universities.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In most civilized countries education is free not a commodity to be bought and sold, the market spoke and this universities education got handed the real market price, zero.

    • If you're poor and over 24; student aid in America is quite generous
      • So if people can manage to not starve to death for 6 years or so, they're set?
    • they also have more trades schools / apprenticeships as well. Not just one size fit's all college systems.

  • by 3vi1 (544505) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:05PM (#42524741) Homepage Journal

    I'm not sure how they justify the cost, when it probably costs them all of $20 to manage the average online student. I guess people realize this, and for that kind of money they want the *full* college experience with hazing and all that.

    I'll just stick with Coursera - it's free and awesome, (As long as you just want the knowledge and don't care about credits.)

    • I'll just stick with Coursera - it's free and awesome, (As long as you just want the knowledge and don't care about credits.)

      Unfortunately that "not caring about credits" is what is going to eventually cripple the university system. The free MOOCs are widening education, but they're liable to draw a fair amount of custom out of the paid-for distance education sector, which means that the free stuff is going to increase the cost of accredited education in the medium term.

      And even leaving aside the matter of credit points and certificates, a MOOC is not equivalent to a good paid-for online course, because the assessment is far mor

  • by LF11 (18760) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:11PM (#42524797) Homepage

    What the hell? Full classroom price for an online course? Are they serious? Who do they think they are? The RIAA?

    Also, as a non-UC student, this is wildly useless to me. Free courses are excellent because they can help me through my existing classwork, or I can participate just to enrich my own learning.

    For-credit is useless unless that credit applies at my own university. It might, but it would be a hassle to figure it out, and I am ALREADY paying full tuition at my university. Why would I pay another $1,400 for another class AND have to figure out if it transfers?

    Terrible idea at a terrible price point.

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      What the hell? Full classroom price for an online course? Are they serious? Who do they think they are? The RIAA?

      Of course not! The RIAA would charge double for the privilege of online classes. Then go cry to the government when they got only four students, who they would sue for copyright infringement (they're obviously uploading all their valuable knowledge to the limetorrentz or pirate bays), before finally deciding that on-the-job training should be made illegal because it horns in on their monopoly.

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      It should be much more than normal tuition because you can study in the comfort of your home and don't have to get up in the morning!

      After all the UC system isn't about education, it's about money.

      • by LF11 (18760)

        Well then, I won't be crying crocodile tears for their multimillion dollar bad idea...

  • Few problems with paid courses approach.

    First, there are free alternatives out there, like Coursera, that offer the same thing.

    Second, consumer sees value in credentials, not education. Kinds of people that tend to value knowledge are more than capable of gaining it on their own. Kinds of people that would pay for education are only interested in acquiring credentials.
  • If the numbers are anywhere near right then they should easly recoop their money. Even if they fall short and have only 5000 sudents instead of 7000 then at $1400 each then they will earn 7 million dollars.

    • by bakuun (976228)

      If the numbers are anywhere near right then they should easly recoop their money. Even if they fall short and have only 5000 sudents instead of 7000 then at $1400 each then they will earn 7 million dollars.

      I know that it's customary on slashdot not to read the linked articles but you didn't even read the summary, did you? They got four students. Four.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:15PM (#42524849) Homepage Journal

    Who did the marketing research and how much ganja were they smoking when they did it?

    The loss on this reminds me of an ill-considered plans where I worked ages ago. Someone bought a $20,000 system and contract to move EDI packaged records between institutions around the state. I has it foisted upon me (make it work, you peon) and spent the next year chasing down contacts and attending seminars. After a year the person who "bought" the product angrily wanted to know how it was I hadn't made any headway - this because none of the other institutions ever went through on the project and it was effectively dead. Then I had the gall to ask, so how much work are we saving by doing this anyway, and found we would move about 4 records per quarter. 4. End of project. That person should have been sacked, but was promoted. Go figure.

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      You should rather ask who got a big bonus and/or a golden handshake in the meantime.

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        You should rather ask who got a big bonus and/or a golden handshake in the meantime.

        These days people like to put the success of their projects on their resume. If only prospective employers followed up on these things.

        "So how did it work out?" "It was deemed a waste of resources and scrapped after they left, further it damaged team morale, which took a lot of milk and cookies to restore."

  • 6K a year for all you finish credits online for govenours college compared with 1400 for 4 credits seems expensive.
    I'm sure there are even more cheaper places not even counting the free courses.

  • If the appstores have taught us anything it's that you can make a lot of money off impulse buy pricing. If they dropped the fee to $14 / credit (so $56 for the course) they'd make it all back and more in 1-2 years.

    I'm certain their fear is that those prices would eat into regular tuition as many would do online instead of in person. They'd have to run more numbers (maybe they have) to find the best market rate. Clearly they've priced themselves out of the market completely at their current rates though.

    • by pesho (843750)
      But they don't want to sell volume, because this will eat the tuition fees they are getting from their regular students. Who is going to pay tuition and room and board if they can lay on their couch and take the course for two bucks? They would like to have their cake and eat it too. The same thing is going on in my place (it seems that paid online courses are all the rage in US universities). When I try to explain to my colleagues that no one is going to pay to see their course when there are free alternat
  • by bmo (77928) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:20PM (#42524905)

    FTFA (yeah, I know)

    "UC leaders say they will focus online efforts mainly on students already enrolled at UC, in hopes that such classes will help them zip through school more quickly and cheaply. "

    1. It's not cheap. I can go to a local community college and get an actual interactive course with an actual professor for a lot less than $350/credit. I can go to an actual local accredited 4 year university for a lot less than that too.

    2. If you want outside students, you need to, you know, actually market to outside students instead of the students you already have.

    --
    BMO

  • ... they'll be fine, because at that rate, in year 7, they will have 16,384 enrollments, which is more than double the number they were hoping for.
  • by feedayeen (1322473) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:26PM (#42524971)

    I had no idea this existed.

    The current course listing is as follows:
    American Cybercultures: Principles of Internet Citizenship
    Intro to Probability and Statistics for Business
    General Psychology
    Beauty and Joy of Computing

    I guess it's not much of a loss, the only course I could have taken for credit was Psychology. A helpful suggestion would be for you guys to put the University wide requirements on here. The American History and Institution's requirement is generally unfulfilled by international students for instance.

    • Gosh, $1400 to learn the Principles of Internet Citizenship? A steal at twice the price! Can't imagine why they don't have more takers...

  • Let me guess: the classes are restricted to non-UC students, making them mostly worthless.
  • ...assuming they quadruple enrollment every year. By the 7th year, if my math is correct (and it likely isn't), over four *thousand* people will be enrolled, and even at $1400/class, that's over $5.5M. So they'll be able to pay back the loan no problem!

  • Probably
    - not economics,
    - not business plan 101,
    - not calculus,
    - not linear optimisation,
    - not common sense and
    - not "let's google if these courses can be found for free" either.

  • by Catbeller (118204) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @08:32PM (#42526239) Homepage

    How is an online pre-calc course worth 1400? Solve.

  • It's ok, we passed prop 30, because not passing prop 30 would have resulted to funding of UC being reduced. Assuming it won't be cut anyway, they'll still have money for clowniness like this.

    Oh, and when I say "we passed prop 30", I mean "we" as in people who were actually allowed to vote, which means not me. I just get to pay taxes.

    Not that I'm opposed to subsidizing education. But it has to be possible to do better than burning through more than $5M to offer 5 classes and underperform your sales projectio

  • In the Free Democratic People's Republic of Mexifornia the less money you make from such things the more heroically revolutionary and counter reactionary they are! If they need to cover their costs just make it more expensive for the running dog lackey plutocrats!

    Then charge the UC students themselves even more for the course compared to the classroom version then cancel the classroom version - - like UNC Chapel Hill does.

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