November 6, 2013
Frostburg State University in Maryland hopes to attract more students to the school with its new Freshman Choice Program that begins this spring.
Inside Higher Ed reported that the university created the new program in an effort to persuade students to study at the school, particularly residential students. The pilot program will start in the spring and will allow select students to complete their first semester online.
While other colleges have offered similar online programs, Frostburg State University's program is different in a few ways. Inside Higher Ed noted that unlike most other programs, Frostburg State's will charge online and on-campus students the same amount for tuition. Online students, however, will save about $5,000 in room and board and other related on-campus fees. Additionally, Frostburg State is not offering online courses to address capacity issues. Instead, the school is aiming to enroll just 15 to 25 students in the Freshman Choice Program and has no intention of offering fully online degrees in the future.
According to a news release, first-year freshmen who are interested in participating in the program will need to complete an online form and visit the FSU campus for placement testing. Once students have been accepted, they can choose to be full-time (13-credit schedule) or part-time (7-credit schedule) online students. According to the program's website, there are seven course offerings for Spring 2014. Examples of some courses include Intro to Computer Science, Pre-Algebra Mathematics, Intro to Higher Education and Intro to Sociology. Inside Higher Ed reported that online students would be able to watch lectures at their own convenience. Content is curated by FSU faculty members and will be made available via course management system Blackboard Learn.
John Bowman, FSU's vice provost, told Inside Higher Ed that the program helps make the school more accessible. Bowman noted that many residential students might not be able to attend classes on-campus during their first semester because they could be transitioning out of the armed forces, working to support their educational goals or taking care of family members. Moreover, the university's location makes it difficult for some to get to campus. Most institutions in Maryland are along the I-95 Baltimore-Washington corridor. Frostburg State, however, is the only four-year university west of Washington D.C. and is located in a small rural town.
"One of the minuses of FSU is our location," explained Michael Murtagh, associate professor of psychology and Faculty Senate chair, in Inside Higher Ed. "I think it's probably a little bit helpful if we have that initial online outreach to help people see the high quality of education we offer."
Officials also hope that the Freshman Choice Program will ease the transition from high school to college and discourage high school graduates from taking a gap year or attending a community college. The university will host at least one on-campus session to welcome online students and help them prepare for life on campus.
Inside Higher Ed noted that FSU already has a similar program in place. Called the Summer Online Freshman Initiative (SOFI), it lets students take an online course during the six weeks prior to their first semester. Most of the seven online courses offered in the Freshman Choice Program have been adapted from SOFI.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"Frostburg - One University. A World of Experiences," frostburg.edu, http://www.frostburg.edu/admin/freshman-choice-program/
"Frostburg State University Students Can Begin First-Year Classes Online Through Freshman Choice Program," frostburg.edu, October 29, 2013, http://www.frostburg.edu/home/news/university-news-portal/frostburg-state-university-students-can-begin-first-year-classes-online-through-freshman-choice-program/
"One There, Seven Here," insidehighered.com, November 5, 2013, Carl Straumsheim, http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/11/05/frostburg-state-us-freshman-choice-program-lets-students-start-degrees-online