- Associated Press - Monday, June 8, 2015

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - The University of Arizona will begin offering online undergraduate degrees this fall.

University officials say the program will open the gates to prospective students all over the world and, more importantly, to tens of millions of tuition dollars, The Arizona Daily Star reported (http://bit.ly/1dWDFim).

At $490 per credit hour, the university estimates enrollment will bring in another $41 million in the next five years.

UA plans to spend $6 million to start the program that offers 21 degrees in areas like psychology and business administration.

Vice provost for digital learning Vincent Del Casino is leading the effort.

“Students everywhere now have access to a life-changing University of Arizona education,” he said.

Del Casino teaches online world geography at UA.

“The admission standards are the same,” he said. “It’s a fundamental misconception that online education is somehow easier and less rigorous.”

UA dropouts will also be able to resume their studies through the program without having to set foot back on campus.

They can interact with faculty and classmates through email, video chats and document-sharing sites.

UA had only offered graduate degrees online.

It’s the last of Arizona’s three major public universities to go digital for online bachelor’s degrees.

Budget cuts and limited resourced in previous years stalled the program, said Melissa Vito, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at the university.

“I think what we have done is a major achievement,” she said. “Last year at this time, there were no undergraduate degree programs. Now there are 21, with the infrastructure and support to help students be successful.”

Arizona State University’s gross tuition from students taking online classes brought in $80 million last year, a figure the university expects to jump to $144 million for the coming year.

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Information from: Arizona Daily Star, http://www.tucson.com

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