COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - The state's largest brick-and-mortar college wants to make it easier for students to earn degrees without leaving home.
The University of Missouri's flagship campus in Columbia on Friday announced a $2.5 million expansion of its online degree programs, including master's degrees in public health and public affairs and a bachelor's degree in educational studies.
Mizzou has long offered classes to those unable to come to Columbia. Its distance learning program is more than a century old, and MU High School, created in 1999, has become a nationally known online option for self-paced homeschoolers, child actors and precocious athletes such as world champion skier Lindsey Vonn.
But the demand for more options from working adults, far-flung professionals and even traditional undergraduates living on campus calls for increased online offerings, according to university administrators.
"Technology continues to revolutionize teaching and learning," said College of Education Dean Daniel Clay, who noted that one-third of higher education students nationwide took at least one online course last year. "The question is not if technology is going to change education, and if it's going to be important. It's a (question of) how important."
The university is modifying its online admissions requirements to no longer require students seeking undergraduate degrees to first obtain 60 hours of transfer credits or an associate's degree, Provost Brian Foster said.
Sixteen new online areas of study will be created, including graduate programs that provide certificates in geospatial intelligence, energy efficiency and nonprofit management. The expansion includes 25 new undergraduate online classes; more undergraduate degree programs that will be available online; and adding a dozen more online graduate programs that will offer either degrees or certificates to nearly 80.
Another expansion of online offerings is planned for 2014.
The move comes soon after Gov. Jay Nixon unveiled plans to team up with the nonprofit Western Governors University to broaden Missouri residents' access to online higher education with a state-sanctioned WGU Missouri campus.
University of Missouri leaders emphasized that the timing of Friday's rollout was coincidental to the governor's disclosure in his late January State of the State address, but said both the Mizzou and WGU efforts acknowledge the vast need to increase access to higher education.
"From Kennett to Kansas City and St Joseph to St Louis, to Sikeston, every corner of our state deserves the opportunity to access the kind of quality education we offer here at MU," Clay said. "This is not a choice we have to make. That choice has been made for us."