Tue, May 28, 2024

AU and USC Aiken launch new online learning programs

Some new students who arrive at Augusta University for the fall semester will be attending in a non-traditional manner.

Augusta University Online is up and running, less than a year after AU President, Dr. Brooks Keel announced the project in his State of the University address.

Keel also introduced Dr. Marc Austin, hired as Dean of Augusta University Online, who will helm the new offering. The goal was to have Augusta University Online ready for fall 2023.

They reached that goal.

“We managed to get it out of the gate, which is, gosh, it’s such both a relief and excitement because it’s pretty rare that we get a whole website and three programs stood up with that kind of speed,” Austin told Augusta Business Daily.

The three programs are Master of Public Health, Master of Science in Information Security Management, and Master of Education in Instruction.

“We were very intentional in the process of choosing what three programs we would launch with, looking at workforce needs here in Augusta, the state of Georgia, and beyond, but also looking at national studies pointing to what online students want and need from online programs,” said Corey Vigdor, Assistant Vice President for online education.

Augusta University Online will differ from the online, for-profit universities currently on offer. Austin said because it is part of a public university, the cost for Augusta University Online is lower than the for-profit schools.

“The most important thing is that our students are going to be participating in a close-knit community that is nestled in a major research university,” he said. “So, that means they’re going to get both the attention that they deserve as students from our faculty, small classes, plus the rigor of a major research institution that is not comparable to a for-profit. It is designed specifically to create a learning environment that is like no other. It’s designed to pay attention to the students’ needs, encourage peer interaction, and facilitate an experience that feels a little bit more like a private school experience.”

It is also designed to be an integral piece of another ambitious goal set by Keel, to help grow student enrollment.

Currently, Augusta University enrollment at the Health Sciences and Summerville campuses is roughly 9,000. In his 2022 State of the University address, Keel launched a new slogan called “16 by 30.” It is a call to have 16,000 students enrolled by 2030.

Austin believes that goal is within reach when online students are factored into the equation.

“Online represents a mechanism for achieving that target in a smart way. So, I think it’s a good reflection of how he is creatively thinking about growing the university and expanding our brand, in alignment with our mission around excellence. Our contribution to the 16 by 30, in a 10-year timeframe, will be considerable. We’re anticipating 4,000 students in that period of time,” Austin explained.

According to a report from the University System of Georgia, Augusta University and AU Health pumped $2.24 billion into Georgia’s economy in the fiscal year 2021.

Augusta University Online students will increase that benefit while having little impact on the university’s faculty and physical plant.

“It’s important to understand that that growth would be challenging if it was all on the ground, and Augusta just finding all the right dorms and facilities and everything that we need for that achieving that goal would be tough,” Austin said. “We need to expand and grow, but we have to grow in a smart way that doesn’t overburden our faculty in our current facilities. And online represents a mechanism for achieving that target in a smart way.”

Some of that growth is underway. Austin said prospective students have been applying and some have been accepted. He was unable to say how many applications they’ve received and the number of students admitted just yet.

USC-Aiken has also announced new opportunities for online study beginning with the summer 2023 semester.

The new program will offer a bachelor’s degree in business administration. It will have a concentration in finance and marketing.

“Our online bachelor’s in business administration program prepares students to meet the changing demands of dynamic global markets in a time and place convenient to them,” said Dr. Nancy Albers, Dean of USC Aiken’s School of Business Administration. “Our goal is to do more than lecture, but to help students gain practical knowledge, harness resources and make connections that will empower them to build the business career they’ve always dreamed of through our internationally accredited curriculum and faculty expertise.”

To be eligible, students must have completed between 45-60 total credit hours with a GPA of 2.0. Students without those requirements can do so through the University of South Carolina’s Palmetto College prior to transferring to Aiken Online.

Students who take a full course load will be able to complete their degree in about two years.

The deadline to apply is April 17, 2023.

For more information or to apply, visit www.usca.edu/majors-programs/aiken-online.

More information or to apply to AU Online is available at https://www.augusta.edu/online/.

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