RD275 - Online Virginia Network: State Report and Proposal – Fall 2016

Executive Summary:
Old Dominion University and George Mason University have created a plan for an online degree completion initiative called Online Virginia Network. The plan accommodates additional partners joining Online Virginia Network.

The Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011 calls for achieving a cumulative increase of 100,000 undergraduate degrees awarded to in-state students by 2025. This goal aligns with the desire to fuel Virginia’s economy by keeping up with the demand for highly qualified workers in a skilled labor market that is growing. Higher education institutions in Virginia have been rightfully focusing on enhancing enrollment, retention, and graduation rates in the pursuit of this goal. The same emphasis, however, has not necessarily been given to degree completion of individuals who have dropped out of the higher education system.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit organization that works with colleges to verify students' enrollment and graduation status, approximately 29 percent of those who started college in 2007 are no longer taking classes toward a degree. There are 1.1 million in Virginia with some college and no degree. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia has identified 647,000 residents of Virginia who have earned credit at a Virginia institution but who have not yet earned a four-year degree. The Commonwealth is also home to the second-largest population of active-duty military in the United States and, while 92% of enlisted personnel have earned a high school diploma or some college credit, only 6% have earned an undergraduate degree. Both GMU and ODU are institutions with a long history of serving diverse populations, including non-traditional students such as transfer, adult, and military students. The two public universities are strategically located in Virginia to serve military bases and civilian federal employees. Completing their degrees through online course offerings is a viable and attractive solution for some of these individuals.

Online Virginia Network will provide flexible online course offerings, a web portal, outreach services and financial aid support, seamless articulation, 24/7 response, and a comprehensive communication strategy targeting those in need of degree completion. A focus of this program will be to ensure that high demand degrees are offered to meet the ever changing needs of Virginia’s workforce.

Online Virginia Network will focus on high demand areas such as cybersecurity, business, computer science, engineering technology, human services, teacher preparation and nursing. Top employers that require bachelor’s degrees include General Dynamics, Oracle, Anthem Blue Cross, Capital One, and Sentara. Review of program demand will be ongoing to assess relevance to the market.

A business plan has been developed which outlines responsibilities of each partner institution. Funding will be split 50% between the institutions. Enrollment is anticipated to reach 10,000 students across Online Virginia Network within five years. The budget assumes continued support from the Commonwealth of $7,400,000 ($3,700,000 in base funding for each institution beginning in fiscal year 2018).

Online Virginia Network programs will be offered at reduced cost through the following features: textbooks provided through open access, and reduced fees. Other cost savings can be realized through more efficient pathways through degree completion, the ability to use college credits earned elsewhere, competency-based learning options, experiential/Prior Learning Assessment, and reduction in number of credits needed for degree.

Teams are working toward the goal of enrolling students for the 2017-2018 academic year.