The University of Pennsylvania this summer announced its first online master's degree. Now it will be offering an online bachelor's degree, too, and says it's the first Ivy League university to do so.
The new bachelor of applied arts and sciences degree, targeted to working adults and other nontraditional students, will be offered through Penn's College of Liberal and Professional Studies and will launch in 2019, the university announced Tuesday morning.
The Liberal and Professional Studies College for years has offered an alternative path into the highly competitive Ivy League university, often taking students who transfer in from community colleges. Students had access to the same classes on campus and the same faculty as other students.
The new online program will replace the current program, which required students to take classes on campus for 14 to 16 weeks at a time, said Nora Lewis, vice dean of professional and liberal education.
Lewis said the online approach will offer working adults greater flexibility at less cost. A course in the online program will cost $2,250, down $962 or about 30 percent from the $3,212 that students currently pay.
"We just hope to make the degree more accessible to more of them and more affordable for them to be able to complete their bachelor's degrees," Lewis said.
The new approach also opens access to students from outside the area who want the degree but don't want to uproot their families, she said.
The program is nearly all online with two "limited on-campus experiences," the university said, designed to be convenient for working adults. Lewis said students will come to campus for an intensive two- to three-day writing residency, as well as the choice of a second residency experience. Some lab courses may also bring students to campus, she said.
The new degree will combine general-education requirements and interdisciplinary concentrations, emphasizing the connection to profession and career. While the new program won't offer the same range of majors as the current one, it will allow students to get an education in broader curriculum areas, Lewis said. It was prepared by a faculty advisory board and will be aided by an additional advisory board of management executives from more than 20 employers.
Penn will offer two paths into the online program, one that exists now with students taking college courses elsewhere first and submitting their transcripts showing they can do college level work. A second "gateway" path, Lewis said, will allow students without college experience to take four Penn courses to prove they can do the work and then those credits will count toward their degree.
For students who need help, Penn will offer "virtual" tutoring services, she said.
Penn for years has been offering a variety of online courses and has been in the forefront of Massive Open Online Courses.
But until this year, it has refrained from offering full degrees online. In July, Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science announced it would offer its master of computer and information technology (MCIT) program online, making it Penn's first entirely online degree.
That program is scheduled to start in January.
Lewis expects more to come.
"This is just like the next step in the university really pushing the boundaries," she said. "Part of this is also learning how to design and deliver a Penn quality education via a new medium."