Florida looks to create online university

State university would exist completely on the Internet


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida currently leads the nation in online education as four out of every 10 Florida college students have reported to have taken at least one online course.

There are 700 degree programs available online and there's a push in Tallahassee to create a state university that will exist completely on the Internet.

The idea is one of four options being considered. The state said it could appoint one university to take the lead on online, encourage collaboration among the schools or just focus on improving online courses at all Florida colleges.

A laptop is the only tool Florida State University freshman Seth Russell said he needs to complete one of his main courses this semester.

"Having an online class frees up a lot of time for other classes," said Russell.

For the second consecutive semester, Russell is taking an online class. He said it allows him to learn from home at his own leisure.

"It's really convenient, just pull up my laptop," said Russell. "I don't have to walk to class."

The University System Board of Governors say they are exploring the creation of a state university existing completely in cyberspace.

"It's not about keeping everybody online, it's about getting the state in a position to have the best online modality experience," said Robert Lytle. "Online is definitely here to stay."

The board said it hired a research group, which priced the creation of an online state university at $70 million. Even though there's a hefty upfront cost, in the long run, the move could save the state and students money.

Ed Moore, the president of Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, said how much savings depends on the quality of the product offered.

"It depends on the institution. It depends on the degree program. It depends on the market," said Moore. "A lot of it is market driven."

Moore said he is against the state creating a new online university. He said creating an oversight board would be quicker and cheaper.

"My mantra is to use the assets that Florida already has first and then figure out what else we need," said Moore.

The state legislature said it will also review the options when it convenes in March.