The College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University had been careful about how it wanted to enter the crowded arena of offering online undergraduate degrees. Its first offering was an undergraduate general business degree program that started with the Fall 2018 semester two weeks ago, and all indications are that having a little patience is a good thing.
“We were hoping that our first class of online general business students would have in the neighborhood of 20 students,” said Rachel Nieman, Director of Recruitment & Retention at B&E. “To our pleasant surprise, we have 25 students in the class. There is a mix of traditional-aged and non-traditional students in the program.”
Rebel Smith, Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs, said B&E’s online undergraduate program has provided students with an educational option they didn’t have before. To those students, she said, the online option has been invaluable.
“Having this option has helped us retain students who otherwise might have to leave college entirely,” Smith said. “This offering allows students to finish and obtain a degree, such as students who get early job offers. They can accept their job offers and finish their degree requirements online.”
Smith said the online degree program represents the College’s first bachelor’s degree completely online, which meets the needs of a new set of prospective, nontraditional students.
“Take, for example, new transfer students who have always dreamed of coming to WVU. Those students can now finish their associate degrees at their local community colleges and obtain their bachelor’s degrees from us online,” said Nieman. “If any students are not able or don’t want to come to WVU, this online degree program allows WVU to come to them.”
Smith explained that the program is 100% online and that all students pay the same rate; there is no resident or non-resident scale. She also pointed to another distinguishing characteristic of the program that sets it apart in the crowded arena of online undergraduate programs — B&E has a designated academic advisor for its program.
“It has definitely made a difference. Our academic advisor is Susan Maczko, and among her responsibilities is communication with students who have been admitted to the program to assist them in the enrollment process,” Smith said.
This first step away from traditional, on-campus, undergraduate degree programs has been a big step, and demonstrates that WVU’s business school is offering a meaningful option to state residents and beyond.
“Our hope is to bring in a new class of 25+ students for this program every year,” said Smith. “WVU is meeting the demands of our students’ desire for options and flexibility. This is also a part of our land-grant mission for the citizens of our state, and so far it’s working out well.”