ALTUS — Western Oklahoma State College officials have had to turn away “scores of students” who wanted to take accelerated online courses the college no longer offers, President Phil Birdine said Friday.
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools said Thursday it had placed the college on probation after a review of its 10-day accelerated online courses.
The college stopped offering the online intersession courses in January after the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education released a report recommending the college immediately discontinue the program.
The board concluded the courses didn't meet a number of criteria required for accreditation, including showing a commitment to intellectual integrity and the quality of educational programs.
In an email, Birdine said discontinuing the courses had cost the college tuition dollars. He declined to make himself available for a phone interview.
“Since January, when we suspended the offering of these courses, we have had to inform the scores of students who call us on a weekly basis that we no longer offer these courses,” he said. “They simply hang up the phone and find another institution offering these courses and enroll at that institution.”
The courses netted the college $2.8 million in revenue during the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to college records.
That figure represented 18 percent of the college's total education and general revenue, which includes money the college receives through tuition and fees.
After announcing the college would discontinue the courses, college officials said they hoped to be able to reinstate the courses using a similar format.
But those plans are on hold. As part of the probation, the Higher Learning Commission revoked approval for the college to offer accelerated online courses and programs.
According to a public disclosure notice the board released Thursday, college officials must allow students who are enrolled in the so-called quick credit courses to complete those courses in eight-week or 16-week formats.
Officials also must submit a self-study before December 2014 showing that the college has resolved concerns the board raised about the courses.
The board will visit the college in spring 2015 to see whether those issues have been resolved. In the coming months, the board will review the college's other online and classroom-based courses.
The quick credit courses came under fire when a story published late last year in the Chronicle of Higher Education claimed the courses offer dubious college credit with minimal time and effort.
According to the report, major college athletics programs use the courses to keep their athletes eligible to play.
According to the article, Western Oklahoma State College's online offerings are well-known among major college athletics programs nationwide as a good option when players find themselves in an academic bind. The article raises questions about the quality of the courses and lack of academic oversight.
Birdine said the popularity of the courses comes from their convenience. He said short-format courses have existed for decades and have gained popularity at institutions nationwide more recently.
“We live in a mobile, time-conscious global society which is why these shortened courses are so popular and which is why many other colleges and universities in Oklahoma offer such courses,” Birdine said. “The demand is there, and the consumers are actively seeking out colleges which offer these courses.”
We live in a mobile, time-
conscious global society which is why ... many other colleges and universities in Oklahoma offer such courses.”