The most important decision university-bound high school seniors need to make is deciding where to spend their college years. However, 3,118 students accepted for the 2015 fall semester at the University of Florida (UF) have another important decision to make.
According to a Washington Post article and UF’s website, these students were informed with their admissions letter that their acceptance to UF hinges on their decision to become part of a new online program. Students who do not accept the university’s offer by May 1 will not be admitted. The program, named Pathway to Campus Enrollment (PaCE), allows UF to accept a greater number of freshmen who otherwise would not have been accepted.
While students must earn at least 15 credit hours in online courses through the program for a minimum of two semesters, they must finish PaCE with 60 credit hours in total and meet all prerequisites and GPA requirements for their major. This could take up to two years for a student, depending on the amount of classes taken each semester and how many college-level credits the student enters college with.
UF’s PaCE program will not be optimal for most new college students, and as explained in the Washington Post, UF only expects about 10 percent of the selected students to accept the offer.
However, the program may be very beneficial to students whose education track and learning style are compatible with online coursework.
Despite the fact that PaCE students will complete their courses exclusively online, this does not bar them from being involved with the university. In fact, students in the program can still access most UF services and programs for free, including student organizations and Greek life. They are only excluded from fee-based UF services.
In-state PaCE students also do not pay as much for tuition as residential UF students and are given a 25 percent tuition discount until they decide to transfer onto the campus as residential students since they do not pay activity and service fees.
Still, students considering the program should make sure they will major in one of the 61 majors offered in the program and that they will not be negatively affected by having an undergraduate transcript partly filled with online courses. For example, not all health-related professional schools accept online undergraduate courses, and UF recommends on its website that students interested in these schools do not accept the PaCE program.
But if online courses work, PaCE students have the option to complete their degree entirely online, allowing them to continue to pay 75 percent of the tuition cost instead of the full amount.
Though “non-traditional” may be an understatement for describing PaCE, online undergraduate programs certainly have a place in today’s higher education system and are arguably more favorable than traditional college coursework for some students. Nevertheless, with the inherent nature and current limitations of online classes, these programs might not be for everyone just yet.
Russell Nay is a freshman majoring in mass communications.