The University of California system spent $4.3 million last year marketing its online courses in hopes of attracting non-university students, but came close to almost no return on its investment: Only one person signed up, a high school student for a UC Irvine precalculus course. UC was expecting to sell 7,000 classes to pay back a seven-year loan.
Universities have moved to offer more Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, to non-university students in recent years. But while schools such as Stanford and Harvard are offering these courses for free, UC is charging students between $1,400 to $2,400 per course.
UC heads and online education experts will meet this week to discuss improving their online courses following criticism from California governor Jerry Brown. During a regents meeting in November, Brown called the UC online system “a venerable institution being upended by digital change” and said, “there’s stuff going on in Silicon Valley that will leave you in the dust.” Thus far though, 2013 is looking slightly better: Four non-university students have signed up for classes this year.