In 2008, Tiffin University, a small private college in northwest Ohio, teamed up with Altius Education, a San Francisco–based start-up, to create an entirely new type of college. The online institution — named Ivy Bridge College — was to provide students with an inexpensive online associate’s degree in general studies that graduates could use to transfer to one of 150 partner four-year colleges.
Tiffin handled academics while Altius took care of recruiting and technology. Courses were offered in six seven-week terms, providing students with more opportunities to start a class than a traditional community college would have given them. Each student was paired with a “personal success coach” and given access to free tutoring and career counseling. At $4,250 for a full-time semester last year, Ivy Bridge was more expensive than state-subsidized community colleges, but cost less than half of what Tiffin charges for its on-campus offerings (more than $9,900).