Starting in August, the Lone Star College System will launch its eighth campus as a way for students to receive their degrees entirely online. The college may be able to offer its online programs to students across the country and internationally in the future, officials said.
According to an April 11 news release from LSCS, the new campus was added in response to demand for virtual learning, and it has been in the works for nearly a decade.
LSCS officials said in an email that developing the new campus has added around $2 million to the system’s general existing budget, and it also expands the scope of its e-learning offerings.
Seelpa Keshvala, LSCS executive vice chancellor and LSC-Online CEO, said in a phone interview the coronavirus pandemic drove home the need for additional virtual learning options.
“We know students that were taking online classes prepandemic and then all of a sudden were forced to take them [online],” Keshvala said. “We are really trying to cater to the demand that we are seeing.”
The campus will launch with 40 full-time staff members from within the college system, she said.
Keshvala said the purpose of offering an online campus is to increase enrollment with students who may want to focus on an online education, including out-of-district students. Matthew Fuller—director of the Center for Assessment, Research and Educational Safety with Sam Houston State University—said LSCS’s decision to launch the online campus matches a trend around the Houston region.
“I just think that COVID- ... made more people interested in going online,” Fuller said. “There was a shift in student attitudes toward online learning.”
Fuller added area colleges and universities were able to pivot to online learning during the pandemic, as online options have been present for years. However, addressing learning loss over the past two years will not be universal, he said.
"It may be harder to do online learning with a nursing degree, for example, compared to a math degree," Fuller said. "Some programs are going to have to mitigate that learning loss differently."
Keshvala said target demographics could include military personnel and eventual international options. LSC-Online will launch with what Keshvala said are the top transfer degrees, including an associate of arts, an associate of science and an associate of arts in teaching.
Keshvala said the degrees earned by LSC-Online students will be transferable across Texas.
As of April, the cost of enrolling at LSC-Online will be the same as attending any LSCS campus. Information from LSCS states the cost of enrolling for 12 credit hours in the fall semester is around $1,080 for an in-district student.
Lone Star College System adds online campus, additional e-learning opportunities for fall 2022
Lone Star College System is enrolling for its online college this fall. (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)