SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The need for higher education has never been greater, but it has never been more out of reach for millions of Americans. Adult and other nontraditional learners, who comprise 75 percent of higher education students, have few options to earn degrees that employers will value without taking on enormous debt. Rising tuition prices and demand for higher education have pushed U.S. student debt to over $1 trillion—a sum bigger than the nation’s credit-card debt, its auto loan debt and its entire trade deficit.
To provide more students an opportunity to earn degrees, UniversityNow, a San Francisco-based company launched New Charter University, which is designed to remove the cost barrier to higher education. Tuition is so low--$796 per semester for as many courses as a student can complete--that most students don’t need financial aid. With monthly payments of $199 per month, students can earn a bachelor’s degree in four years for under $6,500, including all books and fees. Students can earn a master’s degree for under $5,500, inclusive. The university has a 60-day full refund policy.
In addition, New Charter University operates on an open learning platform so prospective students can learn now and pay later. Anyone can go to www.new.edu and join the online community for free to access course material, take practice tests and begin making progress toward earning course credit.
“We wanted to create a high quality university where monthly tuition payments are the size of a cable bill, not the size of a mortgage payment,” says Gene Wade, CEO of UniversityNow, the corporate parent of New Charter University. “With our model, students don’t need government or private loans to pay for school, and students won’t have a pile of debt to deal with at graduation. Our low operating cost makes a high quality, accredited college degree available to almost anyone and lowers significantly the financial risk of attending college, especially for the millions of Americans who don’t qualify for federal and state aid.”
“New Charter University has developed unique solutions to the nation’s higher-education problems, including escalating prices, low graduation rates, and the isolation of studying online,” says Michael B. Horn, co-founder of the Innosight Institute and the co-author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, a book that thoroughly examines the transformation of the education industry.
“New Charter University is a game-changer,” Horn says. “It combines a low-cost business model with a technology platform that supports individualized instruction and self-paced learning. It will be a force for helping large numbers of working adults get the education they need and may well change the way cash-strapped consumers view postsecondary education.”
Lowering Costs While Increasing Quality
New Charter University can afford to forgo federal support and keep costs low, its founders say, because it eliminates large, nonacademic expenses such as exorbitant student recruitment costs and financial-aid administration, which comprise over 30 percent of the expenses of many online colleges and universities.
Instead, New Charter University focuses on quality, both in its courses and in the online platform students use to take its courses. Over the past year, UniversityNow recruited a team of world-class software developers from some of the top technology companies in Silicon Valley, such as Google, Oracle, and SAP, and teamed them up with leading postsecondary educators to build the most sophisticated learning platform on the market.
“We drew inspiration from the work of Western Governors University and the National Center for Academic Transformation—exemplars who have created higher education models that lower cost while improving student outcomes. Over time, we hope to join them at the forefront of the effort to make college more affordable and accessible.” says New Charter University President Sal Monaco, a former provost at Western Governor’s University and a former dean at the University of Maryland University College. “The UniversityNow learning platform is designed to support New Charter University’s self-paced learning model and is a force-multiplier for its faculty and students that sets the standard for student support.”
Self-Paced Learning, State-of-the-Art Support
In New Charter University’s self-paced degree programs, students learn at their own pace, moving on to new units and new courses once they demonstrate mastery through proctored assessments and projects that are graded objectively and anonymously by external evaluators.
Though the university offers a low-cost, college education, New Charter University doesn’t skimp on the guidance and support that help students successfully attain college degrees. At most traditional universities, for example, faculty members are only able to provide ten to twelve hours a week of interaction with students—mostly in lectures. At New Charter University, faculty members interact with students over 32 hours a week. In addition, faculty uses a world-class learning platform that helps them see where students are struggling, so they can provide students with targeted support and customized instruction.
The platform also allows students to see how much progress they are making, how many units they need to complete a course, and how many courses they need to graduate. Faculty can intervene when needed to answer questions, provide resources, and offer support. This approach motivates students and keeps them on track while enabling faculty to identify and address any learning difficulties students are facing.
Accountability and Quality
New Charter University exemplifies the new approach to accountability in higher education, its leaders say.
“We don’t measure quality by how much we charge or how many applicants we turn away. We demonstrate quality by measuring how well our students master the skills and knowledge that employers demand. In addition, by having external evaluators grade student work objectively and anonymously, we avoid the grade inflation that is rampant in higher education,” says Monaco.
Students have to demonstrate mastery of a set of competencies in every course to earn a degree. As a result, in order to graduate students must earn a C or better in every undergraduate-level course and a B or better in every graduate-level course.
To make sure students are earning a degree that will bring them success in the labor market, the university works directly with industry experts to identify the specific competencies that employers prize most, and assesses mastery of those competencies throughout students’ coursework.
“Quality for us means paying close attention to the quality of the learning experience,” says Dr. Gerald Heeger, Chair of the Board of New Charter University and former president of University of Maryland University College. “We focus most of our resources on faculty and advisors who are available to guide students through materials, to help answer questions, work through learning challenges, and ensure that students can stay on course to graduation.”
About the Organization
New Charter University is a subsidiary of UniversityNow (www.unow.com), a company that seeks to address the challenges of college cost, access, and completion rates by operating highly affordable, private universities. UniversityNow’s mission is to help ensure that affordable, high quality post-secondary education is available to people everywhere; its vision is a world in which no one is deprived of access to quality education, and students can obtain recognized college degrees that improve their futures without the burden of student debt. Lead investors include Kapor Capital and Novak Biddle Venture Partners, groups that focus on investing in technology-driven education companies. Additional investors include Floodgate Capital, Greylock Partners, Charles River Ventures, SV Angel, and 500 Startups, all of whom are leading consumer Internet investors.
New Charter University is nationally accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. New Charter University is currently enrolling students seeking associate, bachelor's and master's degrees in its online degree programs in business, and later this year will begin enrolling students in its online degree programs in criminal justice and public policy and administration.
New Charter University is an accredited, private, online university. Its mission is to leverage advances in innovative technologies and teaching methods to provide affordable, accessible, and high quality distance education programs so students can attain recognized degrees and credentials that advance their careers and improve their lives.
New Charter University takes its name from the first university charter which was established almost 900 years ago by the University of Bologna, the world’s oldest university. This charter guaranteed the right of a traveling scholar to unhindered passage in the interests of education and is the first documentary evidence of the principle of academic freedom. Today, New Charter University has adopted a charter for a new type of university designed to help students throughout the world gain access to high quality post-secondary education--today’s version of academic freedom. The new charter is characterized by low cost, openness, peer-to-peer learning and a commitment to meeting student needs and advancing their success.