UGA's Business School Launches Online Degree to Compete With For-Profit Schools

The University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business announced last week that it will offer an online bachelor of business administration starting in January. While business schools have begun offering online MBAs in earnest, offering quality undergraduate business degrees online “seems like a niche that isn’t being filled,” says Myra Moore, Terry’s director of assessment, rankings, and undergraduate programs.

Terry becomes one of only a few undergraduate business programs ranked in Bloomberg Businessweek’s top 50 to include an online bachelor’s degree; others include Pennsylvania State’s Smeal College of Business (which partners with the Penn State World Campus to offer an online business bachelor’s) and the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business Administration.

UGA hopes its new program will attract students who need a degree to get ahead at work, as well as regional stay-at-home parents and military officers, says Moore. “There are for-profit institutions that attempt to serve this group, like University of Phoenix and Strayer. We think we can offer them much better quality at a better price.”

UGA students will pay more than $500 per credit, Moore says—higher than the in-state rate for residential undergraduates ($203) but less than the rate for out-of-state students ($882).

But Moore believes the cost won’t be a concern for many students. The school expects companies such as Home Depot and AT&T to pay for their low-level managers to take the online courses, she says.

It’s unlikely, however, that companies will foot the bill entirely. While 11 large Georgia employers surveyed by the school said they would find an online undergraduate program at Terry “extremely valuable,” those companies also said they reimburse an average of $5,000 per year for their employees in college business programs, according to the curriculum committee report. That would account for two-thirds of tuition for the Terry program—less if students wanted to finish the degree in fewer than four years.

Pulling in more undergraduates could supplement a decline in Terry’s MBA population; there has been a 22.5 percent drop in graduate business students at UGA over the past five years, according to university data. What’s more, online programs usually offer strong margins for schools, which can eliminate the cost of maintaining physical classrooms but in many cases charge as much, if not more, than for traditional degrees. UGA will keep the program small, but expects a financial upside, says Moore. “This will be a revenue generator, that’s for sure.”

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