Incoming UMass president vows to increase online learning

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BOSTON (AP) — Incoming University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan is vowing to expand online learning at the five-campus system.

Meehan, the current chancellor of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, said more than half of recent Lowell graduates took at least one online course.

"It's important to expand our online opportunities for people across the commonwealth," Meehan said Tuesday following a meeting with Republican Gov. Charlie Baker. "We're looking at the process by which we can do more online at the Boston and the Dartmouth campus."

Baker said he's a big believer in online courses, which he said allow students to better match their classwork to their schedules.

"If you're a working kid or a working adult who wants to pursue a degree, the opportunity to take a class when you can take it on an online basis and not have to take when it would disrupt your job or other parts of your life is a good thing," Baker said.

He called online learning "a win-win for both schools and for students."

"It's a dramatically less expensive outlay for students, but at the same time it ends up being a moneymaker for schools," he added.

He said UMass-Lowell is doing about $40 million a year worth of online education.

Meehan said he's committed putting in the time needed to make UMass one of the premier public education systems in the country while keeping tuition and fees as low as possible.

"To have a transformational effect on any university, you really need to make a commitment to be there eight, 10 years," he said. "I'm committed to staying as long as it takes to make the improvements that need to be made. I'm not looking for another job. I'm not looking to leave Massachusetts."

UMass has nearly 73,000 students at campuses in Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell and a medical school in Worcester.

Meehan said academic programming needs a business plan and revenue associated with the programming to help the university thrive. He said he's planning to bring the business mindset to the entire UMass system.

"We're going to be entrepreneurial in everything that we do and strategic in everything we do," Meehan said. "We need a world class research university."

Baker said he'd like to see UMass adopt other strategies to adapt to a 24/7 world.

He said he'd like UMass to look at the possibility of instituting three-year degree programs and to embrace co-op programs like those at Northeastern University that allow students to gain on-the-job experience in the areas they hope to work in when they graduate.

Meehan succeeds Robert Caret, who is stepping down in June to become chancellor of the University of Maryland system.

Meehan, 58, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2007, when he was named chancellor of the Lowell campus, his alma mater. He has noted that he will be the system's first president with an undergraduate degree from a UMass campus.

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