September 26, 2021

Unlimited programs for $99.00 a month…

Academe may look askance at, ( the commercial service that offers basic college courses online for $99 a month. But the enterprise has lately been getting a lot of press attention, with some education experts seeing it as an harbinger of higher education’s future.

 The service, which started last year, allows students to take as many self-guided courses as they want for —as Straighterline’s Web site says — “less than the cost of your monthly cell phone bill.” 

 The $99 fee gives students access to course content from McGraw-Hill, 10 hours of one-to-one instructional support, and a course advisor. The business grew out of SmartThinking, a popular online tutoring service.

 What’s in it for students? A fast track, relatively inexpensive way to a college degree. Straighterline has partnered with at least four accredited higher education institutions that have agreed to accept credits from Straighterline students.

 The company Web site lists four partners: Charter Oak State College, Fort Hays State University, Lake City Community College, and Potomac College. Potomac is the sole proprietary institution.

 An article ( in the most recent issue of Washington Monthly traces the development and struggles of Straighterline and warns big and non-elite colleges that the Washington DC-based business could herald their unraveling.

 “The day is coming—sooner than many people think—when a great deal of money is going to abruptly melt out of the higher education system, just as it has in scores of other industries that traffic in information that is now far cheaper and more easily accessible than it has ever been before, ” writes Kevin Carey, the author of the article. “Much of that money will end up in the pockets of students in the form of lower prices, a boon and a necessity in a time when higher education is the key to prosperity.” 

In another article (, this one in the Oct. 15 edition of the Christian Science Monitor, Carey is quoted discussing Straighterline in the context of the growth in online education.

And in an opinion piece ( in Inside Higher Education, Frederick Hess, of the American Enterprise Institute, cites Straighterline as one example of why President Obama’s initiative to get the government involved in developing free, online courses is unnecessary.

 —- Andrea L. Foster

Clifford brings in the Big Gun!


Former GE Co. Chief Executive Jack Welch is lending  his name and money behind a successful educational entrepreneur Dr. Michael Clifford, injecting some star power into the budding industry of online education.

Mr. Welch is paying more than $2 million for a 12% stake in Chancellor University System LLC, which is converting formerly bankrupt Myers University in Cleveland into Chancellor University. It plans to offer most courses online. Chancellor will name its Master of Business Administration program The Jack Welch Institute.

House Committee on Education and Labor passed The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act

The House Committee on Education and Labor passed The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) of 2009, H.R. 3221, this included the increase of the 90/10 rule to three years.

Maybe all of the fear mongers hovering over the industry should start to realize there is lots of good and that while some minor changes may come down, there is not much likelihood that any major overhaul will occur.

Will online masters growth hold up?

After speaking with many analysts over the last few months there are two big fears that keep being repeated. The first being bad debt and the other top fear is the continued growth of online Master programs.  The main reasons mentioned are potential future cuts by corporations of tuition reimbursement & continued decline in economy, thus affordability of education. 

While I have heard of reports indicating that the risk of loosing corporate tuition reimbursement is minimal, are those accurate?  Who were polled?  HR people, they are usually the last to know.

Will the economy get so bad that people fear they will not be able to afford the monthly out of pocket costs of their tuition along with their rent, car, insurance and food?  

The search volume as well as lead volume continue to show strong demand.

What do you think?  Are you seeing anything either in support of this or to the contrary?