Are online public universities the new land-grant institution?

April 27, 2013, 5:55 pm

I see that Florida approved an online-only public university and that California is exploring faculty-free colleges that would award exam-based degrees. Combine this with the fact that the federal government is exploring different models for financial aid based on competency rather than the quantity of credit hours. And add in that accreditation bodies are warming up to more open learning models.

Question: Is this the new “land-grant” university?

If the federal government  will fund online universities (via financial aid for tuition and fees) and accreditation organizations recognize these degrees as equivalent to other state-operated higher ed schools—is this the land-grant for the 21st century? Is this the new environment that opens up affordable and diverse education to a larger audience? Is this a contemporary approach to acquiring and developing skills, insights, and experiences for professional development and personal enrichment?


One of the core objectives of the original land-grant program was to provide broader access to education. The federal government gave land to the states for schools based upon this mission. Fast-forward 150 years and now the government is endorsing virtual campuses.  Online learning can potentially magnify the initial effort, enabling many more citizens the opportunity to advance their learning. Land-grant universities were designed to help transition into an industrial society– are we experiencing a similar transition into a digital society?

Just trying to connect some dots. Where is higher education heading?

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