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Arizona State and edX Will Offer an Online Freshman Year, Open to All

Arizona State University is joining with the MOOC provider edX in a project that it says “reimagines the freshman year” and opens a new low-cost, low-risk path to a college degree for students anywhere in the world.

The project, called the Global Freshman Academy, will offer a set of eight courses designed to fulfill the general-education requirements of a freshman year at Arizona State at a fraction of the cost students typically pay, and students can begin taking courses without going through the traditional application process, the university said in a news release on Wednesday. Because the classes are offered as massive open online courses, or MOOCs, there is no limit on how many students can enroll.

“We’re committed to academic inclusion and student success, regardless of a student’s family circumstances,” Arizona State’s president, Michael M. Crow, said in the news release. “We will not be successful unless we reach talent from all backgrounds around the world, and the worldwide reach of the revolutionary edX platform allows us to open this program to anyone with the drive to obtain their degree.”

EdX, a platform created by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a nonprofit, open-source enterprise that offers online courses from more than 65 member institutions. Anant Agarwal, its chief executive, said the new partnership with Arizona State would help the organization deliver on its founding mission: “the promise to transform education while increasing access to high-quality learning.”

“As with other innovative technologies in the digital space,” Mr. Agarwal said in the news release, “so too will the Global Freshman Academy change the educational opportunities that will help people transform their lives.”

The courses to be offered through the Global Freshman Academy are being designed and will be taught by leading scholars at Arizona State. “These courses are developed to their rigorous standards,” Adrian Sannier, chief academic officer for EdPlus at ASU, said in the release. “Course faculty are committed to ensuring their students understand college-level material so that they can be prepared to successfully complete college.”

Students who pass a final examination in a course will have the option of paying a fee of no more than $200 per credit hour to get college credit for it.

Mr. Agarwal and Mr. Crow are scheduled to formally announce the project at a conference in Washington on Thursday.

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