Wednesday December 8th, 2021 4:11AM

UNG: Online degree program enrollment increases

By Alyson Shields Reporter

The University of North Georgia confirmed this month that students have continued to enroll in the university's online degree programs, even with face-to-face instruction underway at all five campuses.

"From an overall perspective, we have 921 students enrolled in our UNG online campus for this fall, which is a 26% increase compared to fall 2020," said Director of Enrollment Management for Student Success Michelle Eaton. "And we have this as a trajectory that we have been on for a couple of years. The rise of students taking online courses has continued to increase over the past few years."

The most significant increases were in associate degree and graduate degree programs, with online graduate degree enrollment rising by 25%.

"Our growth and graduate online enrollment have been a consistent trend over the last few years. But UNG has transitioned some of our College of Education programs that were previously offered in-person to the online modality," said Director of Graduate Admissions Cory Thornton. "And we did also launch our first Ph.D. program, which was our criminal justice program that launched fall of 2021. And that was a fully online program as well. So the pivot to new modalities for some of our College of Ed programs and the introduction of our Ph. D. program helped to increase numbers specifically for fall of 2021."

The Education Department saw an increase of 34% in online enrollment at the graduate level.

Three online bachelor's degrees - healthcare services and informatics administration, political science, and registered nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing - accounted for a 9% increase.

Eaton said the flexibility of online coursework appeals to a lot of students.

"I do believe the flexibility offered that for students but also convenience if they have to work. We have a lot of students that have had to take on additional work hours, and it allows them the opportunity to work and also continue to be enrolled in their educational program as well," Eaton said. "It also helps that we do have some students that might live further away or have some adult learners who might be interested in taking courses but are not able to come to campus. So enrollment in online provides students with these the access."

Thornton said the average age for graduate students is 32, and they are often balancing school work with a professional and family life. Plus, the pandemic created an environment in which everyone was using technology to make things work.

"I do feel like with the pandemic any learner who might have been apprehensive about the online environment was kind of pushed into it, whether they wanted to be or not, or various aspects for school or even personal life or, you know, watching their children navigate that system, and it did provide a level of comfort," said Thornton. "And so now that things are becoming back to normal with more in-person touch points, that comfort level still exists so that anxiety is lessened and it is just such a great opportunity to allow access and flexibility for those working professionals who need that in order to continue their education."

Despite the increase in online numbers, overall enrollment at UNG campuses also grew, with the Dahlonega campus increasing to 7,387 students this fall.

Thornton said with many graduate programs not able to shift online, such as physical therapy, the online degree programs didn't compete with the in-person programs. Eaton said in the undergraduate programs, face-to-face instruction still dominates enrollment.

The Fall 2021 Semester Enrollment Report was released by the University System of Georgia on November 1. 

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  • Associated Tags: University of North Georgia, University System of Georgia, enrollment, online, online education
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