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Rutgers, Pearson partner to expand global course offerings

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Though Rutgers University has offered online courses to students enrolled at its three campuses for more than a decade, a new public-private partnership with educational technology company Pearson Inc. will enable the university to provide degrees entirely through online programs and extend its reach outside of New Jersey.

“We’ve been growing our online enrollment between 20 (percent) and 25 percent per year, and we’re up to 15,000 enrollments this year, but we’ve done it in a bootstrap fashion. The decision to do a public-private partnership was really driven by the knowledge that if we wanted to get our online programs to scale globally and make investments to get to high quality instruction, we needed a partner,” said David Finegold, senior vice president of lifelong learning and strategic growth at Rutgers.

Pearson was selected for the seven-year contract in the spring through a competitive bidding process with five other private-sector online education providers. That process, Finegold said, “included startups, but in an industry which is changing so quickly, it’s useful to have a partner who you know will still be around in another decade.”

Under the contract, Pearson will provide worldwide recruitment and enrollment services, increase the number and features of Rutgers’ online courses, keep students engaged, and design training for faculty to move between classroom and online instruction.

Don Kilburn, vice chairman of Pearson Higher Education and CEO of Pearson Learning Solutions, said Rutgers is following a national trend of public universities entering into contracts with the private sector to expand their online programs, and he noted Pearson recently completed “a bunch of agreements with public schools in Kentucky, West Virginia and Arizona to help them accomplish similar goals as Rutgers.”

In a statement Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi said in a statement the partnership will allow the university to “provide the academic rigor and high quality of a Rutgers education to a broader statewide, national and global group of students who might not otherwise be able to come to our campuses.”

Finegold said that group includes active military and veterans, as the university’s Office of Veteran and Military Programs and Services “frequently receives e-mails from members of the military serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who wish to pursue a Rutgers degree, (and) we will now be in a much better position to meet their educational needs.”

The first expanded graduate programs in education and library and information science will be available next month, while additional online degree programs in business, nursing, engineering and other subjects will start enrolling students for summer and fall 2013 courses soon.

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