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University of Pennsylvania is first Ivy to launch an online bachelor's degree

Starting in the fall of 2019, the UPenn online undergrad degree program will be the first of its kind in the Ivy League, and geared toward working adults and other non-traditional students.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   25-09-2018

online bachelors degree

The University of Pennsylvania announced it is launching a new program that, for the first time, makes an Ivy League bachelor’s degree accessible online. Starting in the fall of 2019, the university will offer an online degree geared toward working adults and other non-traditional students.

Nora Lewis, Penn's vice dean of professional and liberal education in the School of Arts and Sciences, says the university explored the concept for two years before deciding to launch it. The program is being run by the school’s Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS) program.

“The goal of this new platform is to make an Arts and Sciences education more accessible, flexible, and affordable for working adults. Penn LPS Online redefines the notion of who can get an Ivy League education by making it accessible to anyone who demonstrates the ambition and potential to earn it,” Lewis told Penn Today.

The degree is a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences.

Lewis explained that the degree can be completed almost entirely online. "There are two required residency periods here on the Penn campus that are very brief in nature," she told KYW Newsradio 1060.

The move has drawn applause for democratizing education, but Forbes still viewed it as “a curious development,” fearing the “experiment” could dilute the elite school’s expensive and exclusive education brand.  

“Ivy League colleges are like luxury brands. That may not be fair, or even deserving in all cases. But it’s true. An Ivy admission and education is both highly coveted, and like designer couture, expensive. The price to quality connection is hard-wired. The two are more alike than most would like to admit,” wrote Derek Newton in Forbes.

“That’s why it’s a curious development,” added Newton that the University of Pennsylvania, “one of the august Ivy eight” is launching a bachelor’s degree program that’s “discounted and mostly online.”

Even though the diplomas awarded through the new program will say, “University of Pennsylvania,” few expect it to have the shiny luster of the degree earned by the full-time residential students.

“By stitching their Ivy League name to online degree programs people already suspect are inferior, and doing so at a discount, UPenn risks reinforcing that cheaper-is-lower-quality idea and seriously undercutting their high-end brand position,” noted the Forbes article.

“If you’re a student who’s in a position to get an Ivy education online, for cheap, good for you – it’s like finding that Louis Vuitton on the discount rack. In real life, though, you won’t find that $3,000 bag on sale because there’s simply no such thing as a less expensive, more accessible luxury brand – the ideas are incongruous,” added the US business magazine.

As of now, UPenn will offer four concentrations: Creative Studies, Literature, Culture, and Tradition, Organizational Studies and Physical and Life Sciences, according to the website.

“Teaching all-online courses have completely refreshed my pedagogy,” Al Filreis, Kelly Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, told Penn Today. “My students are intergenerational, diverse in all ways, typically geographically far-flung, and often living in communities underserved by educational resources. They challenge me with intensely intellectual but often non-academic questions, bringing into being the best sort of ideas-based community,” added the professor, who has taught modern poetry online since 1995.

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