New online program at Morehouse offers path to degree for Black men with some credits

From financial setbacks to family responsibilities, various hurdles have left millions of Black men with some college credit but no degree. Recognizing that many of these adult learners would complete their education given the opportunity, Atlanta-based Morehouse College, a historically Black men’s college, is launching a new online undergraduate program that prioritizes flexibility and affordability. The new offering, called Morehouse Online, is part of a growing push by colleges and employers to increase working adults’ access to higher education.

Morehouse finds strong demand for new offering

More than 3 million of the nation’s Black men started college degree programs but stopped short of completing them, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Launching in August, Morehouse Online hopes to provide a completion option specifically for learners who are mere credits away from graduating college.

Designed for students juggling family and work responsibilities, the new program will launch with three bachelor’s degree paths. Students will be able to set their own pace and complete eight-week courses virtually, at a cost of about $600 per course credit—just over half of what Morehouse charges residential students for on-campus classes. The program will welcome both former Morehouse students and those who began their education elsewhere, and will pair online courses with career advising and professional networking resources.

“It almost never failed that [at alumni events,] someone would pull me aside and say, ‘Is there some way I can finish my degree? I feel this amazing connection to Morehouse, it did so much for me,’” Morehouse College President David Thomas told NPR, detailing how the Morehouse Online program came into being. “But for one reason or another, they never actually got their degree.”

Thomas says he initially set a five-year goal of bringing more than 500 former Morehouse students back to finish what they started, along with another 500 students carrying credits from other colleges. But early interest has been so strong—Morehouse received more than 5,000 inquiries within a few days of announcing the program—those projections have now doubled, he says.

Thomas adds that the private HBCU is committed to addressing barriers standing in the way of Black male success.

“We owe it to the world to amplify our impact and that means … impacting the world without the world having to come to us. This is us going to the world,” Thomas told The Washington Post. “Morehouse has the moral authority to provide the Good Housekeeping seal of Black male excellence,” he added, noting that Morehouse Online will evaluate applicants and grade learners under the same rigorous standards used for students in its traditional undergraduate programs.

2U, Guild partner to expand adult education opportunities

Morehouse Online is a collaborative effort between the men’s college and online platform manager 2U, which partners with nearly 80 other colleges and universities, like Michigan State University and the University of California, Berkeley, to offer digital degree programs. Previously, 2U has focused mainly on providing marketing and support for graduate degree programs at nonprofit institutions—with colleges retaining oversight of admissions, curricula, faculty, and instruction—but the company is expanding its reach to include undergraduate, non-degree, and boot camp offerings.

Additionally, 2U is joining forces with Guild Education, a higher-ed coordinator for employers, to provide discounted online education opportunities as a means of fostering career advancement for a population of students who may have never imagined pursuing postsecondary education.

Guild has partnered with companies such as Walmart, Disney, and Chipotle to offer company-covered tuition benefits for a talent base of more than 3 million working Americans; the latest collaboration with 2U will make more than 500 programs across over 30 disciplines accessible for this network of learners, reports EdSurge.

The partnership with 2U, says Rachel Carlson, CEO of Guild Education, “will support our mission to drive down the cost of higher education, and importantly, help workers advance their education and career.”

Employee tuition benefits play an important role in helping students earn degrees without shouldering significant debt, Carlson adds. “Guild is proud to help its students avoid that debt, which is even more important considering our student demographics—54 percent of whom are people of color and 56 percent of whom are women.”

Paul Freedman, learning marketplace president for Guild Education, told Inside Higher Ed he has high hopes for what these programs and the 2U-Guild partnership eventually could achieve: “We’re going to walk, then we’re going to run and we’re going to fly.”

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