How to Start an Online University?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by egam, Jul 2, 2011.

  1. egam

    egam New Member


    I was wondering does anyone here have any knowledge as to how to start an online university? Any online references would be especially helpful. I would like to start a small university that would eventually achieve DETC accreditation.

    Specific Questions:
    Which states are easiest to start something like this, in terms of licensing/approval requirements?

    Realistically speaking, how much of an investment would it take to get this started and to give this university a reasonable chance at being successful?

    How would it take before ownership begins to see a decent return on investment?

    Any other relevant info would welcome.

    Thank you.
  2. Garp

    Garp Well-Known Member

    What I am about to say is NOT coming from an expert (I would contact DETC). Someone applying to another (ie not DETC) accreditor once told me the application process was 10,000 dollars. This does not include all of the other things accreditors want such as qualified faculty, financial stability and course design (which takes experts).

    Some accreditors, such as TRACS, will not accredit on line only school. In that case you must have a physical plant and a library with a certain number of volumes for student populations and so on.

    DETC would obviously allow on line only but you need to check with them on specifics.

    Not a cheap process and will likely take years to get accredited. Then you have to consider what you are offering. If it is something like an MBA program, how many online MBA programs are out there from both Regionally and Nationally accredited schools (thousands). So, simply investing all that money will not guarantee students.
  3. rmm0484

    rmm0484 Member

    My thoughts are this:
    (a) Do you have an e--commerce and or education background? Have you taught online yourself? If not, I would suggest that you apprentice yourself to an online school for a while.
    (b) If you have any online credentials, I would suggest marketing yourself to a small accredited not for profit school that would like to expand its online presence, and not just offer courses online. Some of the seminaries may be interested.
    (c) Perhaps you could work with your local school /church school district to offer high school online.

    My 2 cents
  4. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Three questions to start:

    1. Have you ever started a business before?

    2. How many years of experience do you have as a university administrator?

    3. How many people are on your team?
  5. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    Good questions. Here's some more:

    1) How do you plan to attract people to work for you?

    2) How do you plan to pay your staff while you're waiting for students to show up?

    3) How do you plan to attract paying students to an unaccredited, fledgling school?

    Having never even contemplated such a project my first thought is that you will need to have a vision (and a very good plan) for creating a school that is unique in some way. There are already so many colleges, why would someone choose yours over a better known, well established (accredited) school. You will probably need to sell that vision to investors or, if you plan to be non-profit, you'll need to have another means of raising funds. As a previous member pointed out, on a basic level this is no different that starting another other sort of business.
  6. AviTerra

    AviTerra New Member

    I think most of your questions can be answered by practical common sense:
    Which States? Check where colleges similar to the one you envision starting are domiciled. These States will obviously consider your institution. One caveat is that some of these States will require you to become accredited within one or two years if you are degree granting. Therefore, I would consider starting out as non-degree (certificate) granting.

    How much investment and how much ROI? The two are interconnected. It depends on how quickly you can attract students and break-even. It’s a crowded market right now and carrying costs to break-even can be many times the initial investment.
    The important question is; do you have a clear vision that fulfills a particular gap/need in the education market? If you do, and execute properly, then you have a chance to succeed.
  7. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator

    That would be a very long, slow and difficult process since a university is built on reputation. It would be very difficult to be able to begin by offering legitimate accredited degrees. Most schools I know of have had to work their way up from the bottom of the heap unless there are huge dollar amounts of investment in infrastructure and personnel. The only way around that I could foresee would be someone who is established at another school breaking off to form their own. This appears to be what Dr. Lady is doing with his AIMS venture. He already is established in the academic world and has the goodwill to build upon.
  8. shawn3500

    shawn3500 New Member

    Email me I was also interested in starting one. Can get the capital backing.

    [email protected]
  9. rmm0484

    rmm0484 Member

    The thought occurred to me that you have quite a cadre of potential staff members and faculty right here at DegreeInfo.
  10. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Running a school (online or otherwise) is such a multifaceted endeavor with organizational, infrastructure, personnel, regulatory, marketing, accounting and other issues. If you do not have previous experience in this arena, you will do well to spend some time working for the type of school that you plan on developing. You will become acquainted with the myriad of issues that you will have to address in order to be successful. Since your intention is to run a school with the intention of having it become accredited, it is an entirely different venture than running a retail outlet (or a diploma mill, for that matter)..
  11. egam

    egam New Member

    Very good points made by everyone here.....Thanks.
  12. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    While you're in law school?
  13. airtorn

    airtorn Moderator

    Maybe he wants to start a two year DL law school.
  14. major56

    major56 Active Member

    My first thought, way prior to regulatory, capital investment, ROI, infrastructure, personnel, and/or accreditation issues /questions, etc., as to your entrepreneurial endeavor is the consideration of:

    As a late entrant, what will be the differentiator (not asking that you disclose this) as regards your online college /university; where’s the potential buy-in (e.g., what would your school offer that’s not already available from an inordinate number of purveyors with a large array of pricing structures along with competing program qualities and brands)? As has already been mentioned, it’s a VERY /VERY crowded and highly competitive industry /marketplace! And in my view, without a business model that truly separates your virtual school initiative from the crowd, would merely place such a school in just another “me too” category. And there’s already far too many of those options that consumers can choose from now, be they virtual, B&M (w/a virtual presence), for- or non-profit, RA, NA or unaccredited. Moreover with the technologies available, even a somewhat unique virtual school model can generally be easily, cheaply and quickly replicated. How would your exclusive idea prevent (e.g., cost prohibitive) this from happening via other market players?

    I’m not in any way attempting to discourage your initiative; nonetheless, I’m approaching this as say an investor would. On the upswing, I’d personally welcome a genuine new entrant with an innovative model; it’s needed! It’s my observation that the current virtual college /university industry has already become a mature industry lacking any authentic ground-breaking originality … just more me-too tweaking.
  15. egam

    egam New Member


    Good points.
  16. GeeBee

    GeeBee Member

    I don't intend for this to be as mean as it is probably going to sound: If you have to ask a message board how to do it, you probably aren't qualified for it.
  17. gpmax

    gpmax New Member

    Sorry to jump this lat to this discussion, but I can say that not everyone has on their teams skilled persons in every area; you could have the finest staff for teaching something, but this is management, and the process of starting a new project is always hard. We're facing this right now, and I can tell you, its very hard, specially when you not only want to do it not-for-profit, when you want to do it entirelly FOR FREE... that closes lots of doors, unfortunatelly!
  18. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    This thread has been dead for almost 2 years. You're not jumping in late; there's no discussion anymore.
  19. icecom3

    icecom3 New Member

    Ugh...another old post that I was duped into reading :(
  20. Johann766

    Johann766 Active Member

    Anyone here who ever seriously considered starting an educational for profit project?
    A setup that might be achievable for a small team of founders would be to buy a franchise license from an University which is state-recognized in its home-country.
    In another topic on degreeinfo (can´t find it anymore though) someone estimated that it might cost 25000$ to get started as an authorized learning center by UCN / Uni Azteca (I suppose plus e.g. 5000 $ for each PhD that will be awarded through your learning center) and probably 1 million $ to get started with a partnership with an Australian University.
    Also you would of course need to deploy learning material (which should be available en masse in usual subjects as business administration) and create exams / other forms of assessment.
    Obviously you´d also need an online learning platform.

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