Give the University of Florida an “A” for bold thinking, but an “F” for poor communications around a new program that requires some freshmen to complete their first year of classes online.
The specially admitted students did not apply to an online program, nor were they told of an online-only possibility.The news arrived with their acceptance letters, prompting a barrage of questions from students and parents.
“We got quite a few calls,” Joe Glover, UF’s provost, told the Tampa Bay Times. “People did not understand. Some were upset.”
University officials readily admit to an “experiment” designed to increase freshmen enrollment and that the online program didn’t exist even last fall when students applied, but announcing it in acceptance letters creates a “bait and switch” perception that starts important new relationships off on the wrong foot.
UF’s online approach deserves attention. It increases enrollment, increases revenue and probably costs relatively little to implement. It’s fresh thinking in an evolving marketplace.
Proper communications to applicants about the program wouldn’t have cost much, and the outreach would have delivered a big return.
By preparing students and families before sending acceptance letters, UF could have replaced confusion with excitement and positioned its brand as a national leader in exploring new ways to serve students.
In this market, other pioneering universities soon will.