Athletes use online boost: 2 weeks, 3 credits

When a college athlete fails or drops a class, there’s a quick, easy, low-cost way to stay eligible, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education in  Need 3 Quick Credits to Play Ball? Call Western Oklahoma. The community college offers two-week, three-credit online courses for $387 and “mails out transcripts the day after classes end, allowing players to get back on the field with minimal disruption.”

Nearly half of students in the quickie classes play college sports, the college estimates.

Lately, Western Oklahoma credits have appeared on the transcripts of one of the most highly recruited quarterbacks in the country, basketball players from numerous NCAA tournament teams, and athletes in at least 11 NCAA Division I conferences.

It’s not just the speedy credit that appeals to many players. According to dozens of academic advisers, athletes, and coaches, Western Oklahoma offers some of the easiest classes around. One Division I football player who reads at a fifth-grade level completed a three-credit health class in three sittings, his academic counselor says. Other students struggling to stay above a 2.0 on their own campus have landed A’s and B’s from Western Oklahoma—all in the academic blink of an eye.

Eric C. Liles Jr., a senior linebacker at Dakota State University, “aced” sociology by looking at videos and slides. He never bought the textbook. “In other classes, students who don’t pass an exam the first time are allowed to try again. And none of the exams in the two-week format are monitored.”

In one course, an instructor taught students to use Microsoft Excel by asking them to enter a number on a spreadsheet. Students also learned to create a slide in PowerPoint.

Nutrition is a popular course for athletes. One assignment asks students to “briefly explain why Americans are so obese, and why they themselves do or don’t take vitamins.”

Western Oklahoma State collects more than $2 million a year from online courses.

More than a dozen online programs help athletes meet NCAA eligibility rules, reports the Chronicle.

Ivy Tech Community College, in Indiana, offers 350 online courses to more than 32,000 online students. Brandon Walker, a junior at Franklin College of Indiana, took “E-School” geometry to qualify for freshman football.

 “You really didn’t have to read any information or understand what you were doing. You could just keep clicking to the end and take the quiz. Then, if you didn’t get a 75, they would refresh it for you… and make you retake it. Before you retook the quiz, they would give you the answers to every question you missed. Then they would automatically restart the exam, with the same questions and same exact answers. If I got a 60 on some, which I did, it would never show up. Only the ones above 75 got submitted.

“I couldn’t believe it—all the answers were already there for me.”

A few “developmental” online classes provided answers to quiz questions “as a teaching tool,”  Ivy Tech officials told the Chronicle. Those courses are no longer offered.

‘Swirlers’ may run out of Pell eligibility

“Swirling” — multiple transfers between two-year and four-year colleges — is increasingly common in higher education, notes Inside Higher Ed. Swirlers risk running out of eligibility for Pell Grants under new rules, which limit students to 12 semesters.

Trident Technical College, in South Carolina, students who changed programs multiple times, or who enrolled after pursuing, but not earning, a degree at a for-profit college are among those who are most likely to have run out of eligibility, said Meg Howle, the college’s vice president for advancement.

About 540 of the college’s 22,748 students lost their Pell Grant eligibility and still returned this fall, Howle said. The college does not know how many lost eligibility and dropped out as a result.

Students who had been enrolled in college before but still needed remedial courses were also affected, because those students had used up more of their Pell Grant eligibility without earning credits that count toward a degree, Howle said.

Students who start at community colleges and transfer to four-year universities could run out of time, said David Baime, vice president for government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.

About 4 percent of California State University students lost Pell Grant eligibility because of the 12-semester cap, said Michael Uhlenkamp, director of media relations. At Sacramento State University, some brand-new transfer students already had received 12 semesters of Pell aid, said Edward Mills, associate vice president for enrollment management. Some had lingered at community colleges. Others had “swirled” for too long.