Morehouse College is partnering with 2U, an online educational technology platform, to create an online degree completion program named Morehouse Online. It targets Black men with some college experience who are five years removed from their initial graduation date, and who want to complete a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
In doing so, the iconic historically Black college and university (HBCU) is attempting to bring the brotherhood and culture that has anchored the school’s success for more than 150 years into the online world. Morehouse Online will be launched in the fall 2021 semester.
The timing makes sense. Morehouse just finished building out its online infrastructure to implement remote learning strategies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. After having very few online classes before COVID-19, the school has made it a point to ensure that its students do not lose any academic capabilities despite not being able to be on campus.
The success of online schooling along with the faculty’s willingness to create lesson plans that cater to an online learning environment are the driving factors that led Morehouse to believe that Morehouse Online will be a success.
Today, according to the U.S. Census, more than 3.4 million Black men over the age of 25 in the U.S. have some college credit but no degree, or an associate degree. Virtual learning creates a much more flexible and attainable pathway to a bachelor’s degree.
“The accessibility of an online education allows us to deliver the Morehouse experience and education to countless men who can bring their light to the world in the same way alums like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jeh Johnson, Spike Lee, Sen. Raphael Warnock and countless others have,” said Morehouse president David A. Thomas.
Thomas says he expects roughly 500 students by year three of this program, while maintaining a certain level of selectivity about who is accepted into it. This program is part of a larger strategy the college is trying to implement called Morehouse Without Borders.
“We are being intentional about trying to impact the world without the world having to come to us,” Thomas told ThePowerBloc. “And having us be intentional about trying to establish ourselves as the national and global voice about important issues that speak to the development and education of Black men and men of color.”
Morehouse Online will offer degrees to men with credits from other colleges and former Morehouse students in a bachelor’s degree completion program that will start with three offerings, including business administration.
2U is heavily invested in Morehouse Online, said 2U CEO Christopher Paucek. He said the technology and structure used by the higher education software company will benefit colleges like Morehouse that are really trying to build community, even if that community is online.
“We are building a curated path of content that students consume and can interact with one another,” said Paucek, co-founder of 2U. “There will be a lot of purpose-filled content that we create to bring people in the right way, and give them the experience that helps them understand how powerful the history of the school is.”
2U also has a relationship with another HBCU, Norfolk State in Virginia, where it partnered with Netflix to facilitate a boot camp that creates an opportunity for Black students to learn coding and other technology skills.
There is still some uncertainty about which programs and student services Morehouse Online will provide because its students will not be in the same age group as younger students on campus. Certain iconic rituals, such as the weekly Crown Forum, which aims to prepare the next generation of Morehouse men for the real world, might have to look different online.
“Our current Crown Forum is geared toward 17- to 23-year-olds who have yet to start their professional careers,” said Thomas. “If we were to do a program for a 35-year-old in Crown Forum and it was going to be about entrepreneurship, it is going to have a different flavor than it would for our on-campus group.”
Morehouse does not plan to offer institutional scholarships to students attending Morehouse Online, but will instead partner with different corporations to meet the financial needs of those students. Thomas said the on-campus experience will remain the college’s flagship program.
“Our expectation is that our online offering will generate a surplus that we will invest back into our on-campus program, and expand the ability to offer scholarships to our on-campus students,” said Thomas.
Morehouse Online is part of a broader strategic plan for the school to recruit more international students and expand study abroad. In the past year, the school has received more than $107 million in donations, including $40 million from Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, and his wife, philanthropist Patty Quillin, $20 million from MacKenzie Scott, a philanthropist, author and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and $26.3 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies.