CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) -- Since its 2009 inception, Truett-McConnell College's online studies program has more than doubled every year. Beginning with three students, the program now has 70 classes reflecting 10 percent of TMC's academic population.
"We had about 126 students last fall, but this fall, we'll hit the 270-to-280 range -- maybe more than 300," said Don Tatum, online studies director for TMC. "In our online section, we have well over 100 percent growth. We've more than doubled our size again this year."
The online program offers two bachelor's degrees -- Business and Christian Studies -- and Tatum said content of online classes are identical to on-campus classes.
"We are elated to see consistent growth in online enrollment," said Dr. Brad Reynolds, TMC's vice president for academic services. "This means increasing numbers of students are exposed to a quality education steeped in historic baptistic principles from a conservative Christian worldview and biblical theology second to none."
The only way to improve on that, said Reynolds, would be financially. "Truett-McConnell's online tuition rates are exceptionally affordable when compared to other, larger institutions," he said. "To my knowledge, there is no other institution that can offer the kind of online education we do at the same tuition rates."
"Money is precious in this economy. Anytime we can save students money and give them a quality education -- that's part of what I believe God is calling us to do," said Don Tatum, Truett-McConnell College's online studies director.
"Our base cost is $7,500," he said. "But when federal grants are applied, in most cases the majority of our students are going to school for $2,000 a year."
Federal grants and scholarships include, but are not limited to the HOPE scholarship, Pell Grant, and The Georgia Baptist Cooperative Program, which awards $200 to $1000 to students affiliated with a Georgia Baptist Convention church.
Applicants may also be eligible for $700 a year from the Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant Program (GTEG), and full-time online Business and Christian Studies students could receive up to $1000 from TMC's online scholarship fund.
"It's a good investment, financially, considering that tuition cost is not as much as it would be if students were going somewhere else," said Becky Moore, director of financial aid. "I think our online program is great for students who have families, who need something they can do on their own time and at their own pace."
"We have found that our best students are older students. They seem to be our most diligent students," Tatum said.
While online classes are available to all qualified applicants, the affordable convenience of the online curriculum is "particularly suited to those who want to complete their college degree, and especially for pastors and other minsters who see the value of a biblically conservative, theological education, but who may be bi-vocational or live too far from our campus," Reynolds said.
A Christian Studies major, Robert Knapik said TMC Online has been great with regard to time management and tuition price. "The professors have been wonderful," he added. "The staff has been great. I really love the Truett-McConnell College experience."
Though the addition of an online education to a full time career may be stressful at times, Tatum added that the reward is worth the sacrifice: "It's work. It takes discipline. You've got to sacrifice to be able to do this. But, the reward is just so great."
Online registration for spring semester begins Oct. 24.
Vicky Kaniaru is senior staff writer at Truett-McConnell College.