November 20, 2023
Lone Star College, a community college with eight campuses in Texas, has one “campus” that’s different than the others—it’s all online. The student government is made up of remote students, faculty members transferred from other campuses to focus on teaching online courses and college officials are working on helping students start e-clubs, including a possible crocheting group.
Lone Star College-Online was launched in fall 2022 to serve the growing percentage of students who wanted to pursue degrees fully online in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-pandemic, in fall 2019, 57 percent of students in the system took at least one online class and 18 percent were registered fully online.
This fall, 72 percent took online courses and 37 percent enrolled fully online. Enrollment at the LSC-Online grew almost 30 percent within its first year, from 3,643 students to 4,708 students from fall 2022 to fall 2023. Faculty members were quick to migrate too, with about 100 Lone Star professors applying for the 40 positions at the online campus.
The college isn’t an outlier. Community colleges are increasingly finding that online enrollments make up a sizable chunk of their student bodies.
Seelpa Keshvala, executive vice chancellor and chief executive officer at LSC-Online, said a couple years post-pandemic, the trend shows no signs of slowing down.
Robust online education now “needs to be part of the repertoire of every comprehensive community college, because that’s where the demand is,” Keshvala said. “Students have decided to do things differently than pre-pandemic once they were forced to be in an online environment.”