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Yale Will Offer Its First Online Degree

A lucrative partnership for the ed-tech company 2U Inc.

Shannon Stapleton / Reuters / Reuters

Yale University is offering its first-ever online degree through a partnership with the ed-tech company 2U Inc., the university announced today. The degree program, a master's for physician's assistants, is major step for the Ivy League school, and for 2U, a young company that has staked its credibility on offering high-quality online degrees that it says are virtually identical in quality to in-person programs.

2U, which went public last March, has made a business out of starting up and running online degree programs at nonprofit universities, including Northwestern and Georgetown. The prestige and credibility offered by Yale, 2U's first Ivy League partner, are key for the company, whose online programs cost exactly as much as in-person degrees — often well over $75,000. Yale's master's program will cost $84,000, the university said.

2U's stock jumped more than 2% on the news that it had added Yale as a partner.

The new online program, which comes through Yale's School of Medicine, is in line with the university's broader strategy, said Linda Lorimer, Yale's vice president for global and strategic initiatives. The technology will "amplify the impact" of the faculty involved in the program, she said.

Rather than playing back lectures on video on or corresponding via email, 2U classes are conducted via the company's online streaming platform, in small classes of ten or 15 students. Many also come with in-person components; Yale's includes time spent on campus to learn clinical skills and testing.

The partnership with Yale, said 2U CEO Chip Paucek, "is a validation not only of 2U, but of real, high-quality online education."

Yale's previous online offerings were limited to free online courses; the school partners with the education company Coursera. Many Ivy League schools have been hesitant to offer actual online degrees out of concern that quality — and prestige — are diluted in online learning.

While schools Brown and Columbia both offer online-only master's degrees, Yale's online degree sets it apart from several of the school's top-tier counterparts in the Ivy League. Harvard offers partial online degrees only through its separate Extension School, while Princeton, with the exception of a few open online classes, has shied away from the space almost entirely.