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The Boston Globe



As online classes gain acceptance, colleges must adapt

Suffolk University came into being more than a century ago as an unconventional law school for nontraditional students. So it will be fitting — and helpful to other institutions — if the school can position itself now as a leader in adapting to deep changes in American higher education, especially the dramatic expansion of online learning.

Like many universities, here and elsewhere in the country, Suffolk started with a narrow mission — to be an evening law school for students with day jobs — and expanded its offerings over time to replicate more of the undergraduate and graduate programs at more established institutions. Now, that era of rapid institutional growth at universities seems to be ending, especially for schools that, like Suffolk, rely heavily on tuition rather than research grant revenues or vast endowments for their funding. In response, Suffolk’s newly inaugurated president, James McCarthy, is moving away from an all-things-to-everyone approach. Instead, the university’s new strategic plan focuses on academic areas where the school has been strongest and those that lead most directly to careers. It also vows to use more online instruction, in part to keep tuition costs down.

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