LSU Online sticking with plan following Thackaberry’s departure

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Essentially nothing has changed about LSU’s plans to expand its online offerings following the departure of the official who led those efforts since 2018, the university’s top academic affairs officer says. 

Officials hope online education becomes a revenue driver for LSU and helps to fill the skills gap between employers who need qualified employees and workers dissatisfied with their current prospects. 

Sasha Thackaberry, LSU’s former vice president of online learning and continuing education, left for San Diego-based National University in late September. 

“The plan remains the same,” says Matt Lee, LSU’s interim executive vice president and provost. “Sasha was not the plan; Sasha was the implementer of the plan.”

When Thackaberry arrived, LSU Online had fewer than 1,000 online students and about $11.7 million in annual revenue, she says. This past academic year revenue was about $30 million, and that accounts only for programs associated with the main campus, she says. 

Lee says LSU currently has between 11,000 and 12,000 online degree-seeking students, which doesn’t count those seeking credentials other than degrees. LSU-Shreveport, which was out ahead of the other campuses in its emphasis on online learning, has nearly 7,000, while close to 2,400 are associated with the main campus. 

While small, private universities have been leaders in online education, state schools like Arizona State, Penn State and Maryland offer potential aspirational models for LSU, Lee says. The goal remains serving about 30,000 online students across the LSU system, which he says is “totally reasonable and achievable” now that the structure is in place.

“[Thackaberry] did an excellent job building out the infrastructure that we needed,” Lee says. “Now we’re just in an aggressive implementation phase.”