It’s a good thing California Governor Jerry Brown is taxing the rich to pay for higher education. At this rate, he’s going to need the money. You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

Nanette Asimov of the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

UC online courses fail to lure outsiders

The University of California is spending millions to market an ambitious array of online classes created to “knock people’s socks off” and attract tuition from students around the world. But since classes began a year ago, enrollment outside of UC is not what you’d call robust.

One person took a class.

“It’s taking longer than we’d hoped” for the $4.3 million marketing effort to take off, admitted Keith Williams, interim director of UC Online, which is open to enrolled students and anybody outside the university.

What UC didn’t know in 2010 when its best minds conceived of selling stellar, UC-quality courses online for college credit was that other great universities like Stanford and Harvard were about to start giving theirs away for free. The phenomenon, called Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, caught fire in 2011.

Hundreds of thousands of students have signed up for courses from cryptography to entrepreneurship. By contrast, UC’s approach snagged one high school girl who paid $1,400 for an online precalculus course at UC Irvine and four units of UC credit.

To be sure, UC has carefully developed some of the most interactive, multifaceted online education available, with 1,700 UC students taking 14 classes that premiered a year ago. These are apart from the 250 undergraduate and graduate-level online classes that UC has offered enrolled students for years. Developed by faculty, the new courses undergo rigorous peer review and allow students to interact with professors and fellow students alike, Williams said.

By contrast, the free MOOCs offer little contact with professors, and students themselves often evaluate classmates’ work. The financial benefit to universities remains unclear.

Even so, in today’s MOOC-laden landscape, UC is seen as a laggard.