While online schools in several states have recently been touched by controversy, Stanford’s virtual Education Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY) has stayed “out of the fray” according to deputy director Raymond Ravaglia.

The growth of virtual K-12 schools nationally has ignited a debate over whether state tax dollars should pay for pupils who elect to attend such schools. Virtual schools have considerably lower overhead costs than their traditional counterparts, with no building construction or maintenance costs to speak of, and fewer staff per pupil. Yet online providers receive just as much funding per student as a traditional school does despite lower costs, diverting funding from school districts.

As a tuition-based private program, EPGY is not subject to the same kinds of criticism as state-sponsored providers, but raises some of the same questions regarding the pros and cons of online learning.

EPGY offers distance-learning courses for gifted students in mathematics, physics, computer science and writing. It was initially launched in the late 1980s with the mission of developing a computer-based calculus course for students without access to higher level math at their high schools.

The program has since expanded and now offers accelerated-learning classes for K-7 students and advanced and university-level courses for older students. EPGY also recently opened a small, fully-accredited high school, which currently enrolls about 80 students. All course credit is transferable and conferred through the Stanford Continuing Studies Program.

Tuition costs range from $495 for a one-quarter sequence in mechanics, to $740 for a two-quarter sequence in multivariable calculus. Financial aid is available to students who qualify.

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