Why The Move To Online Instruction Won’t Reduce College Costs

from Brookings

As COVID-19 swept across the country in March, colleges shuttered and millions of students and instructors were propelled into a world of distance education. Institutional leaders are now grappling with how to provide a quality education over the academic year ahead while also guarding the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff. Online instruction is a core component of many colleges’ strategies, with a growing number abandoning in-person plans for the fall. Questions about the feasibility, quality, equity, and costs of online instruction sit front and center. Our recent analysis suggests that the difficulty of shifting instruction online is likely to vary across fields of study, and that movement to online education is unlikely to reduce instructional costs.

Students have rightly lamented the loss of face-to-face interaction with professors and access to on-campus facilities. Ample evidence suggests that students are less successful in online formats, especially students who are least prepared, and even in formats that blend online instruction with in-person support. Some students have called for tuition refunds due to perceived cost savings and lower quality of online instruction. At the same time, colleges face extraordinary budget woes from lost state and tuition revenue and increased need for student aid. If online instruction produced substantial cost savings, this would give institutions a bit more wiggle room to confront such challenges.

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2 Comments

  1. It is extremely logical for the college tuition prices to remain the same, even with the pandemic. The pandemic has caused the educational system to shift towards an online style of learning due to the risks of spreading COVID-19. This has caused conflict with students because many students prefer learning in person. With the shift to online learning, these students have had difficulty learning and focusing in regards to learning material virtually. Due to this, as well as a reduced amount of staff on campus and in schools leads to the argument of reducing college costs. While I understand student frustrations due to the issues in place, reducing college costs as a result of this does not make sense for colleges. While one of the main goals of college is to learn and get an education, virtual classes still provide an opportunity to learn and progress towards the true end goal of a degree. This gives colleges the reasoning to hold up prices and continue to raise them as time goes on. The value of a college degree hasn’t changed negatively due to COVID-19, which gives them the power and reasoning to continue to keep prices where they are, rather than reducing them. The article also shows a graph that demonstrates there was a good ratio of students who were taking online classes before the pandemic (demonstrated major was an important factor in the decision to take online classes). This demonstrates that online classes are not an advanced way of learning, as it was done before the impact of COVID-19. This article does a better idea of bringing up this issue, rather than giving reasoning to either solve the pricing of college or explain why there doesn’t need to be solved. This issue is very fair to be questioned, but I believe with common sense and logic around the importance and significance of a degree shows that changing college prices due to the amount of online learning is completely irrational.

  2. This once again is an issue that hits very close to home for me. For the closing two years of high school, I had to deal with the inconveniences of online learning. I quickly learned that the only way that I can learn and effectively take something away from a class is from being engaged in person for the entirety of the school year. However, since I went to public high school at that time, I did not care nearly as much about my education as I did now. If we were to go remote right now here at Seton Hall University, I guarantee that the results would be the same as in high school in that my grades would slip and I definitely would learn next to nothing, Not to mention I soon will be taking classes that will be essential to my future career like accounting, so receiving maximum engagement ill be crucial for me. If we went online I would have reason to believe that I would not receive anywhere near the full value on the dollar value of the education I was set to be receiving here at Seton Hall. I too would also would not want to be paying the same expensive college tuition rates as the students paid last year to get next to nothing for my education. However, I also acknowledge that professors would still need to be paid in an online setting and the lights might still need to be kept on at this school. However, I still feel that universities should find ways to cut the cost of operating since they should have next to no in-person engagement on campus in an online setting. I understand that the article goes on to explain how last year most universities were not able to cut costs on their expenses, but maybe now with more experience to find a way to make tuition more affordable given the inconvenience. Either way, if we were to enter a remote setting I do not see how I and many other students like me across the country could continue to pay very high tuition rates for an education that they get no bang for their buck.

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