Friday, February 8, 2013

Reality Check on Online Higher Education

Arizona State University (ASU) offers online undergrad and grad degree programs.  It is actively recruiting Californians. Click on  If you visit this link, you will be given information in written and video format.  A sample course format is at:  So what is the cost?   

The ASU website offers a course calculator:  I used the calculator and entered that I was an Arizona resident, that I was seeking an online undergraduate degree, and that I would be enrolling as a freshman.  The cost per academic year was reported to be $10,792.  Of course, there are no living expenses payable to ASU since I would do this program online (so no dorm, etc.).   That amount is not all that far from what UC charges as the $13,200 sticker price for a California resident who is on campus (excluding room and board, etc.). See  The ASU price is also far removed from the notion of a $10,000 degree that some state governors around the country are touting ($10,000 for the entire four-year program). 

To the extent that the ASU program can serve as an example for UC, it suggests that a big cost saving is not to be had.  Of course, you could enroll more students – presumably students who meet UC’s admission standards – via an online program.  And conceivably the marginal cost of an added student might be less than the price above.  But if you poke around on the website, it appears that you would have to cover the expense of a significant marginal cost for all the tech support, interaction support, course grading, etc.  There is more involved than sticking a video camera in the back of a classroom.

We have noted in prior posts that the idea has captured the governor and legislative leaders that online ed is the magic solution to the monetary gap between their desire for no tuition increases and what they are prepared to devote to UC in the state budget.  But the idea is a fantasy.  At the recent Regents session at which these views were fostered, I did not see anyone click on the ASU website or its cost calculator.  Maybe somebody should.

No comments: