Why the move to online instruction won’t reduce college costs

August 7, 2020

In an essay for the Chalkboard blog at the Brookings Institution, Kevin Stange, associate professor of public policy at the Ford School, reports on analysis of the move to online teaching at colleges and universities across the U.S. He and his co-author, Steven Hemelt, associate professor of public policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, conclude, “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.

“Evidence on the relationship between online coursework and costs is sparse; institution-level correlations suggest more online instruction is associated with lower sticker prices charged to students. Moreover, evidence on how online instruction differs by program and field is largely nonexistent,” they write.

They looked at which fields already had an online component and whether online instruction would lower costs over the short run.

What are the implications for education leaders and policymakers?

“First, recent (and ongoing) increases in online coursework are unlikely to lead to substantial cost savings for institutions. Second, given recent research that finds online or blended coursework is not as effective as face-to-face instruction, especially for students from underserved backgrounds and those struggling academically, universities need to offer additional supports. And third, the creativity of educators and students made possible continued access to learning for many this past spring; however, the crisis has also highlighted deep inequities in online access and supplementary supports, as well as facets of education that cannot be easily recast into an online format.

You can read the post here.