One of the arguments in favor of online education is its ability to use technology to reach more people and thus reduce costs. However, that is not what is happening. Instead, many colleges are trying to use these programs as cash cows to bring money into the coffers of their brick-and-mortar schools--or, in the case of completely online colleges, into the pockets of their investors. For example, one of the most well-known online colleges, The University of Phoenix, charges $66,000 for its online bachelor's degree in Business and Management. In contrast, the University of Wyoming offers a similar online degree, but charges only $16,000 for the program.
Below are some excerpts from a study by GetEducated.com about the true costs of online learning. But the bottom line is that most colleges are charging their online students about 5-10% more than their campus-based students, and for-profit colleges (like University of Phoenix) are charging as much as they can get away with. So if your students are considering online degrees, make sure to check into the alternatives closely, because there are big differences per credit hour on what similar programs are offering.
excerpts from Online Learning Myth #2: The Cheap Online College by Vicky Phillips
Online learning pundits predict that the marriage of educational technology with college learning will result in the birth of a new litter of low-cost or cheap online colleges.
I wish this notion were true.
I wish online education was destined to lower the cost of attending college while also solving the student debt crisis that plagues America. Instead, surveys show just the opposite – online college costs might actually be higher than residential college costs. The cost of masters degrees, online MBAs especially, are often higher than the equivalent on-campus versions.
Don’t get me wrong. Tying technology to education can indeed lower the cost of delivering college courses. Online learning could, in theory, provide what one Forbes business writer has envisioned as a national system of “cheaper education for the masses.”
It could, but it isn’t.
For the last decade GetEducated.com has tracked the real cost – the tuition AND online learning fees – for online degree programs across the country. We then publish this data as lists of the most affordable online learning degrees. ....
Our data shows that the #1 determinant of online college costs is not whether that degree is offered online or on campus – it’s the business structure of the degree-granting institution.
For-profit colleges charge what the market will bear.
Public universities charge what tax payers and the legislature will allow. ... According to a 2011 cost survey of more than 700 online bachelors degrees undertaken by GetEducated.com, degrees from for-profit schools are on average 50% more expensive than degrees from non-profit, public institutions (the average non-profit public university’s bachelors costs $33,997 while the average for-profit version costs a whopping $51,280).
... Online degrees suffer from a stigma of “cheapness,” but current practice among both for-profit colleges and non-profit colleges indicate that cost control is not destined to be a real part of any grand national pledge by the online learning sector to help make college more affordable to students themselves.
I caution those who believe that educational technology and online learning will universally lower college costs and indebtedness, for the students who use it. Instead, what is unfolding, if one examines the cost data, is a pattern akin to what happened in the 1980s when health care was converted to a profit-driven structure.
Higher education will continue to balloon in cost. Institutions – both for-profit and cash-strapped non-profits — will increasingly enlist technology to cut costs. Alas, consumers themselves may increasingly be denied the benefits of these cost cutting measures.
Read Online Learning Myth #2: The Cheap Online College for more specifics on average costs for online programs and what is happening to the money they save the sponsoring institutions.