Online College Courses May Be More Expensive Than Classroom

An analysis by The Dallas Morning News shows that although state leaders have lauded online education as the solution to rising college costs, online courses are actually more expensive for most students than attending campus classes in the state of Texas.

In fact, online classes can be more than 20% more costly than brick and mortar school attendance when extra fees or additional costs per credit hour are included.  Marissa Barnett writes in The Dallas Morning News that only two schools had lower costs for online courses, the University of North Texas in Denton and the University of Texas at Austin (UTA).  The $10,000 degrees supported  by Gov. Rick Perry do have lower tuition, but the value of those degrees has been questioned.

Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, says online learning is not a cure-all.

“There’s a sort of snake oil quality to some of the facile answers that people periodically throw out there,” he said. “Online education can be a tremendously valuable component for actual academic delivery, but if you were to do it right, it would not only not save money, it would cost money.”

Still, there are lawmakers and policy-makers who think online courses reduce facility and faculty costs.

Some ideas being discussed include:

• Putting half of the classes at schools like the University Texas or Texas Tech University online to save on facilities and tuition costs.

• Research how online and blended classes – classes that are partly in class and partly online – could reduce cost and increase access to college.

• Discover whether online classes are less expensive than traditional on-campus studies.

Some facts about the actual costs of online courses include:

• A semester of online courses at UTA costs between $4,415 and $4,490.  For on-campus students, tuition is $4,439.

• At most Texas community colleges, a student pays $156 per three-hour course, whether the student takes the course online or on campus.

• Per credit, says an analysis by US News and World Report, in-state cost for an online degree program is $277, and $243 for traditional classroom.

• One component that ups the fees surrounding online learning is that many Texas colleges and universities join with outside companies to produce online courses, which means course fees increase

Universities could face a loss of some state funding by using online courses as part of a student’s coursework because budgets are based on the number of students in a classroom. Also, there is always the concern that online study might result in more student dropouts and that the quality of the class might not be up to par.

Website OnlineColleges has reported that Texas is the best place for students to get an online college education, says Kristin Tate of Breitbart, adding that Texas-based bachelor’s degree holders have the highest median income in the country.  Texas’ online college education state ranking was followed by Washington, Georgia, Utah, and Florida.

The rankings were based on internet quality in the state, in-state tuition fees, distance education programs, state job growth and median salary for bachelor’s degree holders.

Greg Abbott, Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate, laid out his education plan this week, which included expanding online education options and ensuring that students get college credit for the courses’ completion.  Reeve Hamilton, writing for The Texas Tribune, added that Abbott intends to support massive open online courses (MOOCs) to improve flexibility and affordability in higher education, and he believes that credit should be given to those students completing such courses.