The University of California is planning a new online degree program comparable in quality to its on-campus classes. It’s a good-but-not-entirely novel idea whose time is well past due, but what’s troublesome is the logic employed by the university:
Long term, the idea is to expand access to the university while saving money. Tuition for online and traditional courses would be the same. But with students able to take courses in their living rooms, the university envisions spending less on their education while increasing the number of tuition-paying students – helpful as state financial support drops.
This is an all-too-common practice in online higher education: use the online delivery platform as a method to save institutional expenditures, but keep any extra student fees cost savings to subsidize other programs. We might also call this balancing budgets off the backs of students.