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From Prison Uniforms to Graduation Robes

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 19, 2017 - 4:28pm
Two new books about the Bard Prison Initiative argue for the wisdom of offering liberal-arts-degree programs in prisons.
Categories: Higher Education News

Selected New Books on Higher Education

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 19, 2017 - 4:21pm
The latest topics include hookup culture on Catholic campuses and the influence of the German model on the rise of American research universities.
Categories: Higher Education News

AmeriCorps Joins NEH and NEA Among Programs Trump May Cut

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 18, 2017 - 3:35pm
AmeriCorps, a program often touted by HIllary Clinton, has been a source of money for college for young people.
Categories: Higher Education News

DeVos Says Her Higher-Ed Views Are ‘Very Aligned’ With Trump's

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 17, 2017 - 8:24am
In an interview, the new education secretary says the administration wants to promote vocational schools to prepare students for work.
Categories: Higher Education News

Russia Scholars Hope for an End to Their Field’s Bear Market

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 17, 2017 - 2:55am
Russian studies has watched its funding and student interest decline over the past two decades. Could President Putin’s meddling in the presidential election inspire a resurgence?
Categories: Higher Education News

For Some First-Generation Students, Fee Waivers Don’t Go Far Enough

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 17, 2017 - 2:55am
Here’s the thinking behind a new student-led effort to help eliminate barriers to attending college.
Categories: Higher Education News

Vocal Critic of Office for Civil Rights Is Likely to Lead It

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 17, 2017 - 2:55am
Strong foes of the Education Department’s recent handling of Title IX and race-based discrimination are seen as the Trump administration’s top candidates for assistant secretary for civil rights.
Categories: Higher Education News

How Much Power Does Betsy DeVos Really Hold to Shake Up Higher Ed?

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 16, 2017 - 9:23pm
Many of the new secretary’s critics have worried about what she might do, but most education secretaries have left a limited mark on higher education. Here’s why.
Categories: Higher Education News

Law Dean at Florida International U. Is Tapped for Labor Secretary

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 16, 2017 - 11:00am
R. Alexander Acosta, dean at the Florida law school since 2009, has been approved by the U.S. Senate for three previous positions.
Categories: Higher Education News

In First Higher-Ed Address as Education Secretary, DeVos Praises Community Colleges

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 16, 2017 - 8:39am
After a contentious confirmation process, Ms. DeVos was brief but prepared in her first public speech on higher-education issues.
Categories: Higher Education News

Distance Ed Costs and Price: Not as Closely Correlated as You’d Think

WCET Frontiers Blog - February 16, 2017 - 6:00am

What do you know about the price and cost of distance education? What do we charge students (the “price”)? How much does the institution spend to create the course (the “cost”)? In order to learn more about this issue, WCET conducted a survey with colleges and university leaders regarding the price and cost of distance courses.

Today we welcome Russ Poulin and Terri Taylor Straut to introduce the WCET Distance Education Price and Cost report. Today’s post will provide background on the survey and an overview of the results. Join us again soon for more in-depth discussions of results and Russ and Terri’s commentary on this important work.

Enjoy the read,

~Lindsey Downs

The long-held belief among legislators, governors, and other leaders is that distance courses should cost less to produce and deliver. Therefore, they assume that the price paid by students enrolled in these courses should be less than courses taught on campus.

WCET’s Steering Committee wanted more data about this issue. A committee (Joan Bouillon, Pearson; Tom Cavanaugh, University of Central Florida; Preston Davis, Northern Virginia Community College; and John Opper, Florida Virtual Campus) helped WCET staff identify the question for a survey of distance education professionals conducted last year.

Today, we release the results of that survey, additional interviews with higher education costing experts, and an in-depth report on the politics surrounding these issues in one state. As you will see in our concluding opinions, WCET’s Distance Education Price and Cost report is meant to provoke additional dialogue.

Distance Education Tuition is Usually the Same, but Fees Lead to a Higher Student Price

The reality at most institutions, according to the WCET survey, couldn’t be further from the truth with more than half (54.2%) of our respondents reporting that distance students pay more than on-campus students when tuition and fees are added. About three-quarters (75.1%) of institutions who completed the study indicated that tuition was the same, but the added fees continue to result in the price to students of distance courses being more.

The WCET report provides in-depth analysis of the issues of cost and price based on our survey and interviews with industry experts.

The analysis provides enough data and differing opinions to challenge the perspectives of just about anyone who reads it. It’s our belief that all parties involved in setting the price for distance education courses need a dose of the realities that the “others” are facing. This report provides those differing perspectives.

Relevant Definitions:

A common understanding of the terms used is essential. Survey respondents were given the following definitions in the introduction to the survey:

  • “Price” – This is the amount of money that is charged to a student for instruction. The components are tuition and fees. In the questions, we will be clear as to which “price” component (tuition, fees, or total price) is being queried.
  • “Cost” – This is the amount of money that is spent by the institution to create, offer, and support instruction.
  • “Distance Education” – When thinking of “distance education,” we favor the Babson Survey Research Group definition of 80% or more of the course being taught at a distance.
Distance Education Doesn’t Have to Cost More 

Our survey of distance education professionals asked detailed questions about the cost of twenty-one components in four categories (preparing, teaching, assessing students, and supporting faculty and students) of creating and delivering distance courses. The results reveal that for twelve (57.1%) of the components the respondents thought there was no difference in the costs. For nine (42.9%), of the components respondents thought that distance courses cost more and, in some cases, much more. Respondents did not identify a single component of a distance course at their institution that costs less.

 But, Does It Necessarily Have to Cost More?

Along with the survey of distance education professionals, we conducted interviews with higher education experts who have done extensive research and thinking on the higher education cost issue. Most of those experts who we interviewed challenged the status quo thinking that the cost of distance courses must be higher. They echoed an opinion that we heard from a few of the distance education professionals that many of the technologies and practices that began in distance courses are becoming ubiquitous across campus and the cost differences are lessening. In fact, some of them contend that when distance courses are designed from scratch, without trying to emulate the classroom model, they can be both more effective and cheaper.

It’s All about Mission

Historically, distance education’s mission has been to overcome the barriers of place or time. The mission was not to control costs. In fact, to reach some locations is costly. Distance education should not be held accountable to a mission it was never given.

The Price and Cost Debate is Getting Political

In recent years, governors and legislators have openly wondered about the price and cost equation. Decreased state funding has often been replaced by increases to tuition and fees. Now that their constituents are complaining about affordability, they are asking uncomfortable questions. Meanwhile, distance education professionals are caught in a higher education economics ethos that shuns open examination of price and cost…and are expected to answer to a “controlling cost” mission that was not given them in the first place.

Russ Adkins, distance education expert and long-time friend of WCET, volunteered to add a chapter updating the actions over the last few years in his home state of Florida. The issues of cost and price have become very political there. The Florida Legislature created UF Online that is mandated to charge a price that is 25% lower than its on-campus counterparts. The Governor capped the distance education fees and threatened to eliminate them. A task force was created to examine distance education costs. Will other state’s follow suit?

Join the Conversation

The report presents different points of view both in the status of how things are and how they could be. There are sections that will encourage and annoy all readers.

Now it’s your turn.

Comment on this post. You can offer to write a post that outlines price and costs in your settings. WCET members should watch for a discussion item on these issues on Friday. Suggest other resources.

We will be talking about these issues throughout the year. Watch for more.



Terri Taylor Straut
Senior Research Analyst
State Authorization Network
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies


Russ Poulin
Director, Policy and Analysis
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies




Images shared under CC license. Thank you! Credits:

Piggy Bank
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Undocumented Students’ Fears Escalate After a DACA Recipient’s Arrest

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 16, 2017 - 2:56am
A Mexican immigrant who had been granted protections was detained and threatened with deportation. People like him say they’re growing tired of living in limbo.
Categories: Higher Education News

Closing Students’ Achievement Gaps at the National Level

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 16, 2017 - 2:55am
Karen A. Stout, president of Achieving the Dream, says the organization has fostered a conversation around data-driven decision making, and helped improve student outcomes, at the more than 200 colleges it has worked with since 2004. But she says much more needs to be done.
Categories: Higher Education News

Student Is Suspended for Filming Instructor Who Made Anti-Trump Remarks

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 15, 2017 - 9:59am
Orange Coast College, a two-year institution in California, took action because the student did not ask the faculty member for permission to videotape in class.
Categories: Higher Education News

What Reality TV Taught Trump, According to Professors Who Study It

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 15, 2017 - 2:57am
Scholars of the genre say hosting The Apprentice taught President Trump about the power of spectacle and self-promotion.
Categories: Higher Education News

Why Is a University’s Top Lawyer Seeking an Outspoken Professor’s Emails?

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 15, 2017 - 2:55am
A public-records request submitted by the general counsel at the University of Oregon is raising concerns about privacy and academic freedom.
Categories: Higher Education News

Mexican Immigrant May Be First DACA Participant Arrested Under Trump

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 14, 2017 - 6:54pm
The immigrant, Daniel Ramirez Medina, was brought the United States illegally by his parents. He says the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals should protect him.
Categories: Higher Education News

U. of Texas at San Antonio's President Is Placed on Leave

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 14, 2017 - 3:02pm
The president, Ricardo Romo, had previously announced he would resign. University officials said he was being placed on leave "pending a review of allegations related to his conduct."
Categories: Higher Education News

Stanford U. Says Lawyer Was Not Dismissed Over Criticism

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 14, 2017 - 12:54pm
The university's senior associate vice provost said that the lawyer, hired to help students who were making sexual-assault complaints, was let go "because of her fatalistic attitude that she could not get good results for her clients in the process."
Categories: Higher Education News

Tenured Faculty, Are You Part of the Problem?

Chronicle of Higher Education - February 14, 2017 - 11:14am
A new essay argues that tenured and tenure-track professors in the humanities are complicit in the exploitation of instructors further down the food chain. We want to know what you think.
Categories: Higher Education News


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