Will Online Learning Change the Future of College Forever?

August 3, 2020
Posted in Student Tips
August 3, 2020 ACS

How are you feeling about the prospect of many universities switching entirely to online learning? While online classes offer greater flexibility, both in schedule and location, many students also see drawbacks to this style of instruction. What if those drawbacks were offset by lower tuition prices? Would that change the way you feel?

For 93 percent of current undergraduates, lower tuition is not only a plus but practically a demand. Indeed, some colleges are responding to this demand by lowering prices on room and board, if not actual tuition charges. A handful have announced lower tuition as well.

Yes, you can learn the same material over a Zoom lecture as you can in person. But we all know that college is not only about the classes. In fact, many courses cover pretty much the same material no matter where you go; English, Math, and Biology don’t exactly vary that much from one location to another! College students often choose their schools not only for the academics offered, but for the campus life, sports, extracurricular activities, and overall culture. Those experiences are mostly or completely lost in an online environment.

With online learning, too, the need for a dorm room or campus apartment diminishes. Most 18-year-olds can’t wait to move out on their own. But with the cost of college tuition already high, it can feel difficult to justify the expense of a separate residence when online courses can be taken from home.

Finally, it is important to remember that in the last few decades, the cost of college has outpaced even healthcare. The price sticker on a four-year degree can range from about $60,000 on the low end to $300,000 or more on the upper end. Even with financial aid and scholarships, most students graduate with some student loan debt (often considerable amounts).

So, what changes are in store? With most students agreeing that the price of tuition should be lower if courses are moved completely online, some analysts argue that a new market might open up. We could see the price of tuition become much more competitive in the near future, because as we’ve learned from online retailers like Amazon, convenience and price frequently beat anything else the market has to offer.

It’s “wait and see” for now, but soon we could all be learning a valuable real-life economic lesson.

In the meantime, endeavor to make the most of your freshman year. Change is hard on all of us, but hopefully those changes will be moving in a positive direction soon.


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