I talked to the president of a private university yesterday and he had been talking to his colleagues at other institutions. They all know that less affluent, less prestigious private colleges are going to be under increasing financial pressure, but they don’t see online instruction as part of the solution. It’s not what they mean by “education.”
This morning’s New York Times has the other half of the story. Tamar Lewin reports that the California state legislature is likely to pass a bill requiring the state’s public universities to ”give credit for faculty-approved online courses taken by students unable to register for oversubscribed classes on campus, ”Measure Seeks Campus Credit for Wrb Study” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/education/california-bill-would-force-colleges-to-honor-online-classes.html?ref=education&_r=0
Hundreds of thousands of students, she reports, are turned away from such oversubscribed classes.
This would be “the first time that state legislators have instructed public universities to grant credit for courses that were not their own – including those taught by private vendors.” Yes, the first time, but almost surely not the last.
Not to worry says Molly Broad, head of the most prestigious association of colleges and universities, the American Council on Education, “ … these would be the basic courses that perhaps faculty gets the least psychic reward from teaching.”
Extrapolate for a few years. Pressuring faculty to accredit online courses whenever possible will reduce pressure on state legislators to pay for face to face instruction. If Molly Broad is right, faculty won’t resist very much. Meantime, private institutions will resist, even if that drives costs even higher. Outcome: an ever increasing divide between public and private higher education.