The NY Times is running a series on college debt. I read one article and it depressed me (a related blog post). I hope I am not contributing to the problem.
It is true that tuition costs are increasing and states are paying less and less of the costs of public education. It is true that related costs such as book are increasing. It is true that our government cannot decide how to keep the interest on student loans low – roll back health care reform or tax the rich.
It appears that online education may be part of the solution. I am not certain that instruction is less expensive, but online experiences eliminate the costs of moving to a college to obtain an education.
I still wonder about online learning. Actually, it is not the learning part that concerns me. I think some of the value in an education is the social component. A social connection is one of the better predictors of whether students stay in college or drop out. The social component is a priority for many students according to the authors of Academically Adrift (not a good thing according to these authors). The social connections are part of what you pay for long term – connections with bright, well placed people. I think they call it networking in the world of business.
It was graduation time at UND this past weekend. Some of the Instructional Design and Technology graduate students made the trip to Grand Forks. Our online courses include fairly sophisticated capabilities, but we mostly hear the students. It is an interesting experience to meet students you have interacted with in several courses. I wonder about their long term connections with the program and with our institution. I know there are practical limitations, but perhaps some combination of FTF and online would be better.