Does the High Cost of Education Mean the end of Brick and Mortar Schools?

man-with-laptopWith more people choosing online education, the value of traditional four-year residential college is coming into question. Yes, a true college experience can teach precious life lessons that no website could ever compete with; however, with the accessibility of information online, does it make sense to spend thousands of dollars when online college can provide all the tools to succeed in the business world? In the wise words of Will Hunting, “You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for $1.50 in late fees at the public library.”

Four long and expensive years.

Most occupations do not require approximately 32 semester-long courses, which is exactly what students will be trudging through in a traditional college environment. True job expertise does not come from required (i.e. uninteresting) courses, but rather from specializing, and concentrating all focus on the student’s interests. Even employers are realizing that the trend toward distance learning can provide them more qualified and better prepared employees. Two-year community college and online courses tailor course work more to the real needs of the occupation.

Brick-and-mortar campuses will certainly not vanish overnight, but even the need for a library is possibly soon to be extinct. According to The American Journal, Google is currently scanning every book in the libraries of Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Oxford, the New York Public Library, as well as many others. This project will encompass close to the sum total of human knowledge. With this vast amount of information available on the internet, it only makes sense to take full advantage of distance learning. The time and money saved by participating in an online college truly outweighs the high cost of traditional college.

3 Responses to “Does the High Cost of Education Mean the end of Brick and Mortar Schools?”

  1. Jui Cho says:

    As one who has worked in higher education for almost 10 years and has completed an online master’s degree, I have a good insight to this strange phenomenon known as online higher education.

    I decided to attend a Maryland public brick-and-mortar university but through its online modality. The masters-in-education degree I earned was completed entirely online. I never once had to step foot in the door of a building other than my apartment or the public library where I often liked to study.

    The problem was that, as a Virginia resident, I had to pay out-of-state fees to the MD school on top of the regular tuition. Gates’ claim that online education may see a decrease in physical institutions is a far reaching conclusion based on bad assumptions.

    Gates is a genius as the public knows and has a God-given gift for knowledge and great insight into all things electronic and binary-language based. However, what he does not know is the nuance of completing a career in higher education. He may have started, but he never finished despite the fame and fortune he has amassed for himself.

    The access to online materials has to be created and maintained by someone. Those people are the ones who operate and maintain our traditional colleges and universities. Without these time honored institutions doing in-lab research and field testing of their hypotheses, there will be no learning modules, e-books, repositories of information, and all the other needed resources to obtain and have the desired higher education that Gates touts as being so easily secured from the Internet.

    Why wouldn’t a multi-billionaire with seemingly unlimited resources play up the need for continued interest in the Internet and all computer-based technologies from which he stands to reap huge monetary rewards? Even if he is no longer CEO of Microsoft.

    Some one has to develop the curricula and study materials for students to use and from which to learn. This is not done in a corner in some dark alley of cyberspace. It takes researchers and educators in the classroom and the field and the laboratory conducting tests and trials and proving hypotheses. Who would do this work needed in order to maintain and update all areas of education? Or, do we just stop progressing and hope that some one would champion the ideals we have for so long enjoyed?

    I am not saying that the process in which we develop text books and other materials is not without need for revision in the way they are produced and used; they do. However, saying that anyone and everyone could be self-taught and earn a “college-level degree” from experience is just wrong and a misstep for Gates to have made. We do need to take a serious look at the cost of education particularly in regards to online education. (Why did my online degree cost exactly the same as a classroom-based degree when there were less people involved, fewer facilities to maintain, and fewer expenses all around?)

    Some food for thought from the other side of the aisle.

  2. Kate Lehnhof says:

    I would agree that our nation is seeing a shift towards specialization and the important of niche knowledge and online schools tend to be very good for that type of study. I would be interesting to find some statistics on how many brick and mortar schools are being expanded or if their enrollment rates are down. I recently read an article about the environmental implications of more people doing online classes, you can check it out

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