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Higher Education in Crisis

May 17, 2020

The “CARES Act” provides financing to alleviate the effects of unemployment caused by a viral Pandemic.  Some funding is allocated to shore up institutions of higher education that were forced to close instruction in college classrooms. Colorado, where for eight years I was President of an Internet university,  according to this report, “received $173.3 million from the CARES Act — $144.5 million for public institutions and $28.8 million for privately operated schools.”

That sounds like a good deal to me, but when the government acts by giving or cutting funds, it seldom does so with up-to-date understanding of ways those funds should be spent or reduced.

As I reported yesterday, “Though colleges must move immediately to offer courses online, very few know how to do that. Those online courses will fail to enroll students willing to pay full tuition and a high percentage of those that do enroll will not complete coursework.”

With a vaccine not discovered this year or even in 2021, colleges and universities must perfect their ability to develop effective online courses and lower tuition of online courses to real costs, somewhere between $350 and $450 per course. Two years ago, when I last surveyed tuition cost at Colorado public institutions, here’s what I found:

Per Credit Tuition                                                               3-Credits           8-Courses   10 Courses

Fort Lewis College – Durango                           $295             $885                  $7,080        $8,850

Metropolitan State University of Denver       $293             $879                  $7,032        $8,790

Western State College                                         $244             $732                  $5,856        $7,320

University of Northern Colorado                      $253             $759                  $6,072        $7,500

Adams State College                                              $227             $601                  $5,448       $6,010

Colorado Mesa University                                    $315             $945                  $7,560        $9,450

Colorado State University – Pueblo                     $304             $912                 $7,296         $9,120

University of Colorado at Boulder                       $388             $1.164              $9,312     $11,164

If an effective online course can be offered with an instructor for $150 per academic credit, current tuition at Colorado public universities must be reduced by at least 50%. Any reasonable accountant will tell you that, if offering classroom instruction may not resume until 2021, then operating costs must be reduced accordingly.  That means furloughing  faculty and administrative staff not engaged in teaching and administering online courses.

A course that can be administered for $450 at CU-Boulder or Adams State should be priced at $450 each, not $1,164 or $601.

Neither the “Cares Act” nor the U.S. Department of Education require that.

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