The coronavirus pandemic has sped up the virtual takeover of higher education

Life after the coronavirus pandemic is being referred to as the “new normal,” a characterization of how things like social distancing, masks and remote work will remain even after the virus has finally been mitigated.

And while some may think the virtual college experience of this past spring was just a temporary measure to help combat COVID-19, it too will be here to stay as part of this new normal.

The truth is higher education in the United States was always going to become a predominantly online learning experience, because the world is simply moving in the direction of virtual interaction driven by technology that is too strong to ignore.

However, that transition would have taken decades were it not for the coronavirus. Now, it could happen within the next 10 years.

When campuses across the country were shut down in March and students were sent home to earn the semester’s credits on a Zoom conference call from their parent’s kitchen table, the typical 2020 college education was exposed for how ridiculously overpriced it has become.

Parents and student loan borrowers, yes, it’s true. You are paying $50,000 a year for four years to earn a piece of paper that only requires some online courses and a take-home test or two.

As a result of the pandemic-induced virtual higher education experience, online college has been normalized for so many households that would have never considered it before, which will make it a much more competitive alternative to traditional college due to its extremely low cost that produces the same result: a college degree.

The proof can be found in a recent LendEDU survey of both current college students from the graduating class of 2021 or beyond and high school seniors from the class of 2020.

LendEDU’s survey found that 41% of uncommitted high school seniors are considering online college for the upcoming fall semester, while another 28% are not yet sure if they would go that route, and 31% would not consider it at all.

When it came to current college students, a combined 28% of them are considering dropping out of their current college and enrolling in an online college for next semester. Among current college students from Wisconsin, a combined 33% are thinking about this move as well.
Immediately, we will see online colleges take large bites out of higher education enrollment that for so long has been totally dominated by traditional colleges and universities. It was always thought that there was no viable alternative to overpriced, on-campus higher education, but the coronavirus pandemic has opened eyes to the value that online colleges can offer.

As traditional colleges see their enrollment numbers dwindle moving forward, they will likely react by offering their own version of virtual learning, perhaps even powered by a big-tech company like Google or Microsoft.

But if they make this move, the tuition for the online version should be drastically lower than the price of attending the respective institution in-person. Not only would this make sense from a business perspective to remain competitive against cheaper alternatives, but it is also the fair thing to do because the standard tuition price, however overpriced it may already be, is based on the standard college experience.

Harvard, for example, recently made the shameless decision to price their online classes for this upcoming fall at the same rate as their standard on-campus experience.

What else should we have expected? After all, college institutions have been ripping students off for decades now under the guise of offering a higher learning experience.

But alas, it appears that the chickens are finally coming home to roost. Online college was always going to upend traditional colleges that for years have behaved like price-gouging businesses.

It’s just happening a little sooner than expected.

*As director of communications at LendEDU, Mike Brown uses data, usually from surveys and publicly-available resources, to identify emerging personal finance trends and tell unique stories. Brown’s work, featured in major outlets like The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, provides consumers with a personal finance measuring stick and can help them make informed finance decisions.

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Docente - Investigadora Educativa.
Doctora en Cs. de la Educación, Magíster en Desarrollo Curricular y Licenciada en Relaciones Industriales.

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The coronavirus pandemic has sped up the virtual takeover of higher education – Sarraute Educación María Magdalena

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