The Oregonian and I are both pleased that the Oregon House will have a committee solely devoted to higher education in Oregon in its 2013 session. However, I am concerned that the Higher Ed committee will not take a look at online learning in the Oregon University System, and, as for the Oregonian, they do not even raise the issue of online ed in their editorial.
From the Oregonian’s editorial “At long last, higher ed gets a place of its own at the Legislasture” (here):
....The new committee has a pile of homework already assigned.
This session it gets to look at university governance, at the now widely accepted bids by the University of Oregon and Portland State for institutional boards of trustees, at what the power of those boards would be and how they would fit into the overall university system. It will be part of the effort to make sense of the multiplicity of higher ed oversight structures either already existing or set up by recent legislation.
The committee will look at the pressing question of access, as state defunding of higher ed has shifted most of the burden to students and families, creating graduates -- and dropouts -- with heavy college debt burdens. State Treasurer Ted Wheeler has a proposal to use much of the state's bonding capacity, as it becomes available, to set up scholarship funds. Dembrow is also interested in a variation, developed by a Portland State class, to set up a loan fund to be paid back by a percentage of post-college income.
Dembrow, a community college professor, intends to examine other issues, such as the increasing reliance on adjunct per-course professors rather than full-time, more available faculty. "If you go to school weekends and evenings (as a number of Oregon college students do), you'll hardly ever have a full-time faculty member," he notes. "But the students who do that are more likely to fall through the cracks," not getting the guidance that would help their chances of graduating....
Note no mention of online education. Tyler Cowen in his “Marginal Revolution” blog post “How many bankruptcies to come in higher education” writes (here):
1. The absolute wages of college graduates have been falling for over a decade, even though the relative premium over “no college degree” is robust. Still, absolute wages do determine the long-term viability of any revenue model. And note that a pretty big chunk of the relative college wage premium is captured through post-secondary education only.
2. The “debt bubble” behind a lot of recent higher education expansion won’t be repeated anytime soon.
3. A large number of institutions in the top one hundred will move to a hybrid on-line model for a third or so of their classes and they will do so gradually, without seriously disrupting norms of conformity or eliminating campus life. In fact this will become the new conformity and furthermore through time-shifting it may increase the quantity and joy of drunken parties and campus orgies. Eventually these on-line classes will be sold for credit to outside students. Some top schools will sell credits in this manner, even if the more exclusive Harvard and Princeton do not. Many lesser schools will lose a third or so of their current tuition revenue stream. Note that the prices for these on-line credits, even if hybrid, will likely be much lower, plus lesser schools lose revenue to the schools better at designing on-line content.
4. Some state governors will try to put out a supposedly semi-passable degree from their state schools for 10k a year, with some on-line components of course. That will put price and revenue pressure on many other schools.
Still, I think it is quite possible that one hundred or more schools in the U.S. News rankings will find their enrollments or at least their tuition revenue streams cut in half or more within twenty years. They will be shells of their former selves, though on-line education might not even be their major economic challenge. It will be one of three or four major whammies facing them.
Both the House Higher Ed committee and the Oregonian editorial board need to give more attention to online education.