Why has college gotten so damn expensive?

Perhaps about the same as the many failed science experiments that happen. I tend to value science as more personally, but I don’t pretend that every experiment is going to immediately yield valuable information.

WE are generally not paying them. It could be argued that the students at a particular university are, but that is besides the point. Your hypothetical example is not really very common, so it’s not really worthy of discussion.

They are not ONLY paid to teach. That is where your misunderstanding comes from.

No, they don’t.

They don’t. As I said, they usually get them to work cheaper than the private market, and they often get a cut of any money-making product they produce.

I disagree. You are ignoring that nobody would pursue that a career in the academy if they were compensated too poorly. Even if a English PhD couldn’t immediately leave a career in the academy to work for more money elsewhere right now, he likely has the innate skills that would be higher valued given different training.

Do you think colleges pay them too much? If so, do you think lowering the salaries of these professors appreciably lower tuition would allow you to retain that type of talent? Would it appreciably lower tuition for students?

That notion is not reflected in the unemployment rate for PhDs. Which is about as low as it’s gonna get.

TAs are used to SAVE money. The article was largely speaking about the oversupply relative to the number of jobs in academia. People get PhDs for all sorts of reasons, and those people generally have no problem finding a job. That job may not be teaching at Yale, but it may be working as and ad exec, or a researcher. Even so, if the goal is to lower college costs, and we still require a PhD to teach, then reducing the number of PhDs given will INCREASE costs in the long run.

Why? Aside from elitism, why do you think the model is bad for middling schools? As long as the students, who are voting with their wallets, still support the school, what is your problem with them?

Then why don’t they? Right now, tuition doesn’t come anywhere near to covering their costs. Frankly, when you say things like this, it makes me thing you have done no study on the issue. Elite colleges are under more competition that they ever have been. They spend an astounding amount of money attracting students. Most of the top schools bend over backwards to give students money to lower the cost of attendance in order to complete with their competition. If Harvard has a monopoly, they wouldn’t allow 20% of their students to pay nothing at all. These are not the actions of a greedy, monopolistic entity trying to squeeze every dollar out of their students.

Education is more than classes, too. A research 1 may have better prospects for students looking to move on to the graduate level because there’s more research projects they can sign on and get experience in.

This doesn’t change the cost, on a per student basis, of education. It merely shifts the burden of funding from the state to the individual. This also doesn’t explain why the costs at a private school also rise at a pace far exceeding inflation.

You guys are overthinking this.

The main reasons are:

  • College relies on hope. If you go to a good college you will make much more and have a nicer job over the course of your life. Worrying about tuition seems like the wrong thing to do for many…so colleges don’t worry about tuition but want to provide (or at least the illusion) of this hope. Especially of you can get student loans to gain access to funds.

  • Colleges main purpose seems to be other things than teaching undergrads. Therefore, undergrads have to pay their cost plus the costs for everyone else. When I taught at a college a few years ago our joke was…Well young man! You CAN go to our small school and be taught by people with PH.D’s and Master’s degrees…or you can go to THE BIG STATE SCHOOL and be taught by people with…BACHELORS’s degrees! Funny thing was, our tuition was about a third of what the state college was charging. Where does that money go? Not to the undergrads or their teachers…

How do you make Undergrad/College education cheaper? By cutting out all the irrelevant crap. You know…like grad school, sports, buildings, research, administration etc.

This, I believe is already starting to happen with online schools. They will be a serious threat to education*. It has huge hurdles though because colleges sell hope…and the older people out there went through these colleges. they will look at these online schools with huge skepticism. However, I think they will catch on and tuition should start to fall.

Or I could be completely wrong :slight_smile:

  • My daughter was one of the first to enroll in a completely online High School. The school in the community was, at first, curious and even a little suppportive of this…allowing her to join choir. 3 years later there was many more going this route and the school became very hostile to online high schools refusing any collaboration. They also complained publically of the lost funding.

Which creates the perception that tuition is more expensive, without regard to the costs involved in providing education services. That is the perspective I was speaking to.

Agreed. But there’s also the part where college costs were climbing before government started cutting educational funding. This is part of the picture but it’s not the whole thing.

The hell it is. Gender studies and Shakespeare is pretty well-travelled ground. e.g. this and this and this and tons more. You name me a medium-sized state university near you, and I’ll find faculty there engaged in obscure research that could just as easily be done by good hobbyist

The average professor is not Henry Louis Gates; he’s just as likely to be this guy.

Let me amend my remarks: historically, professors’ primary job was to teach – it’s where the title comes from – and to this day, most of the citizens of the state regard undergraduate teaching as the typical professors’ primary job.

You are correct that many professors regard teaching as a sideline to their real work.

IMO, that’s the problem.

For all practical purposes, yes, they do.

That’s less than 2% dismissed for any reason. It’s a safe bet that most of those are for some sort of misconduct, not for just being a lousy professor.

What money-making product? Few academics write books that get a wide readership, and only a few bring in any sort of significant outside funding.

From one recent study of a major university:

Then he should go do it. He doesn’t, because being a full-time tenure track faculty has tremendous perks beyond the paycheck: a flexible schedule, summers and sabbaticals off, lots of prestige and social cachet, etc. Almost nobody who gets a tenure-track job is going to give it up so long as the pay is still middle-class. Some may choose to do something else if the pay is not up to their expectations, but that’s a good thing. If you’d be a professor for 90k but not for 60k, don’t be one.

Most people’s goal in pursuing a PhD, especially in the humanities, is that tenure-track job; and there simply aren’t enough of of those jobs out there. Yes, yes, they also desire to cultivate the life of the mind, but if you ask 100 PhD students (non-hard-science) where they’ll be in two decades, 90 of them will say teaching or some other position in academia; but only about half of them will ever get there, even after years of looking.

Typically, someone spends spend 4-10 years in school getting that PhD, then 2-5 years looking for that job. For the ones who get it, great. For the ones who don’t, they’ve now spent most of a decade pursuing a fruitless dream. Yes, they’re still smart and capable, which is why they won’t wind up sleeping under a bridge. But they were smart and capable when they were 23; and now at 34, they’re smart, capable, $70,000 in debt and only now have a job that will help support their family.

A ten-year, very expensive PhD making lattes or working as an ad exec represents a waste of human and financial capital. If people want to do that, it’s certainly their right; but the taxpayers and donors who support higher education also have the right to decide to stop encouraging it.

Yes, some faculty are pretty upfront with their students about the job prospects. Other times, impressionable young people are being sold a big bright shining lie by people in positions of trust and authority.

But in most cases, you don’t need a PhD to teach and in point of fact, most classes are currently taught by grad students or sub-PhD adjuncts.

Let me put it this way. The average college humanities department looks something like this:

[li]16 tenure-track faculty, all with PhDs. They teach a combined 55 sections per year (2/2 or 2/3 loads, minus exemptions for admin, minus sabbaticals). Salary and benefits, they cost $1.5 million a year. [/li]
[li]4 non-tenured full-time instructors, some with PhDs, some not. They teach a combined 32 sections per year (4/4). Salary and benefits, they cost $200k a year. (At which level, few people are going to stay here for long).[/li]
[li]A slew of adjuncts and GAs, almost none with PhDs, teaching 50 sections a year at $2k per section. Many of these GAs and adjuncts will be teaching six or eight or even ten sections per semester, divided among different campuses in order to get by. Many are not on campus except to teach and for minimal required office hours.[/li][/ul]Total bill for 137 sections: 1.8 Million.

[ul][li]7 tenure-track faculty, teaching a combined 35 sections per year (3/3 loads, minus exemptions for admin and sabbaticals) Salary and benefits, they cost $650,000 a year. [/li]
[li]12 non-tenured visiting instructors, most with PhDs, teaching a combined 96 sections per year (4/4). Salary and benefits, they cost $780k a year. (A significant increase, which makes the salaries here much more feasible as a career path).[/li]
[li]A handful of adjuncts and GAs, teaching 10 sections a year at $2,500 per section.[/li][/ul]Total bill for 141 sections: 1.45 Million.

I’ve reduced the budget by 20% (yay, let’s cut tuition!), created 4 more sections, significantly raised the salaries of the people doing the bulk of the actual teaching and lowered nobody’s, and greatly improved the quality or teaching by ensuring that virtually every class is taught by someone who is a full-time teacher, not a grad student or adjunct.

The only cost: a few less tenure-track jobs, and a slightly increased workload for the tenured faculty.

Is preserving the maximum number of spots reserved for the few at the top of the pyramid worth hurting everyone else?

Because “middling schools” have different institutional missions than either state flagships or elite privates.

Taxpayers (and donors at private schools) have a stake in making sure their money is wisely spent, and while students lives and time is their own, taxpayers also have the prerogative to decide they don’t want to continue funding programs that don’t serve a larger societal good.

You’re right that up until now people have continued to decide that college is worth it, in spite of the ever-rising costs. But I strongly suspect it’s about to change, radically and fast. More and more people are asking questions like the OP’s, and more and more people are seeing the value in degrees delivered via nontraditional means (which are dramatically less expensive, not just marginally so like the plan I gave above).

Do you really think every humanities professor is writing about that specific topic? Or alternatively, do you really think I couldn’t find a well-travelled scientific research topic?

But are they ACTUALLY done by hobbyist with the same skill and frequency?

And they would be wrong.

You are entitled to your opinion. However, if universities stopped doing research, everyone would be poorer for it.

Absent context, that means nothing. How often are ER doctors fired? What about concert pianists? Even if you think 2% sounds low, you need to consider you are looking at a small subset of PhDs who have not only have been teaching long enough to get tenure, but have been offered it by their university based on a long track record of demonstrated skill and usefulness. I would not expect them to be fired very often just as I wouldn’t expect many CEOs to be fired.

Stanford University, for example made $4.5 million on research-related income. NYU pulled in $157 million. Schools can and do make money based on research they do. That is an added benefit of employing well-trained professionals.

Many do. Regardless, this is not a thing where opinions really matter. The reason academics are paid what they are is largely because that’s what the market dictates. Thinking they are “overpaid” is meaningless.

Then why don’t they use that right? You keep acting as though all these people participate in this fiction without any choice. Do you honestly think PhDs don’t realize their chance to get a tenure positions is fairly low? As for your point about human capital, I strongly disagree.

Yes, but the academy as a whole is supported and uplifted by people who are PhDs doing independent research and study. Just because you don’t see the utility of a critique on Twelfth Night doesn’t mean it doesn’t make that person a better thinker, teacher, or person. Colleges didn’t decided to allow professors to teach less out of the goodness of their hearts. They recognized that doing so was in furtherance of the larger goals.

You honestly sound like a bitter TA. Your scenario only makes sense if you assume universities are primarily in the business of teaching undergraduates. That is not the case. Maximizing efficiency with that goal is mind makes no sense for that reason.

Says who? Besides, why do you assume all schools operate the same anyway. Shouldn’t you provide some evidence that middling schools are operating like elite schools?

They do. And generally, most tax payers think schools are serving a larger societal good.

Right. You set a timeline, and I will bet you money that very little will change. People can do the math. College is still a great deal even at its current cost.

The best way to increase the demand of something is by attributing a certain good, service, or thing as somehow psychologically or emotionally related to some abstract ideal.

The most common way is by tying some service or product or good with the so-called “American Dream.”

It’s a mixture of self-interest, idealism, keeping up with the Joneses, and mass psychology that the average person responds to and identifies with.

People will pursue education regardless of whether you subsidize it, simply because it’s in an individual’s own self-interest to do so. I’m not in favor of subsidizing self-interest. I’m in favor of helping people when they’re down and out, when they’ve retired, and when they’re sick - without conditions, but not in “helping” people succeed.

I’m not going to give a point-by-point response, as it’s just getting too long and I don’t have the time, so I’ll just summarize my main points.

  • A lot of the research being done in higher ed is simply not valuable. As already cited, a lot of it goes into a black hole, never referenced or cited in other scholarly work, let alone in anything that directly benefits the taxpayers, donors and undergraduates that pay for higher ed. Yes, the professors will say it’s all equally valuable (at least to outsiders; among themselves they have no problem mocking colleagues’ work). But the bottom line is that states simply do not have the money to fund all research into everything.

No doubt the esteemed scholar Dr. Bob Nowlan/DJ Sean Murphy’s forthcoming Directory of Scottish Cinema will be a great and wonderful benefit to mankind, far superior to anything that mere hobbyists would produce, but at the end of the day the taxpayers of Wisconsin have to weigh that against paying cops and not defaulting on pension obligations. Nobody who is familiar with higher ed thinks state funding is going to rise anytime soon; if anything it’s going to decrease. You can say that’s wrong or unfair or neanderthal, but it’s the reality college administrators face. States simply do not have the money, and the political will is not there to raise taxes, so choices must be made. You can raise tuition, and that’s been the practice for the last 30 yeats, but you can’t go on raising them infinitely; at some point people start looking for an alternative.

  • The vast majority of the ~2000 colleges and universities in the US do get nearly all their funding from either government, charitable donations, or tuition and fees. Citing the money that elites like Stanford and NYU get for research is like citing Johnny Depp as proof that being an actor is a lucrative profession. The average American college student doesn’t go to Stanford, she goes to schools like SUNY-Brockport or South Alabama or Montclair State: schools that don’t have huge endowments, where outside research funding is minimal, and that have to pay the bills by getting money from the state (not happening anytime soon), private donors (not in this economy), or raising tuition … and yet most of which only expect their faculty (few of which are premier scholars) to teach 3 or fewer classes per semester. (And here are a cite for that, data taken from the nationwide NSOPF. The typical load for full time faculty at a state university is 2 courses per semester. At a private liberal arts college, it’s 3-4, at community colleges it’s 4-5).

There are lots of other places where they can cut spending – administration, especially – but getting the faculty back in the classroom is one of them.

  • Nope, I’m not a TA; I’m actually a professional higher ed policy analyst. And I can tell you that nobody in the higher-ed policy world thinks the growth in tuition is sustainable or healthy, whether you’re talking about conservatives like CCAP, or progressives like TICAS or Education Sector, or CAP I don’t know of anyone who looks at the issue of ever-rising tuition and thinks it’s not a big problem. The Obama administration sees it as one, which is why you see them getting behind things like Gainful Employment measures. Obama has mostly so far been confined to for-profit schools, but when the Pubs are in the White House, in 2013 or 2017 or 2021, they may well look to apply that rule to everyone. Solutions vary, but everyone sees the problem. Except of course, for people inside the academy, who have a vested interest.

– The timelines for industry change don’t lend themselves easily to an online bet, but I’d happily wager that in a decade, the number of students enrolling in traditional brick-and-mortar classroom is dropping.

Students are already moving online to more cost-effective ways of getting an education: online or mixed delivery is growing much faster than traditional models. For profits like University of Phoenix have led in this for awhile, but now the nonprofits are getting into it big-time. The fastest-growing university in America is Western Governors – officially state-sponsored, though financially independant, regionally accredited, wholly online, and dirt cheap for students: $6,000 per year for all the classes you want.

And now the elites are getting into the game: see Coursera or edX or OLI. When MIT offered their first online course, 120,000 people signed up. Read that number again: 120,000 students, for the very first class.

It’s only a matter of time before students have the choice of taking an online class from Harvard – with Harvard rigor and quality – for less money than it costs to take one in person at Local State. Many students will still pick the latter, of course but many won’t. And certainly states and the federal government are going to think really hard about which model they want to support financially and which one they encourage their residents to enroll in.

The biggest advantage of Local State, educationally, will be the promise of face-to-face contact with professors … but that just takes us back to getting faculty back in the classroom.

You are not saying anything of merit here. Of course not everything is valuable. Private companies have the same issues as well. It’s a fantasy that any large organization can ONLY produce intrinsically valuable work. Primarily, because you often don’t know whether it’s valuable until it’s done. You haven’t demonstrated there is any more bloat or inefficiency than exists anywhere else.

What makes you think paying cops or pensions is a more efficient use of resources?

Sure, but the reality is college is still relatively affordable, and priced well for the benefits that arise as a result. You can argue your point in the abstract, but the reality is there is no shortage of people willing to pay sticker prices to go to elite schools. They could raise their tuition, and still fill their classes.

First, the star professor at Harvard usually does not have the same teaching requirements as someone at Montclair State. So your comparison isn’t apples to apples. Second, the cost professors isn’t what is driving up costs. Even if you increased efficiency by making professors teach more, you would see fewer people getting into the field, which would likely result in worse educational outcomes.

What is the class size? The number of courses isn’t what matters. Teaching a class with 200 students is a lot harder than teaching 3 with 40 students each. State schools typically have larger classes, and have students that require more oversight and instruction.

Then why don’t they do it? If this is an obvious problem, why do you think administrators don’t request such things?

It’s a problem like higher gas prices are a problem. There is only so much you can do about it without affecting other things. I am not saying professors should never teach more often, I just think that there are valid reasons why they don’t.

Duh. That is not really a even wager. You seem to argue colleges will require professors to work far more, and dedicate less time and resources to outside study and research. I doubt that will happen.

Which had nothing to do with what you were arguing before.

MIT put their stuff online year ago with opencourseware, and I don’t believe they had 120k sign up for one class. That said, I follow this stuff too, and it, again, has nothing to do with the argument you were making before.

Maybe. The reality is that elites do not want to dilute their brand too much. When one school gives credit for free online classes, we can talk

I’ll let you have the last word here, because frankly, I don’t see any sign you’re actually engaging with what I’m saying or reading the data I’m providing for you.

It’s got nothing to do with “efficient.” It has to do with priorities. Given the choice between not paying cops or K-12, defaulting on debts, raising taxes, or cutting budgets on humanities and social science research, the voters and politicians are going to pick the latter. Hate it all you want, but it’s the reality.

If you think anyone but very rich people pay full sticker price at elite schools … I’m sorry, but you don’t know what you’re talking about. The opaque pricing of higher ed is another problem that everyone knows about and most see as a problem (even if solutions are in short supply).


Most people in education are leery of 200 student sections as a solution; faculty don’t like them, a lot of people think the reduced contact with the actual prof is a bad thing, and from an admin POV, if you’re gonna do that, you might as well move it online and have 2,000 student section. In terms of salary, a 200 student section is going to have a prof … and a TA or three, so while there is savings, it’s not a huge gain.

The math simply doesn’t work any other way: you can’t have more and/or smaller sections taught by highly-paid staff AND keep labor costs the same or lower

Are you kidding? They do, all the time. It’s not something they can dictate.

And I should add: there are a significant number of profs who would like to focus more on the classroom. But if you want tenure, which is decided by departments, not the administration, it’s all about publications and scholarship.

At non-elite schools? Absolutely. More accurately, there will probably be less people with the title of “Professor” and more with titles like “Instructor,” who are focused on teaching. It’s already happening.

It absolutely does. Nearly every person leading innovation in online higher ed cites rising tuition as one of the reasons for it. And one of the leading causes of higher ed spending is instructional spending. Not the only one, not even the biggest, but one that has to be addressed.

I mean, there’ no point in even linking to this; I’ve already given you the links, and you haven’t bothered to read them.

I realize that using Google to look before you speak is so, so hard.

Why do they have to be free? Drastically cheaper than traditional classes is enough.

I repeat: Western Governors currently offers all the fully-accredited classes you want for under $6,000 a year. Even if you only work at the typical 2 semester, 5 classes at 3 credit hour per class pace, that comes to $65 per credit hour. Very, very few traditional brick-and-mortar colleges can compete with that, and none without significant government subsidy. Which is why WGU has gone from nothing to 32,000 in 15 years while spawning three daughter schools.

To be competitive at all, the focus at non-elite colleges selling on-campus classes is going to have to be on providing a premium product; and part of that premium is face-to-face interaction with teaching-focused faculty. If Local State U is going to have a grad student more focused on his own education than mine in front of the room, I might as well stay home and take it online for 1/5 the price.
In all likelihood, the future will see blending of different delivery systems: some in-person, some online, some hybrid. That’s getting close to the norm already. But the trend is clearly toward making education more cost-effective for students and taxpayers, and part of that is looking for more faculty productivity. Again, hate it all you want, but it’s the way the wind is blowing, both in K-12 and higher ed (and the leading voices are progressives more often than they are conservative, so don’t think this is some sort of partisan thing).
Change is hard, but life moves on. We’ve learned to live in a world with fewer travel agents and fewer physical bookstores. We’ll find the courage to live in a world with less government funding of Celtic Cinema Studies.

Seems to me the problem is easy money in the form of student loans and the near requirement for a higher education degree to have hopes of a good job in the US. Well paying manufacturing jobs (and the like) which did not require a 4-year degree are all but gone in the US.

Unfortunately, despite good intentions, government guaranteed loans have spawned an industry for student loans that is hugely lucrative with no risk.

Here is a graphic detailing how it works. The short version is the government guarantees a loan so the loaner is happy to hand out as much money as possible completely risk free. If the student defaults on the loan the government pays the loaner then hands the loan to a debt collection which, get this, the loaner owns (Sallie Mae, the biggest granter of student loans…not all of them do of course). Then Sallie Mae collects huge fees for the loan default.

In short Sallie Mae has incentive to loan as much as possible to anyone and everyone. Credit risk of the individual is not a concern. The loans are guaranteed by the government. Better for them still is to have the person default. It means even more money for them.

Better still student loans are one of the few debts you can never absolve via bankruptcy or other means. Only dying will get you out of it (and they will go after your estate if you have one). They can collect on you for as long as it takes…right up to garnishing Social Security checks when you retire if that is what it takes.

So, how can Sallie Mae loan more money? Make tuition more expensive. The universities are only too happy to play along. More money for them.

As a young adult if you want any reasonable chance at an even modestly prosperous future you need that education. Universities can demand higher wages because they know the students can get a loan for almost any amount.

The circle reinforces itself and the losers are of course the students.

furt - awesome content, speaking as someone who has been a Lecturer and who is married to a Professor (full).

I think that California has done a decent job of separating the types of faculty (fractions are a best guesstimate based on what I have seen, and I am more than open to tweaking the numbers):

UC system - professors are 2/3 research, 1/3 teaching
Cal State - professors are 1/3 research, 2/3 teaching
Community Colleges - professors are 100% teaching

I agree also that putting a research professor in front of 400 students is a waste. At that point, there is not any contact between the instructor and the student except in office hours. You might as well put that class online, or just hire someone from the Drama Department to rehearse and deliver the slides. Then leave the researcher to small discussion seminars where the give and take can have real value.

With the elites putting out some content for free, with certification programs, how long until another school accepts that cert for credit hours? Imagine you are running a small college in Montana and you don’t have room in a CS course. The student takes an equivalent online course from MIT and brings you the certificate (assume that they can’t forge, you have a way of verifying). How about if you give the student transfer credit for that course, even in MIT won’t? You could then let the student graduate with a degree from you, perhaps require a percent of courses from your school, but at the same time you are leveraging the free content that others are offering.

Only if the small college charges the student a couple hundred dollars per unit taken online at the other college. Otherwise, it not ‘leveraging’ anything.

I was thinking that they would make their money on registration and the classes the student can’t take online from others.

Hell, have a $1,000 one-time credit review and transfer charge. You still don’t have to pay faculty and all of the ancillary costs.

Thanks for the kind words.

I meant to mention the CSU system as an example of schools’ tendency toward mission creep: under the original Master Plan, the Cal State schools were to be overwhelmingly oriented toward teaching, and were expressly forbidden from offering PhDs; but for decades now, they’ve been pushing for more and more of a research focus.

AFAIK, the Master Plan didn’t specify ratios, but I think the original vision was more along the lines of

UC: 50/50
CSU: 90/10 in favor of teaching

Of course, there’s a lot of reasons for the change, some of them quite defensible. But at least some of it is “I’m just as smart as the guys at Berkeley, and so I deserve research time, too,” and “Christ, these freshman are a pain in the ass” (The former being sometimes true, the pretty much always). When times were good and Sacramento was generous, those desires could be met; when times get tough, just like any other business, they have to refocus on the core mission.

As far as other colleges accepting the elite’s online classes as credit, they’re only limited by 1) their accreditation, and 2) copyright. The Montana college would have to sell it to the North Central accreditors. But since edX, for example, insists that the online courses are every bit as demanding as the on-campus ones, that seems the easy part. It’s more just a matter of convincing Harvard/MIT to let you, and they may not want to dilute their brand.

But some mid-tier schools won’t be so fussy; if you’re a good-sized private school, you could develop a pretty nice income stream by offering classes online.

In public schools, they may not have a choice: I can easily see state legislatures mandating that the state flagship start offering courses and/or course material online to students at the other state-run schools. So in the end, instead of taking a Sociology class three times a week from Professor Smith at Cal State-East Bay, you watch an online lecture from Professor Jones (UCLA), discuss it on a moderated forum, and then maybe once a week go on the East Bay campus for tutoring or scheduled discussions or extra help or whatever.

Especially for stuff like standard gen-ed classes (Psych 101, etc), there’s significant cost savings there, and really helps with issues of access for the ever-growing proportion of students for whom the traditional academic schedule is a problem; but it will mean that Smith is going to have to be content with being a tutor and teacher, unless and until he’s enough of a scholar to get on at UCLA …

The UCs are pushing their faculty to offer some courses online already (I know from comments around the table during happy hour). It would surprise me to see these made system wide once enough are offered.

The gain is in not having to pay a faculty salary, and still being able to enroll students.

Smallville liberal arts college wants to start offering BS degrees, and they need to offer science classes to do it. They can create a whole science department – set aside classroom space and hire a couple scientists and a secretary – in order to teach the six sections of Bio 101 and Phys 101 they need for their students to get a degree.

Or they can say “through our agreement with nationally-known St. Shmendricks University, Smallville students can take any of two dozen courses in Biology, Physics, Chemistry and more online, and apply them to their Smallville degree. World-class teaching, right here in Smallville.” Shmendricks gets the students money for the class, Smallville gets the money the rest of the time. Win-win-win.