Price and Cost of Distance Education

In talking to legislators, administrators, faculty, students, and the public in general, WCET identified a need to better understand the economics of distance education courses. What do we charge students (the “price”)? How much does the institution spend to create the course (the “cost”)?

WCET last conducted research on this topic in the spring of 2012. In 2016, we surveyed institutional personnel, interviewed experts, and followed the political ramifications in one state. Some of our findings:

  • There is great variability in distance education policies and practices.
  • From the survey of institutional distance education leaders:
    • Comparing face-to-face to distance prices: Tuition is the same, but total price is more.
    • Comparing face-to-face to distance costs: distance courses cost the same or more.
  • From the survey and expert interviews:
    • Distance education does not have to cost more.
  • It’s all about the mission. Distance education focused on access not cost and price.
  • The cost price debate is getting political. Recent actions in Florida are reviewed.
  • Going forward, let’s set a vision by working together.

Thank you to the following members of the WCET Steering Committee Price and Cost Working Group for their guidance, assistance, and review of this report:

  • Joan Bouillon, Pearson and chair of the Working Group
  • Tom Cavanaugh, University of Central Florida
  • Preston Davis, Northern Virginia Community College
  • John Opper, Florida Virtual Campus