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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A College Prices Its Online Programs 60% Less | Digital Learning - Inside Higher Ed

"Most institutions charge students the same or more for online programs than for face-to-face. Berklee has found success with a pricing model that favors online students"
notes Mark Lieberman, Digital Learning Reporter at Inside Higher Ed.

Photo: Courtesy of Berklee College of Music

Berklee College of Music’s online program, priced at just over a third of tuition for the Massachusetts institution’s face-to-face degree offerings, raised eyebrows when it got off the ground in 2013. Conventional wisdom that online programs require more resources to produce had taken hold, and pricing models that favor online students were few and far between.

Five years later, Berklee remains an anomaly in higher ed, as most institutions continue to charge the same or more for online programs as for their face-to-face equivalents. Some arguments hinge on a philosophical belief that online education should be valued equivalently to face-to-face programs, while others emphasize the significant financial burden of designing and launching online courses from scratch.

In the face of a shifting landscape, Berklee has held firm. Online tuition for a bachelor's degree will go up half a percentage point this fall, from $1,479 per course ($59,160 for a 40-course degree program) to $1,497 per course ($59,880 total), but it still remains more than 60 percent less than face-to-face tuition -- $171,520. In the last few years, on-ground tuition has increased by a few thousand dollars while online tuition has stayed the same, widening the gap between the two even farther, according to Debbie Cavalier, Berklee’s senior vice president of online learning and continuing education.

The online program has attracted several distinct groups that wouldn’t have enrolled in a face-to-face program, according to Cavalier. Aside from federal financial aid requirements, students can complete their online degree at their own pace. Some students who dropped out as many as 40 years ago have resumed their degree programs in the online format, Cavalier said.
  • Professional musicians looking to beef up their skills. Notable alumni include Stefan Lessard, bassist for the Dave Matthews Band, and Fraser T. Smith, a keyboardist who produced and co-wrote Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain.”
  • Entrepreneurs, like Jim Kerr of Orbitz and Walgreens, looking to indulge their latent music passions as a side pursuit.
  • Military students nearing completion of their duties and looking for a new career path. “This is the best part of their week,” Cavalier said of their online classes.
  • Teachers and professional musicians who have had successful careers and even won Grammy awards, but who eventually realize they don’t have the degree qualifications to shift to teaching in higher education. “A lot of people who are known for one thing are taking courses with us to bone up on areas they’re not well versed in,” Cavalier said.
Though some observers would assume the program’s quality must be lower than that of the face-to-face program, Cavalier insists that’s not the case, thanks to a homegrown learning management system, a robust student success and advising team, and a highly qualified stable of instructors.

Source: Inside Higher Ed