Those of us in proprietary online education have lived a charmed life, I think. The first wave of public online programs, which began nearly a decade ago, more or less failed. The public schools, too, seem to have dropped their historical role of making a low-cost, or at least a reasonably priced, education widely available to almost everyone. Thanks to the Republican far right’s success at choking off federal funds, costs continue to be shifted to individuals through tuition hikes.
That political process created a huge demographic gap which the for-profits (admittedly, also thanks to a great degree to regulators sleeping on the job) successfully rushed to fill. There’s no real low-cost alliterative at this point. Eventually, I think, the public sector is going to fill their historic role again, although it may be the community colleges, rather than the universities, that will eventually offer the low-cost online education necessary to any democracy.
I’ve described this before as a tortoise and hare race. The proprietary schools are fast but in the long run they can’t beat public education. Once this first, “it’s new so it must be better” phase has passed, proprietary education, like the charter schools, will find a niche, but won’t take over the system. The recent decision of several business schools to create online MBA programs isn’t quite the low-cost alternative, but it’s a sign that the tortoise is out there, slow but sure.