Today’s Budgetary Crisis is Tomorrow’s Loss
In reality, many people are not fully aware of the challenges facing today’s college students.
As budgets have been cut due to lower tax revenues, public institutions of higher education are reducing the access to a college degree. In some locales, enrollments are not reduced, because that would lower incoming student fees to the institution. Rather, access to classes is simply limited by the reduction of class offerings. As a result, even though sometimes paying a full tuition, a large number of students are not getting a single class that can be applied to their declared major, or even general education requirements. In fact, many cannot get the “full-time” student status needed to maintain a scholarship, grant, etc. Some private universities and colleges are also feeling the pinch due to lower entitlements, alumni donations, and foundation grants.
Although the crisis is usually framed in reference to four-year institutions, the effects can be felt perhaps even more critically in two-year community college institutions. Community college students are traditionally more at risk of dropping out of programs before degree attainment due to various factors which can include lower incomes, less motivation towards academics, transportation problems, or the demands of a job and/or family. For these students, the current challenges may seem insurmountable.
Another issue is the fact that today’s graduates face a student loan debt crisis. Institutions of higher education must shift to more efficient instruction so that current and future students can avoid major endebtedness.
Shifting towards virtual classrooms can seems to be a very cost-effect solution, significantly lowering the cost of education for most students, thereby reducing the need for loans. However, there are many hidden costs associated with changing the format of instruction so radically. Yes, students may have better access to needed classes, but will they have better access to a quality education? Are there other formats that may be more effective in educating a student and providing a well-rounded education?
Creating a hybrid class format, that is, the combination of an online course with on-campus discussion and assessment, may preserve many aspects of a quality education, while greatly trimming overall expenses in the long-term.