How California’s Online Education Pilot Will End College As We Know It

Ann McClure's picture
Friday, January 18, 2013

Today, the largest university system in the world, the California State University system, announced a pilot for $150 lower-division online courses at one of its campuses — a move that spells the end of higher education as we know it. Lower-division courses are the financial backbone of many part-time faculty and departments (especially the humanities). As someone who has taught large courses at a University of California, I can assure readers that my job could have easily been automated. Most of college–the expansive campuses and large lecture halls–will crumble into ghost towns as budget-strapped schools herd students online.

Traditionally, droves of unprepared teenagers were crammed into the faceless lecture halls of lower-division and remedial courses. “They graduate from high school, but they cannot pass our elementary math and English placement tests,” said Ellen N. Junn, provost and vice president for the campus piloting the new initiative, San Jose State University. More than 50% of entering students don’t meet basic requirements.

But, even after nearly tripling tuition in a decade and increasing class sizes, dwindling teaching assistants and course offerings have failed the ever-increasing flood of fresh new undergraduates.

Indeed, with all the billions of dollars and academic mindshare spent educating the youth, less than half, 48%, even graduate from SJSU.

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