Parents are demanding cheaper tuition for virtual learning

Our education system could be on the verge of, if not already in, a crisis.

The New York Times reports that, with many schools offering only online classes, parents are demanding “tuition rebates, increased aid, and leaves of absence.”

The argument

Last spring, many schools replaced in-person learning with online learning due to concerns about the coronavirus. With the coronavirus still around, this trend is continuing. While there are many schools that are going to attempt in-person classes this fall, there are others that are going to only offer online classes.

The inevitable question, the one that the Times reports that parents are now asking, is whether they ought to be paying the same tuition rate for online learning as they do for in-person learning.

Many argue that the rather obvious answer to this question is “no.” They reason that the quality of online education is nowhere near the quality of in-person education, and, therefore, they ought to pay a lower rate.

The counterargument

Education administrators are now responding to this argument.

The Times, for example, quotes Dominique Baker, an assistant professor of education policy at Southern Methodist University.

“Starting up an online education program is incredibly expensive,” Baker said. “You have to have training, people with expertise, licensing for a lot of different kinds of software. All those pieces cost money, and then if you want the best quality, you have to have smaller classes.”

According to the Times, Baker is far from alone in making this kind of argument. Many education administrators are claiming that the cost to run an educational institution has gone up, and thus, if anything, an increase in tuition is needed.

What are you paying for?

There are all kinds of costs associated with running a school, whether that school operates in-person or online. Whether one is cheaper than the other requires more knowledge than I have. But, just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the costs are roughly the same; then, the question becomes “where does quality factor in?”

Many of us can attest to the fact that the quality of education, or, more precisely, the quality of teaching, these days is embarrassingly low, something that has inevitably resulted from egalitarian beliefs in educational access. Somehow, the quality of virtual education is even lower – I’ve seen it: Teachers merely giving out assignments to be completed by the student without instruction.

If this sort of practice or something similar is widespread, then it seems more than fair to ask for cheaper tuition, and the money ought to come from teacher salaries. Start making that argument and, rather than striking, teachers will be begging to recommence in-school learning.

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