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Policymakers and the public view higher education achievement as central to the economic viability of both individuals and the nation. This belief further heightens their concerns about the affordability of higher education, which has seen growth in its cost to students and families outstrip the rate of inflation for decades. Given technology’s impact in creating efficiencies and improving performance in other economic sectors, many see it as a critical tool for reducing, if not reversing, the rate of growth in higher education costs and thus preserving access to higher education for moderate- and low-income students.
Technology’s potential to support affordability depends heavily on institutional capacity to adapt academic and administrative processes to capture the efficiencies and performance improvements technology may offer. Some argue, though, that adapting existing business models may not be enough. They stress that technology makes entirely new higher education business models possible, particularly via online learning, and that these new models are the key to a lower-cost, higher-outcomes future. Regardless of whether higher education faces evolution, revolution, or both, the ever-growing demand for and necessity of higher education will challenge institutions to use technology to reduce costs, increase access, and improve outcomes.
The following resources include information on how to keep college affordable, from government guidelines on providing prospective students transparent college costs to new higher education business models.
President Obama’s Blueprint for Keeping College Affordable and Within Reach for All Americans, White House, January 2012. President Obama explains the importance of a shared responsibility by the federal government, states, and colleges and universities to work together to keep higher education affordable for Americans.
College Affordability and Transparency Center
- College Abacus enables students to compare projected financial aid packages across schools and to identify schools within their budgets.
New Financial Business Models
"Technology and the Broken Higher Education Cost Model: Insights from the Delta Cost Project," EDUCAUSE Review, September/October 2012. This article illuminates the idea that unless the use of technology—whether in instruction or in the operation of the institution—is guided by an understanding of higher education costs and cost structures, its use will not fix the problem of a broken higher education cost model.
"Chapter 9: Western Governors University," Game Changers, May 2012. Western Governors University (WGU) was designed using technology to provide education that is accessible, flexible, and affordable without compromising quality. The founding governors knew that technology must take a transformational role in education in order to change the way we measure learning, expand the notion of how learning happens, and make possible learning that can take place anytime, anywhere. WGU has continued to provide affordable education at per-student tuition of approximately $6,000 for a 12-month year. Students, on average, graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 30 months, compared to a 60-month average for other institutions.
"Chapter 14: University of the People," Game Changers, May 2012. A key focus of the University of the People is to serve as a model for universities and governments by encouraging an industry-wide, global drop in education prices as it models the delivery of higher education at significantly less expense with its creative infrastructure. At its core, this innovative university hopes to create positive change in worldwide higher education through its disruptive effect.
"Rethinking Higher Education Business Models," March 2012. Information technology has long been seen as a major key to meeting this challenge, but the results thus far have been disappointing. In this brief from the Center for American Progress, the authors argue that the fault is not with the technology but rather in the ways it has been deployed.
"Case Study 21: Shaping the Path to Digital: The Indiana University eTexts Initiative", Game Changers, May 2012. This case study focuses on the use of digital textbooks for cheaper and better access to content. This case study describes a pilot study to full implementation at Indiana University (IU), which is now in a trial phase at five peer institutions.
"Dramatically Bringing Down the Cost of Education with OER: How Open Education Resources Unlock the Door to Free Learning," February 2012. This issue brief from the Center for American Progress and EDUCAUSE seeks to provide a substantive understanding of OER and at the same time inform the emerging public debate over their use in public education. It is important that OER be part of the broader conversation concerning spiraling education costs and the need to make education more accessible and affordable at all levels.
Library Items on this Topic
EDUCAUSE Library Items for Affordability
- Opportunities for Innovation and Growth in Higher Education
June 19, 2012
A session at the ECAR Symposium
New learning technologies threaten to disrupt traditional institutions, but they also lend themselves to innovation and growth. Especially for young students who want to truly "go" to c…
- New Economic Models for Higher Education: The Joy and Sorrow of Change and the Case for It
October 20, 2011
A session at the EDUCAUSE 2011 Annual Conference
Open education creates positive disruption of economic models, with potential to address cost and control concerns and redefine customer-vendor partnerships. Can we fuel change in support of the ac…
- The State of Ohio's Digital Bookshelf Project (Pilot Program/Emerging Technology)
February 14, 2011
A session at the ELI Annual Meeting 2011
For the 2010 academic year, 50,000 of Ohio's 70,000 Introductory Psychology students have had a low-cost digital option available for the textbook of their instructor's choice. Developed …
- The Role of Information Technology in an Age of Access, Affordability, and Accountability - Sponsored by RealNetworks
October 25, 2007
A session at the EDUCAUSE 2007 Annual Conference
Approximately a year ago, the Commission on the Future of Higher Education formed by U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings issued its report, A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of…
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