“And with the (university) experience so dramatically decreased or disabled, a lot of parents are saying: ‘Do I really want to pay $58,000, $68,000 a year for a series of Zoom (Video) classes?'” — NYU Stern College of Business Professor of Marketing Scott Galloway on PBS, August 11

PHOTO: TOBIAS HASE/dpa/Alamy Live News

Who is kidding whom?

After 16 years in all-things-digital Silicon Valley and teaching public relations, corporate communications and investor relations as a Central Washington University assistant professor for four years, Almost DailyBrett knows from direct teaching experience that online education is a poor substitute for the real thing.

Your author taught Introduction to Public Relations and Advertising Fundamentals in the classroom with my students working in teams, and online (hopefully students were listening and taking notes). Let’s state the obvious: Being able to look students in the eye and measure their reaction is far better than Panopto recordings.

If students are not receiving the same education online, why should they pay the same tuition or (gasp) even more for inferior education? Is it moral to charge the same or more for less?

More to the point: Shouldn’t students be paying less for a diminished product? The answer is obvious.

As Professor Galloway would say: ‘This is not a debate, but an I.Q. Test.’

Worse yet, one of the most expensive universities, if not the most costly in the country (NYU), just made the “tone deaf” decision to raise tuition 3.5 percent for … online classes only. How many others are making the same unfortunate decision for Zoom Video Courses?

The classrooms and university housing are closed; the HVAC and cleaning costs are diminished. Out-of-state and foreign students are still paying enhanced tuition and fees in order to stay at home and digitally participate through chat rooms and file sharing.

Buy Low Sell High

“It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low, and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the tax rates.” – President John F. Kennedy, Economic Club of New York, December 1962.

“From adversity comes opportunity.” — Former Notre Dame Football Coach Lou Holtz

Here’s a revenue enhancement idea: Increase the size of freshman classes through lower tuition and online education.

A student walks through the Diag on the University of Michigan campus amid reports of college football cancellation, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S., August 10, 2020. REUTERS/Emily Elconin

The standards for admission need to stay the same, but the number of freshman can easily increase because they are not constrained by classroom size or university housing and parking.

Some prestige universities that thrive on noses-in-the-air exclusivity (i.e., Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Penn, Chicago, Stanford) may have zero interest in expanding their freshmen classes, but they are not the norm … far from it.

Just as Borders bit the dust because it was restricted by bricks and mortar, Amazon thrived in the same markets because of a lack of restraints on its inventory and ability to sell to an unlimited number of customers. Universities have zero inhibitors when it comes to expanding revenues because they can always attract more freshmen and transfers with online education and lower tuition.

Reducing tuition right in the midst of the Covid-19 catastrophe may seem counterintuitive, but it may be exactly what higher education needs right here and now. Universities historically do better when economic conditions are less than ideal (e.g., 2007-2009 mortgage meltdown).

Your author made the choice to go back to school in 2010 at 55-years-young, attaining his M.A. in Communication and Society from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC).

The State of Washington demonstrated the wisdom and courage to reduce its tuition during two successive academic years by-20 percent, and the result was … more students.

If college and universities are under the gun because of Covid-19, then maybe they should reduce tuition and increase the number of students to actually generate more revenue? This model worked successfully for the State of Washington. Your author was right there on campus in bucolic Ellensburg at the time.

The limiting factors were the cost of student housing, which escalated because of the greater number of students (e.g., demand) and the lack of parking spaces. Are these constraints applicable in an all-online teaching and learning environment? Nope.

Looking forward to post Covid-19 vaccine environment, Galloway points to a more-or-less permanent hybrid in-the-classroom and online teaching environment. It’s hard to argue against this most likely conclusion. Higher education has permanently changed because of the Covid-19 100-year flood.

Let’s not kid ourselves. We can probably very well teach more introverted majors such as accounting, coding, semiconductor design and others online. Your author knows from direct experience this is not the case for public relations, marketing, corporate communications and investor relations. How can you teach music, education, architecture and other extroverted majors online?

It’s morally wrong to charge the same or even more for inferior online courses.

It may be even advantageous for colleges and universities to charge less and expand freshmen classes to actually increase, not decrease revenues.

The question then becomes one of retaining these larger freshmen classes into sophomore classes? That’s a happy problem to face.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/pandemic-forces-students-and-parents-to-reevaluate-college-costs

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/online-college-not-good-enough-for-pr/

https://hbr.org/2008/07/should-you-invest-in-the-long-tail

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/education/historic-tuition-cut-sets-state-apart-from-rest-of-us/