Friday, July 30, 2021

Good Reasons to Support Universal Free Online Education


If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you know that the Straube Foundation advocates for universal free online education.  That means education at all levels, particularly at the higher levels, available online, at no cost, for anyone who wants it.


The past year-and-a-half of Covid restrictions, and education-related data released recently, highlight the relevance of this mission.


The costs of college are going up, and families’ ability to pay the full cost is going down.  Recent estimates suggest that, including supplies, room and board, the cost of college can exceed $70,000 per year.  And that’s not for an expensive Ivy League school.  Many families do not have to pay that full cost, relying on scholarships, grants and student loans, to make up the difference.  But even with financial assistance, the annual “How America Pays For College” report suggests that families on average pay $26,373 per year for college.  Given the level of job disruption caused by Covid shutdowns, these college costs are no longer manageable for many families.  Does that mean their kids should not receive a college education?  Of course not.


There are also non-financial costs associated with attending school in person.  Being in a crowded, poorly ventilated, classroom for many hours increases exposure to Covid and other illnesses (which are enjoying a resurgence due to reduced immunity from extensive mask wearing).  There is an ever-increasing risk of physical violence at schools (79 school shootings have been reported this year so far, with ~115 school shootings for each of the three years before (2018, 2019, 2020)).


If we add in the diversity of learning styles across the population, and the ability of well-designed online classes to accommodate each learning style, it becomes clear that universal online education, available at no cost for all educational levels, would be a great benefit and equalizer in our society.


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