“Shrink” the university system through distance education
November 16, 2010 1 Comment
Because of the economic downturn and decreasing state budget allocations for higher education, some university systems are looking to online programs to lift their enrollments and hence bottom line. However, decreasing state budgets may have a chilling effect on capital needed to build out the infrastructure to implement these programs.
University systems must, in my opinion, come to grips with competing interests for shrinking public dollars. Personnel is where most budget dollars lie, but cutting personnel should not be the first option. Typical brick and mortar expenditures should be scaled back. Rather than building new structures to house students and classrooms, move the money to distance education and campus digital infrastructure, instructor training and promote telecommuting for instructors.
In Wisconsin we have been fortunate to have a well-developed system of two-year campuses that brought higher education to the masses. But that was a delivery system suited to the 20th century and may not be sustainable under current and future economic conditions. Many of the programs offered at these institutions should be transitioned to distance education with instructors teaching online.
By shrinking the physical and fiscal footprint of a university system through distance education, we just may be able to meet the higher education needs of future generations.