Georgia Tech buzzes price of online education

Technology has a way of making everything cheaper and better.

The iconic Tech tower tops the Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Administration Building at Georgia Tech on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The iconic Tech tower tops the Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Administration Building at Georgia Tech on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

A cheap TV today blows away an expensive set from 10 years ago. My new smartphone is more powerful than the laptop I am typing this on.

But technology does not work its magic on all things equally.

Is education cheaper?

Hearing young people say they wrote a research paper without visiting a library and having to struggle with what I used to call the “Huey, Louie and Dewey decimal system” makes me a bit envious, but it also reminds me that handheld computers have made it possible to learn more while sitting on a toilet than ever.

According to federal data, Georgia spent about 10 percent less per student in 2014 — an inflation-adjusted $9,202 — than it did in 2010.

Is education better?

That’s debatable, of course, and I am not here to change you opinion on that subject. But, Georgia voters will soon decide whether or not the state will be able take over “chronically failing public schools.”

If everyone thought public education was top notch we probably wouldn’t be voting on “Opportunity School Districts.”

Georgia has many fine schools of course — public and private.

One of the best is Georgia Tech.

The Holy Grail of fiscally-prudent parenting is to have a child graduate from the North Avenue Trade School on a HOPE scholarship.

Georgia Tech students have invented quite a few things we find useful. The modem, for example, which made never setting a foot in a library again possible.

According to a New York Times article I read recently, Tech may have discovered a way to make quality education more affordable.

Tech offers an online master’s degree in computer science for a mere $7,000, about 90 percent cheaper than competitors.

You’d think that major universities would have figured out something similar a long time ago, but Harvard economists say the Tech program, which started in 2014, is unique because it charges students just enough to cover costs.

Most universities, the New York Times article says, charge the same tuition for online and on-campus instruction.

An online, 3-credit class at Georgia Tech costs $510. At the University of Southern California it costs $5,535.

Could a similar program be used to lower the cost of primary education?

About 10 years ago I made a bet with a co-worker that children would quit traveling to school to learn. It would be cheaper, I theorized, to give every child a computer and have them learn from home, church or a public community center where they could socialize with others.

The on-campus program at Tech enrolls about 300 students, almost all of them from other countries. The online program has 4,000 students, almost all of them from the U.S.

It doesn’t take a Tech grad to figure out who is getting a bargain.


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