By Donovan Levine
Colleges across the US have been forced to adapt to online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic with hybrid learning systems, and unfortunately, these adjustments come with a high cost.
Universities have had to balance allowing students back onto campus in order to collect full tuition, which has become increasingly costly to universities due to COVID-19 precautions, with having to also pay for the numerous expenditures online classes require.
The combination forces these universities to inevitably take massive financial hits, essentially paying double what they had before, while also facing the problems surrounding student enrollment.
Rootstrap, a development agency for the online learning industry and education technologies (EdTech), conducted a cross-industry survey for online education companies. They found that consumer spending had increased 335%.
Patrick Ward, director of marketing for Rootstrap, believes this will cause universities to fold, due to reducing operations while spending double to provide both online and in-person curriculum.
“This study finds that EdTech has grown exponentially. Traditional education is, unfortunately, the loser here,” Ward said during a phone interview, in regards to the study.
The data showed organic traffic, engagement, sign-ups and revenue all doubled and nearly tripled from the period of March to July 2020 in comparison to the previous year.
Ward referred to this as “the macro trend,” but on an individual level, it still applies to smaller universities or any university operating through hybrid learning.
The largest growth in the industry was 559% revenue growth among services used by universities, not by students, which is an unprecedented estimate.
“For example, Berkeley spent $10 million on video-recording licenses, eBooks and other online components,” Ward said, as just one instance of what universities are facing.
On top of that, universities will likely be forced to face significant drops in enrollment should quarantine continue, due to the lackluster quality of education.
The data suggests that many colleges will struggle to survive another year of periodic quarantine.
“Within a year, 10-20 percent of US universities will be closed. That’s what the experts say,” Ward added.
COVID-19 has also pressured universities to finally address the elephant in the room — the inevitable shift towards virtual learning over traditional learning.
“The pandemic has forced higher education, which has traditionally been apprehensive to change, to pivot to online learning virtually overnight,” said Michael Hansen, CEO of Cengage, an educational content, technology, and services company.
Universities were already pushing towards the direction of virtual learning. “Pre-COVID, this has already been the trend, COVID has just accelerated it,” Ward said.
On a more positive note, Ward made a prediction that this will “force a better quality of education at a lower price.”
Essentially, in order to compete with other universities, there will be offers for better education at better prices. Students may very well be the winners here, while traditional education will be the loser.