How Universities Can Use Online Access to Remain Competitive in A Post-COVID-19 World
Image Courtesy: Tufts University

How Universities Can Use Online Access to Remain Competitive in A Post-COVID-19 World

I was reading today that Tufts University, my alma mater, has received over 35% more applicants for the Class of 2025 than it received last year for the Class of 2024.   And, that got me thinking how universities that are space constrained, like Tufts, can benefit from the clear and overwhelming demand for its education in a post-COVID-19 world.  Especially, I wondered how these schools can offer their education to still more extremely talented kids who will now know how to learn and perform in an environment that is exclusively online.

It would seem to me that one thing that universities can do is to create dual tracks.    The same number of kids can be accepted for the in-person learning experience as were accepted prior to COVID-19.  These kids will have access to the facilities and the staff just like they did prior to the pandemic and they will pay the same tuition that they were paying before.   A second track of students, however, can be accepted and pay a lesser amount, somewhere between 1/3rd and 2/3rd the tuition and no room and board, in return for an entirely online experience for which they will receive the same degree.  This track of students could be welcome on campus for certain periods each semester and may even have access to some extracurricular activities (for those accessing locally).

I understand the strong arguments against a dual track system.   Many will say that the perceived value of the degree will be undermined when it is available to more students, many of whom will not ever need to set foot on campus.   Hence, the argument goes, universities pursuing this approach will in turn undermine both the demand and price that they can charge for the full in-person experience.

However, this position ignores the reality that universities are going to be facing increasing competition from purely on-line schools, ones better than the University of Phoenix, that are going to be taking large parts of the education online population and are going to be very competitive in a post-COVID world.   It also ignores the realities that some students from specific socio-economic classes will always be willing to pay for the full in-person experience while others who are equally qualified may find that experience either less accessible or less valuable moving forward.

Some of the most prestigious executive MBA programs were already offered in a remote versus blended way before the Trumpvirus ever landed on our shores (including Wharton – ironically Trump’s own).   Other leading universities should now be giving serious consideration to adapting to the need and the demand.

Ari Socolow
Ari Socolow: Ari Socolow is the Chief Economist and Editor-in-Chief at BestCashCow. He is particularly interested in issues relating to bank transparency and the climate crisis. Since co-founding this website in 2005, Ari has been frequently cited in the media as an expert on local and national savings accounts, CD products, mortgage and loan products and credit card rewards products.

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