Electronic Tuition Rates: Sensible for States and Students

June 16, 2002

Electronic Tuition Rates: Sensible for States and Students

Governor Roy E. Barnes, Georgia

Chairman, Southern Regional Education Board

592 10th St. N.W.

Atlanta, GA 30318

(404) 875-9211


We have 21st-century distance learning and a 19th-century approach to selling it to

adults who need it. Arbitrary in-state and out-of-state tuition charges don’t serve students,

colleges or states. Electronic tuition rates for education delivered electronically make much

more sense.

The Southern Regional Education Board long has advocated just such a system —

electronic rates that are the same regardless of where students live. Now the Board of

Regents of the University System of Georgia has put this idea front and center with

“special tuition rates for distance education.”

The concept is straightforward: (1) Eliminate the arbitrary in-state and out-of-state

tuition charges for distance learning by setting electronic tuition rates; (2) create an open

market for learning that can lead to more education for more adults and more revenue for

colleges; (3) reduce the financial barriers for education that is delivered electronically. It

makes little sense for states to invest in distance learning ideally suited to deliver educationto large numbers of people, regardless of where they live, and then to set the price for this education so that it can be sold only within a single state. Such pricing policies have nothing

to do with the marketplace.

The Georgia Regents took a bold step to provide greater access to education, to utilize

the University System’s capacity to the fullest, and to make Georgia’s distance learning

competitive in a growing e-learning marketplace. “Special tuition rates” for courses and programs will enable Georgia’s universities to provide courses at electronic tuition rates

regardless of where a person lives. This action follows Georgia’s pioneering efforts with

electronic tuition rates for the eCore™ and Web-MBA™ initiatives.

Georgia’s action comes at a time when more colleges and universities are making greater

use of technology to reach students and states are supporting efforts to extend education via

technology. States will continue to invest in technology and distance learning. It is hugely

important in the future of education. It is our best hope to increase access for adults and to

make educational opportunities more convenient for them. Distance learning allows working

adults to continue to support families and contribute to the local and state economies

while pursuing their education.

States will need to maximize the utilization of this new technology and generate revenue from

these investments. Rational pricing, rather than arbitrary in-state and out-of-state tuition, is the way to do this. Electronic tuition rates can help make access to education more affordable and

produce more revenue.

The student “market” our colleges are serving is undergoing significant change. Students are

older, they are more technology-savvy, and most work while they study. The latest report is that

more than 75 percent of all students work and some 25 percent of these students balance fulltime

study and full-time jobs. All of these changes suggest that distance learning is the right

approach at the right time.

Yet there are significant barriers to both affordability and access to these courses. The traditional practice of charging in-state and out-of-state tuition for distance-education courses and programs is still the norm. Out-of-state tuition rates — typically two to three times the cost of

in-state rates — limit the educational opportunities that technology can make possible.

Many will ask whether states can afford to do this in times of a sluggish economy and state

budget cuts. This question is based in large measure on the fallacy that thousands of students

will pay out-of-state tuition for a college course they take on a computer at work or at home.

When a distance-learning course is priced at an out-of-state tuition rate of $1,200, for example

(three times the average in-state charge), the revenue for a college or a state is usually

$1,200 x zero students = zero dollars.

We have built, and we will build, electronic distance-learning courses and programs that

are ideal for large markets of adults across the South and nation. Let’s get the education to these

adults at a price they can afford and at a price that makes financial sense for states and colleges.

We don’t have the complete answer in Georgia yet, but with electronic tuition rates for electronic

courses we have taken a real step in the right direction. I urge you and your state to take the same kind of step for 21st-century education.