Pandemic of Covid-19 has changed almost all the ways we live our life. It affects many aspects of life including educations. Medias say that students college enrollment for academic year of 2020-2021 has declined. It is startling as reported by National Students Clearing House that approximately 21,7% fewer high-school graduates went to college in this academic year. It was compared to 2019. Upper-income students are only took a gap, they will probably enroll to colleges next year. However, the low-income students who have been hit more directly by the impact of Covid-19, for the financial reasons, they stop.
Based on that case, it is found that the decline of students college enrollment is caused by the financial problem. Students from low-poverty school decided not to continue their study to universities. It means that the number of employees who graduate from universities will decline as well. Whereas, studies found that education background influences the quality of working. Higher education background will produce higher productivity and quality of working. It will also affect the economic growth of the country. Hence, it is important to have higher number of students college to have high economic growth.
Basically, some innovation have been made to solve the problem of students enrollment decline. One of the best innovation is made by Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). This campus serves 130 thousand students from all around the world. SNHU is awarded as “The Most Innovative Campus” by U.S. News & World Report.
Responding to the pandemic of Covid-19 effect, SNHU try to facilitate students from various families background especially for those who are hit directly by this pandemic and got financial problem. It is done as an effort to solve students enrollment decline because of financial cases.
This university offers full tuition scholarship for the incoming freshmen. SNHU also develops new campus-based model which bring campus tuition down to 61% from current rate. It is possible to be done because SNHU implement distance learning. The courses are conducted online.
As cited from SNHU website, it offers three choices of courses models for the students, they are:
- Course-Based/Online which means all courses are taken online with the option to live in campus
- Course-Based/Hybrid where all courses are taken online with face to face support from faculty and the option to live on campus
- Project-Based which means students will take courses through a project-based model with learning coaches and other academic supports with the option to live in campus.
Before the pandemic of Covid-19, it was in 2012, actually some universities in England decided to implement online learning. it was done as a solution toward a problem of students enrollment decline. On that time the students who enrolled to universities decreased because of the increasing of 300% tuition. Hence, some universities there, including University of Bristol, King’s College London, Lancaster, Birmingham dan St Andrews conducted online learning to reach more students with lower tuition. This kind of project were also done by some universities in US including University of Harvard and Stanford as posted by bbc.com and it finally attracted millions of students.
Actually, what made students more interested to online learning program? Is online learning cheaper than face to face learning program?
The cost of online learning have been ever being a controversy. Some studies were conducted to find relevant answer regarding to that issue. One of the studied was conducted by William Bowen, a leading economic expert and higher education analyst, who compared face-to-face learning and blended learning. Blended learning is a combination of online and face-to-face learning. He found that blended learning is more economical than face-to-face learning, it’s about 36% up to 57%. It can be happened because the number of lecturers or facilitators and staffs in blended learning is less than in face-to-face learning. Therefore, the institution expenditure can be decreased.
More complete study was conducted by Battaglino, Haldeman, and Laurans (2011) which compared traditional face-to-face learning, blended learning, and full virtual learning. It explained that the learners’ expense are usually allocated for faculty and admin, content, school operation, and students service. The result of study found that for each student in traditional face-to-face learning cost is $10.000, blended learning $8.900, and full virtual learning $6.400. It means the cost of online learning in form of blended learning and full virtual learning is lower than traditional face-to-face learning.
Based on data given in figure 1, the cost for faculty and admin need the most expenses. Then, it is followed by the cost of school operation. It is because in traditional face-to-face learning, the schools need more teachers/lectures and staffs. Hence, it needs more expense for their salary. Besides, the more students achieved by the schools, the more buildings and another physical facilities are needed. It means the more expense is also needed for it. However, it is vice versa in blended and full virtual learning.
From the explanation above, it can be concluded that distance learning which is conducted online has lower expense than the face-to-face one. Linking back to the main problem, reaching more students without burdening them with financial case, online learning program can be implemented as the solution. The benefit of implementing online learning are especially lower cost for students, but the university and education institution can accept more students without recruit more staffs significantly. Therefore, the university income will be better because it has higher number of students without making expense for more building or staff recruitment drastically.