Reality Check on Online Education

Last week, the NYT and others made what seemed like a pretty big deal out of Congress' decision to waive the 50 percent rule for online education (Higher Ed Changes Mirror K12 Changes To Come). But it may not have been such big news after all -- or nearly so sinister as it seemed in the NYT article -- according to Peter Stokes at the research firm Eduventures. He emailed me his thoughts about the hooplah as a sidebar to some other reporting I'm doing on higher ed completion rates.


According to Stokes, you can get a sense of just how outdated the 50 percent rule was by realizing that it was created to limit TV-based distance courses, not Internet-based education which didn't really exist in 1992. The recent change will help lots of learners who seem to like online learning, but won't according to Stokes, radically alter the marketplace. Only 7 percent of students are fully online right now. "While the growth rate is impressive, the overall share of the market getting educated online is still small," he says. And the majority of online enrollments are served by non-profit institutions.


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