How can Berklee offer online courses at one-third the cost of residential classes?
- After five years, Berklee College of Music in Boston is maintaining its online course pricing at slightly more than a third of the cost for face-to-face courses and has seen enrollment grow in both programs, according to Inside Higher Education.
- Online tuition for a bachelor's degree this fall will rise from $1,479 per course, or about $59,160 for a 40-course degree, to $1,497 per course, but that price remains about 60% less than the traditional program tuition of $171,520 for a bachelor’s. Face-to-face tuition has risen over the past few years while online course costs have remained about the same.
- Online undergraduate enrollment totaled 1,138 last fall, up from 244 two years ago, and campus undergraduate enrollment has increased from 4,490 in 2013 when the online program began to 4,532 in 2017. Berklee President Roger Brown told Inside Higher Education the online degree “doesn’t require you to move to Boston and live in a fairly expensive city, and allows you to get an education at a much lower cost, but an excellent education nonetheless.” He said the online program enrolls students who might not have otherwise pursued a degree.
The expense difference may be unique to Berklee because with its online courses the college does not have to provide recording studios, ensemble rooms and other expensive equipment and space in the high-rent area of Boston where the college is located. Officials also said in-person counseling and other services drive up on-campus costs, while adjunct professors can teach more of the online offerings.
Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is another small private institution that has moved to offer online programming. Some experts believe online degrees are a path for such schools to stay competitive when many are struggling. In the region around Berklee, several small colleges have reduced tuition substantially to attract more students.
Robert Ubell, the vice dean emeritus of online learning at New York University's Tandon School of Engineering, has written in EdSurge that students will increasingly seek online courses and that higher education is getting more comfortable with them. He says online learning can be adopted without excessive expense, and recommends that colleges consider hiring an online program manager and moving carefully, as well as expanding the student body to include other types of students the way Berklee did. “Small colleges have a good chance at turning things around and thriving if they give online a chance and recruit older, mid-career students,” he told EdSurge.
Muhlenberg rejected the idea of developing massive open online courses (MOOCs), and Berklee officials report they found MOOCs too expensive. Brown says each of Berklee’s 12-week online courses cost between $80,000 and $100,000 while some institutions pay more than $250,000 to develop MOOCs.
- Inside Higher Education A College Prices Its Online Programs 60% Less