Online Education and the College Crisis: A Student’s View

There are a lot of useful opinions and debates on the role of online education in solving various problems of higher education, but I find that we too often lack the student’s view on the subject. Towards that end, I am sharing the comments from a student about affordable access to the courses needed for a degree and one role of online education. The student is my daughter, Hillary Hill, who is entering her second year at a California State University campus.

“We should change the name of this [Sonoma State University Class of 2015] group to “Sonoma State University Class of 2056.”

“I am not even a full time student…”

“I’m not paying double what I used to to not get classes!”

These are just a few of the Facebook posts I read from my friends on the day of open registration for Fall 2012 started. At 9 AM, MySSU [portal and administrative system] went live, and students scrambled to get units. Unfortunately, there were very few units to be had. People are stuck taking classes they don’t need or want just for the unit value, and even they are better off than the ones who couldn’t even register for 12 units (the amount which makes you a full-time student). To make matters worse, MySSU shut down before it even reached 10 AM. Students who had taken off work or postponed plans were stuck refreshing their webpages in the hopes they’d be the first person on when it came back.

Fueling the frustration is also the fact that tuition has been rising quickly. In the year that I’ve attended the school, tuition has risen by 10%, twice. You would assume that meant we were getting more classes or at the very least more staff. That is not the case. Instead, we’re getting fewer course sections at the same time as we’re getting a new, multi-million dollar student center, which no one seems to want. The student center may come from completely different funds, but the whole situation is ridiculous from a student’s point of view.

The only reason I’m not joining the angry mob of SSU students is that I was fortunate and my obsessive planning paid off. I’m in the process of switching majors, as many students do. The major I’m switching to is closed until Spring 2013, so I decided to get a leg up on the competition and register for the field’s intro class during the first pass of registration. I quickly found out that the class was only offered to students who had already declared the major. Determined not to get stuck taking five GE classes, I found an online, transferrable version of the class I wanted from the local junior college. That left me with 15 units for the semester, which was fine considering we recently were given a 16 unit semester cap. This move saved my semester, and probably an extra semester in school. [emphasis added]

Back to that 16 unit cap – it was implemented last year, and I could list four or five personal friends who have to stay an extra semester in school because of this cap. People who would have been more than happy to devote some extra time and energy to another class or two are now wasting thousands of dollars and months of time on those one or two classes.

Once my friends realized they could not get into the classes they needed, they also started to look at the online offerings from the community college. The reason is that the online courses are the easiest courses to get into. This is the best or only way we have to graduate on time, and there is no CalState online program yet.

I don’t know what to expect from this online course, but I believe it is an interactive class designed on the Moodle LMS. However, the mere fact of the online course being available is what is important to me and my friends.

We, the CSU students, are currently being set up to fail. We’re being forced to pay more and receive less. We’re being forced to put off starting our lives to take a semester of English 305, because we had already reached 16 units, and even that is nothing short of a miracle. Something has to change, but in the meantime, hats off to us, the class of 2056.

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About Phil Hill

Phil is a consultant and industry analyst covering the educational technology market primarily for higher education. He has written for e-Literate since Aug 2011. For a more complete biography, view his profile page.
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2 Responses to Online Education and the College Crisis: A Student’s View

  1. Pingback: A frontal assault on the practice of teaching. « More or Less Bunk

  2. Great job of qualifying and quantifying how the budget crises in California and many other states are affecting students. And the author is right: we in edtech and Higher Education and Higher Ed publishing often lose focus on the prize. It is educating students as best we can. Right now, the California schools are reeling and this will be rolled out to more and more states. Solid, smart students are simply left without options to simply find a major that they can count on getting classes for. Really sad. We at Highlighter are building some educational services and tools with like minded companies to help make this situation better, but we will fail if we do not keep students more in mind. Good luck to the author’s daughter in finding what she needs at Sonoma State University.
    JOHN HOLDCROFT

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