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Addressing Education Costs through Affordable Online Courses

In today’s political environment, one of the loudest calls from the public is for some sort of change related to the cost of a college education and one way of addressing education costs is through affordable online courses.

Many activists have called for caps or regulations on the cost of college credits. Others feel as though education is a right and should be provided for free to anyone who wants it. Some presidential candidates have risen to this call and are advocating serious alterations to today’s higher education expenses.

Although politicians are beginning to take the issues of college education costs seriously, a number of innovative colleges are making headway on reducing costs. Part of the way they are doing this is by allowing students to use their online platforms and advanced technologies to test out classes before committing to pay for the credits. One program, in particular, is Arizona State University’s Global Freshman Academy.  

The Global Freshman Academy is designed in a way that enables any potential student that doesn’t know what they want to major in to test out a few different classes before committing to paying for the credits. In this way, incoming freshmen, college students, or anyone considering going back to school do not have to spend money on courses that ultimately don’t count towards their degree. Instead, students pay a $45 registration fee rather than for a full class.

The courses function in a similar way to massive open online courses (MOOCs) in that anyone can use the platform to sign up for a directed learning experience online. The largest difference between the two is that the Global Freshman Academy offers the option of credit at the end.

Ultimately, if students do well in the course and decide that they are interested in having it on their transcripts, they can pay a normal rate for the course credits. The grades students earn in these classes is then permanent and will count towards their college GPA and graduation requirements. Additionally, these courses count as prerequisites for any associated higher level class; just the same as an on-campus introductory course would.

“The Global Freshman Academy is a monumental step in democratizing education for all. I commend Arizona State University and edX for leading online learning efforts and for opening this door to aspiring minds around the world,” said Andrew Smith Lewis, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Cerego, a partner of the Global Freshman Academy. “We are proud to play our part. Open educational resources and personalized learning technology is a powerful combination. We hope to grow this model to more courses in the Global Freshman Academy and other like-minded universities around the world.”

Some studies have suggested that on average, 50 percent of incoming college freshman are undecided about their major. When they do decide on a major, chances are that it will not stick. On average students change their major about three times before graduating.

This means a significant number of courses that ultimately don’t count towards the graduation requirements of the degree that many students will eventually leave with. By taking cheap online courses that could count for credit if students decide they want them to, the amount of student debt accumulated can be greatly reduced.     

In addition to not having to pay for some credits, these courses provide another substantial cost-saving benefit: they are online. By removing the need for students to be on campus, technology is saving them a great deal of money in living expenses. Online students can avoid paying for dorm rooms, parking passes and required cafeteria meals which can also be extensive yearly expenditures.

Furthermore, the program can be utilized by learners of all ages, not just incoming students. Anyone that is interested in taking a course, be it for their education, their careers, or personal enrichment is welcome to do so. As the number of courses offered increases, this could become a means of gaining introductory knowledge in different fields or techniques that can greatly enhance a resume for job seekers.

The Global Freshman Academy is an exciting opportunity in which to utilize technology to improve our educational opportunities with affordable online courses.

The program has the potential to enable students to determine what type of major they want to pursue without spending a great deal of money in the process. Ultimately, the program could benefit a many people outside of incoming students and may help reduce prohibitive educational expenditures.

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Brittni Brown

Brittni Brown is a recent graduate of The College of Idaho; she currently works for a local marketing startup. In her free time she enjoys a variety of outdoor activities.
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