Online degree from London School of Economics for $5,000

by Grace

University of Michigan Professor Mark Perry points out that a degree in economics from the London School of Economics (LSE) can be had in three years and for $5,000.  Distance learning, that is.  Then he asks:

Why go to Harvard or Yale, where just one college class costs about $3,500, or almost as much as the entire BS degree from LSE?  Is this the college degree of the future?

I do think this will be a common option for the college degree of the future, driven primarily by cost issues.  If the LSE online program were to impose admission standards as stringent as those of its traditional campus cousin, it would probably elevate it to a higher prestige level.  We may soon see online university programs with selective admissions standards develop into an elite class of schools that attract top scholars.

From the comments:

…much of what you learn in college does not come from class. one of the benefits of being at a world class university is the exposure to the other students and to the faculty. much of the most interesting stuff i learned in college came from doing projects with faculty outside of the curriculum.

This is a valid point, and I’m sure I could come up with many more reasons to go with the tried and true certification methods instead of the online option.  However, ten years from now I may finder far fewer reasons.  Sometimes I wish my children were much younger and not going through the college process now.  Higher education may become much more affordable for our grandchildren.  At least we can hope.

9 Comments to “Online degree from London School of Economics for $5,000”

  1. If students and parents just cared about the academics, we wouldn’t see most courses taught by adjuncts making $2000 for the semester while highly paid administrators who run tutoring centers and student activity offices and party-abroad programs proliferate.


  2. We may see the market shift, so those parents and students who can only AFFORD the academics will begin to choose colleges that do not offer the expensive frills. According to Vance Fried, research and public service are also expensive frills that may go by the wayside if this shift happens.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Vance Fried’s analysis has serious problems that I haven’t had time to write up.


  4. I’m not sold on everything Fried wrote, but I trust the research and public service costs that he pulled out of total costs are pretty accurate. It seems clear that students are subsidizing these activities, which benefit very few students.


  5. Looking at his figures, only research-oriented publics and privates are spending significant amounts on research and service. Keep in mind that these universities have large graduate programs, and the graduate students have to be educated. That typically means doing research.

    More importantly, research and public service are mandated for most large state universities. The original mission of the land grant universities is a three legged stool : research, service, education. In many states, it is written into the charter. It is a mistaken notion to think that these schools were ever primarily about undergraduate education. Fried should know that because he teaches at one of those schools. Honestly, I think he is purposefully ignoring that little fact.

    As an example, consider a state university that I know well: University of Kentucky. Their public service activities are many and are very important to the state. For example, most medical care in Kentucky’s part of Appalachia is provided by the university medical school and various other departments like allied health. Back when Ilived in KY, tobacco was king, and the university did a lot of tobacco research, and provided help to the growers. They still do a lot of agricultural outreach. The university is also heavilly involved with K12 education, especially in Appalachia. The university provides meterological and geological work for the state, and does contracted economics research.

    The biggest problem confronting the land grant universities is that the states have greatly reduced their support of the universities without reducing their demands for services. In other words, the states are not paying for the services received. As a result, costs are getting transferred to the students. This is a huge problem. If the universities stopped doing service (which they can’t, legally, in many cases) the states would have to pay for those services in other ways.

    The states are also never going to reduce the research mission, because that is a huge economic driver. Of course, everyone knows about Silicon Valley, which wouldn’t be there without the research universities. Another example is North Carolina, which would have an economy like South Carolina’s, or Kentucky’s, if it didn’t have Research Triangle. And Research Triangle wouldn’t be there without the universities. North Carolina has been a huge supporter of university research, and I doubt they would ever pull back because it has been so successful.

    This is not the only problem with his analysis, by the way. There is a bigger one – the fact that he ignores the bulk of university education and only focuses on the cheapest-to-educate students.


  6. Thank you for posting this, very informative! Everything you point out sounds like a problem in reaching a goal of making college more affordable for college-ready undergraduates. (Is that partly what you mean by the “cheapest-to-educate” students?) I would agree with Fried (and you, perhaps) that most of these costs should not be borne by students, and I like the idea of starting over with a new type of college model that aims to do things more efficiently. Now, there is a question of what would be lost if all the “extras” were chucked, but I would welcome the introduction of these new colleges. It sounds like it’s worth trying.


  7. By “cheapest-to-educate”, I mean that his model only works for students who are majoring in liberal arts. His model of large lectures doesn’t work for engineering, the sciences, or professional programs like nursing or pharmacy. Majors in those fields have to do extensive lab or clinical work, which is very expensive. In fact, many people don’t realize that in a standard university, the cheap liberal arts majors are subsidizing the expensive engineers and nurses. For many years, schools have debated differential tuition, but it never has happened because no one wants to discourage kids from going into engineering, pharmacy, or nursing.
    You also need professors who are doing research to have a decent engineering or science program. Engineering changes so quickly. I see firsthand what happens when you have non-researchers teaching in a CS program – total ossification. And science majors need undergraduate research opportunities in order to get into the best graduate programs.


  8. I do agree that if states want their university to provide services and be an economic driver, they should pay for it. But that isn’t happening. Kind of like the pension debacle in New Jersey – the state made lots of promises and never paid for those promises. Sigh…


  9. You explain the benefits of research to undergraduates, something which Fried dismisses almost completely. He says most research is not internally funded, and advocates that universities should minimize the amount that they do fund. I’m sure that’s a difficult thing to do, especially in these times.

    I never thought about how STEM students are more expensive to educate. Of course that makes perfect sense, and it would be logical to charge higher tuition to those students who will likely be earning more after graduation. But I do see the serious downside in doing that.


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