VCU: Prime Candidate for a MOOCing

The VCU value proposition: a Top 25 basketball team
The VCU value proposition: a Top 25 basketball team

by James A. Bacon

I often wonder if higher-education board members can see the forest for the trees. In my mind’s eye, I see university administrations sharing huge volumes of reports and data in thick notebooks — no one can accuse them of a lack of full disclosure. And I imagine most board members (with a handful of notable exceptions) taking the information exactly as given, focusing on the nits and lice, never quite grasping the big picture.

For example, do you think the Virginia Commonwealth University administration would ever present the following data to its Board of Visitors — or anyone on the board would ask for it to be presented this way?

Consumer Price Index (2008-2012): up 6.6%
Virginia median household income (2008-2012): down 5.5%
VCU in-state tuition and fees (2008-1202): up 32%
Average VCU student debt upon graduation: $28,889*

Here’s where the money is coming from:

Source: State Council on Higher Education in Virginia
Source: State Council on Higher Education in Virginia. Note: E&G stands for “Education and General”

Here’s where the money is going:

Source: Knight Foundation on Intercollegiate Athletics
Source: Knight Foundation on Intercollegiate Athletics

The solid line shows average spending per full-time-equivalent student. Hmmm. It trended slightly down. The dotted line shows average spending per athlete. Hmmm. It trended dramatically higher. Let’s summarize:

  • Virginians’ median household incomes down by about 5.5%
  • VCU tuition and fees up 32%
  • Academic spending per full-time student down 9.2%
  • Athletic spending per athlete up $40,000 up 86%

What are VCU students getting for their massive increases for tuition and fees? The privilege of rooting for a Top 25 basketball team. Anything else? Better academic quality? More prestigious, better paid professors? (Hah!) Better career prospects?

Looks to me like VCU is a prime candidate for being dismembered by Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) or other variants of online- and technology-based education. At the end of the day VCU has a solid medical school and a few pockets of excellence like the advertising Brand Center and a top-tier art school.  How long will students for other programs be willing to pay VCU tuition and fees for the value they’re getting in return?

* Average debt for the 63% of graduates who carried debt. Does not include the debt incurred by those who did not graduate.

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4 responses to “VCU: Prime Candidate for a MOOCing”

  1. and just in time:

    College and University Reports Released by Auditor of Public Accounts
    November 1 to 30, 2013

    Virginia Commonwealth University for the year ended June 30, 2013

    The audit shows weaknesses in the security of the network… internal and external….

    MOOC can be a juicy target if it lets hackers in ….

    I know this sounds bogus but there are apparently companies out there right now offering students to take their online tests for them – for a price.

    GOOGLE “We take your class”.

    I would think this would be a prime opportunity for Peter to demonstrate just how flawed MOOC is right now!

  2. cpzilliacus Avatar

    Jim, I think you are raising some fair points here.

    Have you considered asking the nice people on the VCU Board of Visitors for a response?

  3. The thing that seems intolerable is that taxpayers are fronting money to help higher ed – but higher Ed but because state aid has reduced – the much-higher-than-inflation costs are going to the students.

    28K per student is the AVERAGE debt? That’s astounding!

    we have a bad policy when both taxpayers and students are paying and the University seems unwilling to keep it’s costs to basic inflation levels.

    I think Va should establish (like the Feds are now doing), an “affordability” index that determines how much state aid the college gets and that state aid is not forthcoming if college does not stay within the affordability benchmarks.

    the current system is wrong and is being abused – to the detriment of taxpayers and students… and we are schmucks for just standing around with our thumbs up our noses.. and doing nothing about it.

  4. according to the Feds, VCU is not horrible:

    College Scorecards in the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center make it easier for you to search for a college that is a good fit for you. You can use the College Scorecard to find out more about a college’s affordability and value so you can make more informed decisions about which college to attend.

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