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SHSU online classes expensive, unfairly forced on students

Web Editor

Published: Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 23:02

It’s kind of funny that students don’t ever seem to be happy with online courses. On one hand they leap at the chance to take Fitness for Living or History of Rock, Jazz & Popular Music, but as soon as they don’t have an option for a face-to-face (F2F) class, they complain about the cost.

They have a point, regardless of how immature the complaints seem on face value. There are a few issues with the status quo that need addressing: the cost of online courses, the inherent problems with online classes for undergraduates and the comparison to the expressed goals of the university.

Research has shown multiple times that online classes aren’t conducive to undergraduate education. This is primarily because they aren’t likely to keep up with their classwork and thus make bad grades, according to a study by Columbia University released this year.

This isn’t to attack SHSU’s growing 2,303 online-only students. Those students know what they’re getting themselves into. The same goes for graduate students. If pursuing a degree online-only is what they choose to do, SHSU has some of the best programs out there and the awards to prove it.

However it seems that although classes have negative repercussions for mixed F2F and online students, the university is moving more classes online-only. Anecdotally, I have taken two classes that – at the time – were offered only online but were required by the department. I am not in any way a good student of online education, but I don’t have a choice. There’s a reason I moved three hours away from Orange, Texas to see the faculty in person. 

Several classes that I am taking this semester, including Investigative Reporting and International Human Rights, were only offered online when it’s clear that the professors could do so much more F2F.

On top of that, the amount of the “distance learning fee” is too damn high. The university charges $101 per credit hour, which gives them a nice payday every semester. In the spring 2014 semester SHSU made $2.67 million off of that fee alone. A normal 3-hour, in-person class should run you $1,038, but an online course fee bumps that up to $1,341 for one class. Take basic Spanish online and with the lab fee it’s $1,692 – almost 63 percent more than the original class.

SHSU ranked second in a list of U.S. News & World Report of colleges that leave students in the least debt in 2011. The university markets itself as an affordable college – something that’s increasingly becoming hard to believe.

Any classes offered by the department in non-online degrees should have at least one in-person option. The university shouldn’t be charging outrageous fees for on-campus students taking online classes they don’t have a choice but to take. I commend SHSU for the explosion in online offerings, but I don’t want to have to choke in the fallout.

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