Online Higher Education and Its Limits

Online Higher Education and Its Limits

Online Higher Education and Its Limits

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
July 18 2012 3:45 PM

Online Higher Education and Its Limits

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Camp country

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My colleague Will Oremus has a great piece today about the promise of massive online higher education offerings to restrain exploding prices at American colleges.

Maine is a popular choice. Camp Laurel, a six-week co-ed camp in the Central Lakes Region, runs from June 23 to Aug. 11 and costs $10,800—plus another $975 for the optional equestrian program and $150 for laundry service. According to the promotional literature, it offers “a full camp experience in a broad program of athletics, adventure, waterfront and the arts.” Camp Vega, a girls camp, operates the same six weeks along Maine’s Echo Lake and costs $10,600, with the option of additional activities (e.g., figure skating) at further cost. Camp Skylemar, a six-week camp for boys in Naples, Maine, costs $10,750.

This caught my eye because it snubbed the third Echo Lake summer camp, Camp Winnebago, a boys camp that I attended. We didn't have horses. And all these camps were a lot cheaper (though still expensive) back in the mid-1990s than they are today. The same basic forces that shape very policy-relevant things like health care and college expenditures also work on policy-irrelevant things like veterinary care and summer camp. People don't particularly want to own 11 televisions and four cars, but caring for pets and loved ones is a potentially bottomless sinkhole of money, and vendors will find a way to soak up all the money people have.

So a good deal of the college economy could potentially float off somewhat independently of the question of what's actually the most cost-effective way to teach a kid some math.