$50,000 is what is will cost students to enroll into Harvard’s fully online curriculum this fall. Perhaps Harvard can get away with this whopping sum, and perhaps students (their parents, more like), would be willing to sacrifice the dough for this temporary blip in traditional education. However, what if this online trend continues into the spring, or longer? What then?
If you ask me, this new model is not sustainable for colleges––and especially elite schools. Ivy Leagues are traditionally known as elite social epicenters––they can grant students access to high-profile individuals, who in turn can spin worlds for them. In other words, your network is your net worth. However, with online school serving as the barrier to such important social interactions, the prestige and overlying purpose of the Ivy League sharply diminishes.
Suddenly, Harvard is now your mid-tier public university, as its one differentiator–the school’s elitism–disappears. Yes, many may argue that Ivy Leagues have world class education, amenities, and the like. But trust me on this––people do not enroll in Harvard or Yale or MIT for the education. No. They do it for the prestige and to build their own high net worth networks. Furthermore, with the juicy prospect of making prestigious connections now stripped from the Ivy’s, suddenly, universities like mine (UMN) become no worse than Harvard.
Bottom line: if the Ivy League’s traditional aura has now vanished, well, why would anybody pay $50,000 when you can pay a fraction of the price for the same education at a public university? As the economist within me would say––be rational.