Monday, February 9, 2015

The Ethics of Making Education Affordable and Accessible

An article in the Journal of Business Ethics that discusses non-traditional education brings forward some interesting points about ethics in the higher educational system. The primary argument discussed whether non-traditional models are moral. Secondary arguments included the need to generate research to be of benefit to society. Below you will find a few points that could have also been included in the paper. 

Certainly it is important to consider the secondary outcomes of all educational systems that include research and creative scholarship. The problem is that the characterization of non-traditional schools offering little benefit to society is misplaced. Online universities are now involved in producing research in their respective fields and offering that research for public consumption. 

It can be argued that online universities will likely offer more research and publication output in the future as they grow to maturity. A number of online universities are currently providing grants, stipends, and other resources to faculty who conduct and publish research. We will soon find the market more reflective of their online leadership status. 

It is also important to evaluate traditional universities with the same criteria as non-traditional universities to make a more apple to apple comparison. Traditional university costs have risen to such a extent that states are now having a difficult time balancing their budgets and will need to either cut education or take from unrelated government programs. The costs on society continue to rise.

In the past the online modality was seen as a poor way to obtain a formal education. However, research has pointed out that such logic was full of fallacies and online education produces the same or better outcomes than many ground based modalities. Slowly but surely a number of critics have come to accept the research that has been produced by independent bodies.

For generations higher education was a stepping stone to a better lifestyle.  That stepping stone wasn’t available to many minorities and people of lesser financial means. Higher education effectively blocked certain groups from obtaining a degree and a better lifestyle; that trend for some schools continues today. Non-traditional schools have opened their doors to anyone who has the motivation and skills to succeed.

The lines between traditional and non-traditional are increasingly blurred. Traditional universities now accept and implement online education as an important modality and are moving in this direction while a number of online educators own traditional campuses that went broke under the traditional model. As one industry matures and the other adjusts there will be a meeting closer to the middle.

Online education is here to stay and isn’t going away. Judging non-traditional education requires having familiarity with the industry and its trends. We must embrace the future and encourage change to make education more affordable and accessible to all. Whether a university is profit/non-profit, private/public, or online/ground should make no difference if the quality of education is high and it provide advantages to society. 

Natale, S., Libertella, A. & Doran, C. (2015). For-profit education: the sleep of ethical reason. Journal of Business Ethics, 126 (3).

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