Tuesday, February 3, 2009
The Boston Globe reports today that Southern New Hampshire University, a private school, is trying a new approach to education. Students attending a satellite campus in Salem or Nashua pay just $10,000 in annual tuition, in contrast with $25,000 to attend the university's main campus in Manchester. The differences are the amenities. The satellite "campus" consists of one floor in an office building, with a small student lounge and vending machines. The school focuses on classes: small classes of 10 or so students, professors who also o teach at the Manchester campus, and a solid, two-year curriculum. After two years, the students can transfer to the Manchester campus, having saved $30,000, plus savings from living at home and not in a dorm. The students miss not only the residential experience, but also the school activities, clubs, cafeteria, gym, and the chance to interact outside the classroom with fellow students. Much of education can occur outside the classroom and some of those experiences will be lost at the commuter campus. But for some students, the cost savings makes a college education possible and for those who might spend more time partying than attending classes, the classes-only focus may be helpful. As Paul LeBlanc, president of Southern New Hampshire says about the new buildings - food court, gym, and residential facilities - that colleges must provide to stay competitive: "I'm not sure that improves education. It just drives the price up. Not everyone needs it, and frankly, not everyone can afford it."
The Globe article notes that the public university system in Pennsylvania is considering creating four-year colleges on this model.