Research

Survey: Online Courses, Use of Tech Better Route than Public Funding To Cut College Costs

The delivery of online classes is viewed by most people as a way that colleges and universities are keeping expenses down for their students. In a recent survey, 65 percent of respondents identified those more than anything else a school can do to reduce student costs. The idea of backing public funding for education to lower tuition and loan costs was specified by only half as many (34 percent).

Almost all respondents (95 percent) said they believe that college costs are getting so expensive, students will be need to find alternative ways get their education, whether that's taking school courses online, going to a community college or attending a trade school. Despite the cost, most (79 percent) also said they believe a college degree is necessary in today's economy.

Those findings came out of an intriguing survey conducted for Ricoh, the office equipment, document management and services company, by Harris Poll. Over the course of three days in August and September 2,053 adults aged 18 and older were surveyed on a number of questions related to the use of both the latest technologies and paper on campus.

People said they expect institutions of higher education to use the "latest technologies." That includes in administrative functions (93 percent), the classroom (90 percent) and in auxiliary services, such as the mailroom and bookstore (86 percent). Those institutions that do so garner more respect. More than four in five people (81 percent) said knowing that a college uses the latest tech improves their opinion of the organization.

However, people also identified potential pockets of disarray where schools could probably improve their operations. One area was admissions. More than half of respondents (53 percent) said they have heard stories about admissions information being misplaced at a college or university. An even higher number (65 percent) said they don't think institutions have the proper security in place to protect students' confidential information.

A similar unease exists with mailroom operations. More than three-quarters (77 percent) reported that it would be safer for packages and letters to be sent to a mail center than to a dorm or off-campus apartment. Two-thirds said that by notifying students when mail or a package was waiting for them, the school would be providing a "helpful" service.

Although the use of technology had broad acceptance among this audience, they told researchers that paper still has a home on campus. Two-thirds (65 percent) said it would be "impossible" for students to fulfill academic requirements without using paper every day. Not even half (48 percent) said they could foresee a future where the campus could become completely paperless within a few years.

"Colleges and universities are competing intensely for the best students, and that competition hinges in large part on the quality of the student experience a campus can deliver," said Renaud Rodrigue, vice president of higher education for Ricoh Americas, in a prepared statement. As one example, he noted, "The mail experience is an important differentiator, and improving it can also be a great way to contain costs."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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