Why I didn’t choose an online college

At the height of the dot-com bubble, many influential people in education thought that remote learning was going to be the next revolutionary invention. Twenty years later, it’s become increasingly apparent that online education is an inferior product.

The best institutions still stick to a majority of physical classes because it is what students want. Year after year, we saddle ourselves with debt, pay the higher prices and take cars, trains and buses to class.

Wouldn’t it be so much more convenient to sit at home all day, crouched over an outdated laptop for the sake of saving a few bucks? Sure, the convenience of online classes is tempting. But when it comes to undiluted quality of the product, nothing beats being physically in place to learn.

You can go to the Georgia State website at any time and calculate the estimated cost for a four-year degree. Right now, for a full-time student living off-campus with no financial aid (all expenses included), this figure stands at about $105,000.

There are reasons that this number is so high, including the vast amenities that a physical college has to offer, such as well-furnished gyms, Olympic-sized swimming pools, enormous classrooms and common places for students to hang out, as well as the educational benefits.

If you’re struggling in a class, you can go talk to that professor in person. If you like, you can stay on campus all day, taking advantage of well-staffed tutoring services between classes. If you’re so inclined, you can make valuable connections with your peers, who are often willing to help if you ever need it.

Many students around the world who chose to pay for the physical experience of a university are now left paying the equivalent of in-person tuition but with only the benefits of a free Khan academy video on YouTube.

New York University students recently demanded partial tuition refunds as a result of the degraded quality of their education, but leadership responses at even wealthy, private colleges have not been promising. It seems highly unlikely that we’ll ever see tuition refunds from Georgia State, even as the economy tumbles and it becomes impossible to argue that online classes are not objectively worse.

The underlying irony in this situation is that online classes are exactly what Georgia State students were pushing for in response to our current crisis. In March, tens of thousands of students signed an online petition to move classes online, and it seemed like the only right solution at the time.

But now that we’ve made our bed, we have to lay in it. I predict that many students are in for a restless month of sleep as we try to navigate the hurdles of self-teaching in an online environment.