RetroThink: Government Barely Mentions Online Learning in New Plan to Boost the Number of American College Grads

Barry Lenson

RetroThink: Government Barely Mentions Online Learning in New Plan to Boost the Number of American College Grads

There was a lot of hoopla this week when Joe Biden announced a new Government initiative intended to increase the number of Americans who graduate from college.  You can read all about the new plan in a publication called the College Completion Tool Kit. 

Here’s a quote from the publication . . .

“The days of being able to rely on high school graduates to provide economic stability and vitality are over. More than half of all new jobs in the next decade will require a postsecondary certificate or degree.  Accordingly, boosting the number of college graduates should be a central goal in every state’s workforce and economic development plan. Raising college completion rates should be a central part of the strategy for reaching that goal. The best jobs and fastest growing firms, whether in biosciences, technology, manufacturing, trade, or entertainment, will gravitate to communities, regions, and states with a highly qualified workforce. In the coming decade, individuals with professional certificates and postsecondary education degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, and graduate levels are projected to continue to experience higher levels of employment and wage growth than those without.”

It’s hard to disagree with that. But if you scour the report, you will notice that it largely overlooks the central role that online learning can play to boost the number of college grads. The report only mentions distance learning in relation to a new $500 million program called The Department of Labor Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant program; that program will offer funding to help community colleges improve “online and technology-based learning.” Why only at community colleges? Restricting distance-learning funding to them seems to be part of a pattern. Back in 2009, the Government funded a similar program called the American Graduation Initiative, which also funded online instruction only at community colleges.

So unless we’re missing something, the Government is still overlooking the fact that distance learning courses can offer college instruction to large numbers of Americans. That’s difficult to understand.  Maybe it’s because people can’t give up the traditional definition of a college as a place with dormitories, a library, a student center, an immense tuition – and all the rest of that baggage.

We don’t know why elected officials think that way. Mr. Biden, can you fill us in?

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