Arizona State University recently announced that they will be offering “pay- as –you- pass” online college courses. How this will work is that students can enroll in freshman courses online free of charge. The initial offerings include math, humanities, arts and design, social-behavioral sciences, and natural sciences. The catch is that the student only has to pay if they pass the class and intend to use the credit. This idea was put in place primarily with the hope that it would help certain students reduce the risk of going into huge debt on their path to attempting to obtain a college diploma. ASU partnered with the online learning nonprofit edX to accomplish this goal, additionally promoting that they will not be requiring SAT scores or high school transcripts. The credits earned through this online program can enable students to finish degrees at ASU or at any university that accepts those courses.
So for under $6,000 one would be able to complete a freshman year worth of courses. By eliminating the majority of risk associated with the freshman year of college edX may be capturing a segment of the student market that would have opted out of higher ed, or that may have chosen to go to a community college. They also put themselves ahead of other online schooling providers such as Phoenix University, which like most other websites of this type requires the class fee in order to enroll in the course. Although on the outside this idea may seem like it would be benefiting some, the idea of “pay later” may internally play a roll in the success of these courses’ students. Coursera, a website that offers a wide range of courses that are usually harder to pass as college credit, found that students who paid $30 to $90 were substantially more likely to finish the course. When students feel less attached to something because they haven’t put down a monetary deposit, they may feel less inclined to get their money’s worth. Although this program hasn’t been offered long enough to generate any data, it would be interesting to see the percent of students who used the credits. In the past massive open online courses, MOOCs, have a completion rate of 7%, but that number jumps to 60% when they pay for a certificate. ASU should ensure that people don’t use their service like a MOOC with the hopes of gaining free knowledge with no intent of college credit. They have already taken steps by charging a small fee to verify that you are actually a student, who would have a higher incentive to get credits in comparison to the rest of the population.
What many don’t realize is that 40% of college students in the US fail to get a diploma within six years. This program can allow those who are unsure of their abilities to test the waters and make sure that they are ready to take on a college course load, and generate a passion about continuing on, without having to spend over twenty thousand dollars on ASU’s out of state tuition.