The Thomas B. Fordham Institute released today “The Costs of Online Learning,” a report by Parthenon Group that estimates fulltime virtual and blended schools cost considerably less per pupil than traditional brick-and-mortar public schools.

While costs vary within many of the models, on average, fulltime virtual schools cost up to a third less per pupil than conventional schools. Parthenon estimates virtual schools cost $4,600 per student, blended schools cost $8,900 per student and traditional schools cost $10,000 per student.

The use of technology allows educators and policymakers to dramatically rethink resource-allocation strategies, says the report. Money can be reallocated in innovative ways to deliver additional funds to teacher salaries, smallar class sizes for face-to-face instruction, increased professional development, longer school days, and personalized support for students.

The paper encourages policymakers and decision makers to evaluate effective models for increased productivity in online and blended learning to drive increased innovation and efficiency in school funds.

“We’ll never have more effective schools if we don’t do better at understanding what drives their costs—and these vary widely depending on the nature of the delivery system,” said Fordham Institute president Chester E. Finn, Jr. “Today’s advances in online learning—especially when combined with the current education-budget crunch—make this kind of cost analysis more crucial than ever before.”

This paper is an installment in Fordham’s Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning series, which draws on public documents and interviews looking at the trade-offs of online schooling straight from the experts and vendors in online learning.

View the full paper.

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