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Affordable Online Education is Better for Students and Better for Our Business

Written by Christopher "Chip" Paucek on Nov 10, 2021

Related content: Higher Education, Leadership

From the beginning, our mission at 2U has been to increase access to the world’s best higher education through online learning. Developing affordable, high-quality online education options for students is a major priority for our company. Over the years, we have had numerous conversations with our university partners about the student debt crisis in our nation and the urgent need to reduce the cost of higher education.

That’s why it was disappointing to read The Wall Street Journal’s mischaracterization of 2U in its article on USC’s Master of Social Work program. From our experience, few people take the time to understand the full scope and scale of how 2U is helping non-profit universities lower costs and meet the needs of today’s learners. But there are a few simple truths we shared with the WSJ that weren’t reflected in the article.

2U has never targeted students based on socioeconomic status

As we told the WSJ many times: 2U does not target low-income students and was unaware of the offensive marketing personas referenced in the article, did not create them, and has never used them in our marketing efforts.

2U’s financial success is directly linked to strong student outcomes

2U’s financial success hinges on helping our partners develop high-quality online programs, attract qualified applicants, and provide the ongoing support needed for students to succeed.

We exclusively shoulder all of the marketing and recruiting expenses associated with helping our partners attract qualified students. We then receive a share of tuition revenue over time as those students progress through their programs. We see the most financial benefit from students who persist and graduate, and little from those who don’t, so we are strongly incentivized to spend our marketing dollars in responsible and efficient ways that help qualified, academically prepared applicants find and apply to great online programs.

And once a student is admitted into a program–a decision that is the sole province of our university partners–the most effective way for 2U to help our bottom line is to ensure they successfully complete the program. That means delivering high-quality learning experiences and strong student support. As our Transparency Report and Gallup research both demonstrate, we’re doing just that and succeeding in helping students earn their degrees.

Lower tuition is better for 2U’s business

There is a common misperception that 2U benefits financially from more expensive tuition prices. But in reality, the higher the tuition price, the more expensive it is to market a program and attract students. Higher education is not an inelastic good. As tuition prices go up, student demand goes down, which leads to even higher marketing costs that are shouldered by 2U, not the university.

So, in fact, lower tuition prices are not only a win for students, but they also financially benefit our business. That’s why we have strongly and consistently advocated for lower prices, all while respecting the institutional independence of our partners to set tuition rates. Over the years, we’ve seen the positive impact of these efforts as more and more 2U partners have reduced tuition, launched disruptively-priced new degrees, and introduced innovative financing models that benefit students.

Our commitment to developing more affordable, high-quality online education options for students is one of the key reasons for our planned acquisition of edX. Together, edX and 2U will offer students more than 3,000 free MOOCs and low-cost microcredentials, as well as disruptively priced degree programs and affordable pathways to full degrees, which still continue to be the best paths to social mobility.

We invite you to learn more about the quality and value of the educational experience offered through 2U-powered programs from the personal accounts of students here on The Latest.

Learn more about us.

At 2U, we’re on a mission—to eliminate the back row in higher education and help universities thrive in the digital age. To learn more about who we are and what we do, follow the links below.