Executive Summary of the First Paper in the CFHE Series on Online Education and MOOCs


FutureofHigherEd.org • #futureofHE • facebook.com/FutureofHigherEd


The “Promises” of Online Higher Education: Profits 

With so much national focus on the “promises” of online higher education to expand access and to reduce costs, one truth about online higher education rarely mentioned is that it is big—Very Big—business.   Understanding and assessing developments in online higher education require that we look at them not just through the lens of industry slogans—“innovation,” “expanded access,” and “reduced costs,” but also through the lens of corporate interest and influence.

This paper examines ways in which investors and corporate leaders have “followed the money” to be made in online higher education–expanding rapidly in areas where profits were robust, moving into virgin territory when new laws or other changes created new possibilities, tweaking their ventures when faced with bad press or regulatory crackdown, and always shaping their sales pitch to make each move appear a boon for students and for our country.

It also discusses the “insider talk” of investors and corporate leaders about online higher education. For parents, students, and the general public who focus primarily on what education means for people’s futures, for social mobility, for a healthy economy and a robust democracy, a dip into the insider talk of online investors and industry analysts is both instructive and disorienting: what will make money for companies in the online higher ed business, insiders acknowledge repeatedly, has nothing to do with the glittery sales pitch.

This piece is the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education’s first step in looking at who is making money, how much, in what ways, and with whose assistance in online higher education.  Only when the public “follows the money” can we assess the full “value” of the seemingly endless stream of technologically-related innovations in higher education and make the best policy decisions for the future of higher education in our country.


The full text of the paper can be found at the CFHE website, indicated just below the logo.

3 thoughts on “Executive Summary of the First Paper in the CFHE Series on Online Education and MOOCs

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  2. Pingback: Questioning the False Promises of the Online Education Industry: A New Video Released by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education | Academe Blog

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