NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Can Online Learning Bend the Higher Education Cost Curve?

David J. Deming, Claudia Goldin, Lawrence F. Katz, Noam Yuchtman

NBER Working Paper No. 20890
Issued in January 2015
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Economics of Education, Labor Studies

We examine whether online learning technologies have led to lower prices in higher education. Using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, we show that online education is concentrated in large for-profit chains and less-selective public institutions. Colleges with a higher share of online students charge lower tuition prices. We present evidence that real and relative prices for full-time undergraduate online education declined from 2006 to 2013. Although the pattern of results suggests some hope that online technology can “bend the cost curve” in higher education, the impact of online learning on education quality remains uncertain.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20890

Published: David J. Deming & Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz & Noam Yuchtman, 2015. "Can Online Learning Bend the Higher Education Cost Curve?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 496-501, May. citation courtesy of

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