Online Schools 40% Cheaper to Run Than Public Schools


The Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a conservative think tank located in Ohio. It is a member of both the State Policy Network and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  It’s mission includes advancing charter schools (it is “a model charter school authorizer”) and it operates from the assumption that public schools are failing:

… too many American children receive a mediocre or worse education because too many of our schools and school systems are complacent or dysfunctional.

It publishes research to support these positions. In a recent addition to its Creating Sound Policy for Digital Learning series, the Institute published The Costs of Online Learning:

We find that average overall per-pupil costs of both models [full and part time on-line schooling] are significantly lower than the $10,000 national average for traditional brick-and-mortar schools—and that virtual schools are cheaper on average than blended schools.

In fact, it found that online schools are 40% cheaper to run than traditional public schools.


The authors concluded:

The promise of online learning is twofold: Technology has the potential both to improve  student outcomes and to lower costs. Unfortunately, to date and at scale, technology has fulfilled neither of these promises in K-12 education.

Although it suggests online learning is sold as a way to save money, the funding of virtual and neighborhood pubic schools is in most cases is the same. The lower costs experienced by online companies represent their profit margins.

Read the whole study here.

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