San Diego Union-Tribune Op-Ed Argues that Online Classes are Racist

Written by Nicholas Vetrisek

The university system has its issues, but online classes promoting racial inequality isn’t one of them

Recently, The San Diego Union-Tribune ran a piece attempting to claim that distance education and online learning are racist and negatively affect minority learners.

The article was in response to a statement by UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla. He said that the COVID-19 crisis has created a need to shift higher education to a “hybrid” model that combines in-person and online learning. He also stated that remote learning “opens up more opportunities” for people “traditionally cut out of higher education.”

Despite the fact that distance learning allows more people to get a degree than ever, the authors of the Union-Tribune piece tried to turn it into an issue of race. They use data showing that minorities are less likely to graduate if taking online classes as opposed to in-person ones. This is less an issue of the schools and it has far more to do with the students themselves. 

Distance learning can be very effective, but it requires the student to be self-motivated. Of course, it’s much more likely that someone will graduate if they take in-person classes. If someone is having their hand held throughout the entire journey, they are more likely to complete it even if they do lack self-motivation. The fact is that this statistic matters little to people that are actually driven to complete their degrees.

One point the authors bring up that is legitimate is the fact that college is too expensive if students will simply be receiving online classes. She brings up that UCSD costs $34,000 total per year to attend and the average student leaves with $22,000 in debt. Even then, this is not a problem with the online system itself, but a problem with greedy universities wanting to have their cake and eat it too. 

It’s no secret that college is far too expensive. If the system wasn’t run almost exclusively by the government, the prices would no doubt be considered criminal. Still, there are schools doing this properly. Excelsior College is an online institution that charges per credit hour and though the rate is expensive, it greatly reduces the cost by offering credit by examination (CBE), a program where passing a test means you pass the class and receive the credits. 

The online system can be done right and most of the problems associated with it are due to the fact that colleges are attempting to rob students of their money. Just because colleges are currently attempting to double dip by not teaching in-person while still charging full price for tuition does not mean that the entire system is flawed. Schools like Excelsior are showing how it can be done correctly and they are the way of the future. Institutions trying to scam students will be left in the dust if they continue on this path, and rightfully so.