The Competitive Effects of Online Education
39 Pages Posted: 24 Oct 2016 Last revised: 28 Feb 2021
Date Written: October 2016
We study the impact of online degree programs on the market for U.S. higher education. Online degree programs increase the competitiveness of local education markets by providing additional options in areas that previously only had a small number of brick-and-mortar schools. We show that local postsecondary institutions in less competitive markets experienced relative enrollment declines following a regulatory change in 2006 that increased the market entry and enrollment of online institutions. Impacts on enrollment were concentrated among private non-selective institutions, which are likely to be the closest competitors to online degree programs. We also find increases in per-student instructional spending among public institutions. Our results suggest that by increasing competitive pressure on local schools, online education can be an important driver of innovation and productivity in U.S. higher education.
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