Touted repeatedly by parents and educators alike, the “traditional college experience” is something every warm-blooded American should have a chance to encounter. 8 a.m. classes, jam-packed lecture halls and communal bathrooms are all included in this classic adventure—the pros and cons making for an unforgettable time. But with the steady rise of online education, is this quintessential process losing its luster, turning what was once a tradition into passé?

In January of this year, Temple University’s Online MBA Program was ranked No.1 nationally by U.S. News and World Report for the second year in a row. In 2015, The Princeton Review ranked the program fifth— in the world. According to Darin Kapanjie, the academic director for both Online MBA and BBA courses, “the reputation of our online programs is on the rise, and we couldn’t be more proud.”

Temple has a clear leg-up in this department when compared to other schools in the area, but why is such a large focus placed on having a stellar online presence?

A 2014 statistical infographic created by Ohio University outlines the many reasons why online courses (specifically MBAs) are creeping into our standard college lexicon. At the time of the infographic’s release, 6.7 million students were enrolled in online classes, which equates to more than 32 percent of total enrollment across the country. Citing the same source, 77 percent of academia experts claim “online learning is of equal quality or better than face-to-face learning.”

With 81 percent of students living off-campus in North Philadelphia residences and across the city, Temple is a diverse, urban university that needs to accommodate a wide-range of backgrounds and demanding schedules. Whether it’s a full-time student living on 9th and Girard or a seasoned professional looking to gain a graduate degree, the university understands the need for adaptation in a technology-driven society.

“Young people on campus like online classes, but they also want the college experience,” said Moshe Porat, Dean of Temple’s Fox School of Business. “Professionals want to be able to take their classes when they want to, to fit with their busy, fast-paced lives. The key to success seems to be a hybrid model.”

In a statistical study arranged by The University of The Potomac, the cost to learn breeds an issue to weigh in when considering all forms of education. On average, online students spend $30,000 in total for their degrees, while their on-campus counterparts reportedly fork over an average $85,000 for total expenses after the dust has settled. That’s a large difference to consider, but the decision to go the virtual route for education isn’t as clear as these numbers may indicate.

While the total price for an online education may be less expensive, important factors like on-campus housing, meal plans, textbooks and other necessities for living and learning on a university campus can inflate the on-campus figures. In a 2013 survey of 400 public universities conducted by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the Learning House, 60 percent of schools charged the same price for online tuition and face-to-face credits—36 percent charged higher online prices for students.

“There are pressures on controlling the cost of education. In order to do this, online education is needed,” said Dean Porat. “The online model is a revolution that is in motion.”

As with any newer concept steam-rolling its way into a traditionalistic system, the online education process will take some time to fully indoctrinate itself into the day-to-day rigors of higher learning. As technology is stabilized and made more accessible, rising costs will sputter and the scaling of online education will most likely trigger disinflation across the industry.

Due to steady increases in on-campus enrollment, there is news of plans underway to expand living and educational areas for many of Philadelphia’s larger universities. So the question looms: Is there a fight between traditionalists and the new-age believers of online education? In the coming years, these two trends will battle it out, but the online world will continue to make its mark on modern history and won’t stop for anyone that doubts its capabilities.

This article was originally published by the Philadelphia Business Journal.

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