To prevent the addition of unnecessary buildings, should colleges more strongly consider making new programs online-only, or at least blended?

“That may already be a trend perhaps in the community colleges and perhaps in the regional ones,” Poulin said. “But prestigious colleges still want to build monuments to each of these programs. They often get the funding for the new buildings from donations, but then it falls on the institutions or state to fund the upkeep forever. It’s sort of like the idea of there being no such thing as a ‘free puppy.’”

Even if universities cut back on building new spaces, they still have to deal with the under-utilized classrooms they already have. And enticing students to take classes on Fridays and at 7:30 in the morning is not going to be easy.

The same problem can exist when students take summer courses.

Twenty colleges and universities in Minnesota have reported that 40 percent of summer course credits they grant are now earned online, which has resulted in a sharp reduction in housing and classroom use.


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