Like some of the single-district online programs, GenNET probably benefits from overhead expenditures made by the Genesee Intermediate School District for its traditional programs. Thus, the total cost of the GenNET program can only be estimated.
The GenNET courses cost students less on average than those provided by MVS, even though GenNET does not receive an annual state appropriation. Based on GenNET’s 2010 catalog, the average cost for a semester- or trimester-long course was $264.34.[*] This would make the average full-time cost of taking six courses per semester through GenNET only $3,172 per year, or less than half of the 2008-2009 statewide average of $6,571 per-pupil instructional costs.
One reason GenNET may be able to offer less expensive courses than MVS is that GenNET purchases its courses from large-scale providers who must compete with programs around the country to sell their services to schools. Since MVS designs and builds some of its own courses, it may need to charge more per course to cover its expenses. The GenNET approach — facilitating access and ensuring quality of courses provided by third parties — may promise the greatest cost-savings potential for districts and taxpayers.
[*] Author’s calculations based on: “Online Courses Catalog” (Genesee Intermediate School District, 2010), goo.gl/pwsFJ (accessed Jan. 14, 2011). The difference between the semester and trimester courses offered through GenNET lies in how long the student chooses to take in completing the course; the number of course credits is the same for both.