* Building maintenance, personnel and service vehicles
* Utilities - including phones, air conditioning and plumbing
* Landscaping and campus beautification projects
* Mail service, supplies and procurement services
Such facilities and services consume as much as half of what it takes to send a student to college.
Including such costs for online students in this type of comparison only serves to cloud the huge value proposition that Web-based learning represents.
The real numbers tell a drastically different story:
Online education holds the promise for universities to not only shrink their deficits but also extend their programs to a vast number of students, all at significantly lower costs.
So what is the true incremental cost of serving an online student at a state university today?
A study carried out by the University of Texas compared online versus on-campus instruction across 15 institutions serving more than 150,000 students.
It demonstrated a 30 percent to 50 percent cost savings for the Web-based approach.
Given that students are asked to shoulder debt for services and amenities that are, objectively, nonessential to their education, people should take notice.
On-campus tuition will continue to rise to cover increasing costs for services and facilities.
This, in turn, will further reduce enrollments, and campuses will become less diverse, accessible only to students from affluent families.
Online education presents a huge opportunity to reverse these trends and improve the economic health of public colleges and universities.
Those institutions that recognize this and move their programs online will be successful and flourish. They will ensure job security for their faculties and find themselves able to reduce tuition.
And they will extend access to underserved and under-represented students who need education to advance in their jobs, raise families and provide a quality education for their own children.
Online education isn't a solution for all that ails our public universities.
But it must be a major component in solving the financial crisis facing higher education.
Bush was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. Randy Best is founder and chairman of Academic Partnerships, a company that designs online courses.