Few studies have looked closely at the costs of virtual learning. Most research involving virtual learning focuses on student or school performance, as evidenced by the more than 1,100 studies from 1996 to 2008 screened for the U.S. Department of Education’s meta-analysis. No study has used empirical evidence from Michigan to estimate the associated costs of virtual learning.

Yet an understanding of the associated costs of online programs and virtual schools is important. States like Michigan are struggling to maintain their programs in the face of declining enrollment, depressed tax revenues and rising labor costs. Online learning may provide a cost-effective way to maintain or improve the quality and variety of school programs.