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Napolitano's remarks at a Sacramento luncheon came as the 10-campus system struggles to overcome a possible $125 million budget shortfall for next year, a gap many had hoped would be repaired over time via low-cost online course offerings that would let the state educate more students while saving money.
"There's a developing consensus that online learning is a tool for the toolbox, but it's harder than it looks and if you do it right, it doesn't save all that much money," Napolitano told about 500 policy and education experts at a speaker series sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California.
Educators are moving away from the idea that online courses can help disadvantaged students prepare for college or earn their degrees at a lower cost even as numerous startup companies jostle to create online universities that backers say will remake higher education.
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