The study examined the sustainability of distance education in the context of finance, management and availability of support services in Ashanti region of Ghana. Data for the study were obtained from five groups of respondents namely; centre coordinators, educational administrators, facilitators of distance education programme, potential and current students pursuing distance education. Data was analysed using descriptive statistics. The results revealed that current management and support services are adequate and sustainable. In the case of finance management, it is believed that financial resources generated by the programme through students' fees would sustain the programme. However, potential, and current students pursuing distance education viewed the private cost involved as high. Hence for sustainability of the programme, it is important that school fees charged are reviewed in order not to negatively influence students' access to distance education.
Keywords: distance education, availability of funds, teachers, ashanti region
Simonson e t al (2009) defined distance education as institutionally approved method of teaching a course using one or more institutionally approved and supported analog or digital communications technologies, which provide synchronous /or asynchronous means to deliver and receive text and audio visual course materials and assignments and promote interaction between instructor and student and student to student, who are separated by location and / or time of attendance. Ghana's tertiary education reform which was launched in 1991 has led to an increase in access to tertiary education. Although enrolment had increased, the institutions are still unable to absorb all the students who qualify, due to inadequate academic facilities and space. For this reason, distance education has been explored as a possible alternative to the traditional campus type of education because; it provides opportunities for working adults like teachers to update their skills (Saif, 2005) and (Saint, 2000) and provide means of having access to tertiary education for teachers( Perraton, 2007), (Robinson, 2007) and (Jegede, 2001). However the constraints those countries in sub-Sahara African faced in providing distance education are well documented (Agunga, 1997).
For distance education programmes to be sustainable quality assurance is a centrally important and wide ranging aspect to be considered. It is therefore seen as a critical mechanism to be built into every practice of distance education including curriculum design, course delivery, learner support, tutor training and the use of information and communication technology, library facility, qualifications of the lecturers and effective, efficient management and administrative systems need to be put in place.
To give this socio-political justification to substantiate the idea of the distance education as an educational strategy, the case study of Ghana and other developing countries background in distance education has been examined and discussed. Distance education is now a permanent feature in the educational system of Ghana. It is practiced in batches by some of the leading tertiary institutions namely; University of Ghana, University of Cape Coast, University of Education, Winneba and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology to help qualified applicants who could not get access to tertiary education as a result of limited space and other facilities to acquire knowledge and skills to upgrade themselves especially teachers. Distance education has many benefits if properly implemented, yet it is beset with many challenges. Crucial issues like sustainability in terms of feasibility and affordability are the factors influencing the expansion and success of distance education in Ghana.
Thus the objective of this paper was to examine the teachers' perception on affordability of tertiary education through distance learning, since, this is critical with regards to sustainability of the programme. …