The Future of Collegiate Education

Why every student will be able to go to an Ivy League school….
I’ve said it for years, others are saying, the collegiate school bubble is going to bust. Here’s the main reasons why:

– cost of a collegiate degree is excessive
– value of a collegiate degree has declined
– availability and access to knowledge has expanded by orders of magnitude
– practical value of the knowledge delivered by universities has little to no real-world value
– the collegiate system is one of the most heavily tax payer subisidized industries in the world

I’ve said that in 20 years, probably half the colleges and universities present today will be no more. Here is how and why it that will come to be.  In the future, you will have community colleges and Ivy Leagues and top tier schools, the middle ground of collegiate education will cease to be.

First off, if you had a choice of graduating from the University of York Pennsylvania or Dartmouth, which would you choose? Oh, but you can’t get into Dartmouth nor afford it – right now.

But realize that online learning, which is just in it’s infancy, will begin to mature. Already most top tier universities offer free courses: Stamford, Harvard, MIT, etc.  And while you cannot currently, and never likely, will be able to get a free degree from these establishments. You can already LEARN from them.

How long until Stanford says, why should we only have 15,000 clients. Sure, that’s a whopping $750 million per year. But there are ~20 million college students in the U.S., if Stanford offered online degrees for $5,000/year tuition and enrolled a 150,000 students.  They would double their $750 million revenue. But they would do so at an extremely low overhead. No building to build, far less professors needed per student, etc. The amount of that revenue which would be profit would be exceedingly high.

90% of collegiate learning can be done via online courses. Courses could even be taught live with thousands in digital attendance. But what about interaction? Simple, the delivery app would allow students to ask questions. Moderators would see these questions, the professors would not. The moderators would then be able to post popular questions to the professor. So if dozens of students ask a question, the moderators would gain a sense of its need for clarity. Then a single moderator would raise the question to the professor. “Professor, a number of students have asked about what happens when….blah blah blah.” And the professor responds live to the classrooms needs.

The quality of learning would in fact exceed most classroom environments. Because the schools would select the best professors.  We all had them in college, those professors who made it all click. Those professors who conveyed the material with understanding that other instructors failed to posess.  Well guess what, all those sub-par tenured professors will go bye-bye. Time to find new jobs.  Top tier professors will become akin to sports stars.  Stamford, Harvard, MIT, etc. will hire the absolute best teachers in fields, not just in knowledge but in teaching ability. These professors may earn over $500K/year, maybe even a million a year.  But they’ll be worth it…

The gap will be in those fields that require labs – chemistry, biology, physics, etc.  Here is why community colleges will stick around. You see, you will do your labs at your local community and regional state colleges. You might even do a lot of your basic courses there such as reading, math, etc.

Furthermore, I expect that a National Online University will be established as well. This will offer tuition free degrees. The degrees will be limited to handful of basic degree options:  bio/chem/pre-med, math/engineering, computer science, english/education, history/education, business, nursing, psychology, political science, economics/accounting, etc.

But what about college campuses? Will those go away? Yes, and no. For the thousands of colleges and universities that will disappear entirely, yes. But for the top tier, Ivy Leagues, MIT, etc.  No…these will continue but in a far different way.  Only the privileged few will get invited to the campus. Tuition for these will likely be free. The actual campuses will be far more focused on research.  Professors will handpick high school graduate applicants and select individuals who excel in the online program their first year or two may also be invited to participate on campus.

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