Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The End of Higher Education As We Know It?

Fabio Rojas:
Higher education is a split system. On the one hand, you have elite research universities and liberal arts colleges. These institutions have a built in market demand – people want the prestige of spending time with leading thinkers. On the other hand, you have the other 95% of the higher education system: the army of community colleges, state colleges, and technical colleges. These colleges survive on a simple model: they sell basic training at a high price (a few hundred $ per credit) and the labor is cheap (often grad students or adjuncts).

Now, as reported by the Wahsington Monthly, there is a serious challenge to the system: a firm called StraighterLine now offers credit for $99/month. The concept is simple. For $99, you log into a web site and take as many courses you want via podcasts and videos. Instructors help you out via email and messages. Chat rooms help you work with other students. Study as fast or slow as you want. Most courses count for credit at real colleges, who have partnered with StraighterLine to provide instructors...

Why spend thousands of dollars, when you can get your math-accounting-econ courses efficiently done from the comfort of your own home? Working on the weekends, a lot of folks could do three or four basic courses for about $300. Huge savings – not just on tuition, but also on travel, lodging, books, etc. Sooner or later, people will realize that a lot of basic education can be done in this manner.

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