What Comes after the Higher Education Bubble?
Reynolds, Glenn, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The
Ive written here in the past about the higher education bubble how the costs of college and graduate or professional school have been inflated by the availability of cheap federal money. This has created a situation in which there are many more indebted graduates than there are jobs capable of paying off the loans.
We are now seeing some signs that the market is catching up. Enrollment numbers are softening, students are becoming more reluctant to borrow money to pay for an education, and the phrase higher education bubble is appearing more and more often in discussions of education policy and student indebtedness.
But what comes next? If the current higher education sector is bloated and overpriced, what will students do? Will they simply forgo education entirely? Or will something else spring up?
Well, something else seems to be springing up. Conventional colleges may be overpriced and underperforming, but those 19th century methods of teaching and learning are being challenged by 21st century alternatives.
Case in point: the Harvard/MIT edX model. Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have announced theyre putting $60 million into an open-source online education program. A list of courses will be announced this summer and will be implemented in the fall, but the bottom line is that people all over the world will be able to study subjects taught at MIT and Harvard for free, and get certification though not an actual diploma (yet) if they pass certain tests.
This isnt the only such venture. Minerva University a new school that aims to be the online Ivy, with involvement by former Harvard President Larry Summers and former Senator (and New School President) Bob Kerrey just raised $25 million in startup capital.
And Stanford professor/Google bigwig Sebastian Thrun is starting up yet another top-tier online university called Udacity. After teaching a phenomenally successful online computer science course for Stanford, Thrun decided to take things to the next level and build out an entire online school.
These schools join the already accredited Western Governors University and a variety of longer-standing for-profit schools like Kaplan, Strayer and Phoenix on the cutting edge of efforts to find a new model for higher education. Some or all may fail, but some or all may also succeed.
Traditional classroom education has its virtues, but its a pretty old model. The first true university, the University of Bologna in Italy, dates back to the 11th century, and many European universities are nearly as old. …