Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What If...

By any measure, the cost of college education has grown far beyond the ability of the average American to sustain it. To cite just one example: I am now not quite 15 years past my college graduation. When I graduated from old TU, the total bill for tuition, room, board, and books was approximately $17,000 per year, for a 4-year total of $68K (a bit less in my case since I graduated early, and that was the senior year price, but still). The total cost for four years at 2010 prices? $144,000. As much as I love my alma mater, you can't convince me that the cost (nevermind the value) of a Taylor degree has increased by 111%. And old TU is far from alone in this: just check out what a school like Wheaton, or even Illinois State, costs compared to 15 years ago.

But what if it was possible to earn your degree in the following way:
  • Take classes from the best, most respected, most learned professors in each discipline.
  • Complete the traditional 4-year degree in 2-3 years, while taking classes at the times of day and/or on the days of the week that work for your schedule.
  • Engage in a learning community with not only the professor, but with other students.
  • Avoid and eliminate the political correctness, bureaucracy, barnacle encrusted processes, and institutional arrogance that infests most major (and many minor) universities and colleges.
  • Get the annual cost down to somewhere around $2,000
  • Never have to leave home.
This, according to some little-known tech revolutionary named Bill Gates, is the future, where most education is done online, and where the vast majority of "place-based" institutions find an ever-diminishing market for their product. Could happen. And I, for one, don't think that would be all bad. In addition to costing less, it would diminish the cultural power of institutional academia, and that would be a very good thing indeed. The various educrats of our world might have to (shudder!) get real jobs, the gifted teachers and profs would find their incomes vastly improved, and the students would get qualitatively better instruction at dramatically less cost. Remind me again: why we haven't done this already?

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