Changes Coming in Education

Last year, I took two courses from Hillsdale College on the Constitution. This course is similar to what many Hillsdale students take, but what intrigued me was not just the course itself, as excellent as it was, but the concept. Hundreds of thousands have taken this course, and Hillsdale showed how they can easily extend their reach while providing an inexpensive education to millions.

Many college students in the era of Obama find themselves in debt thousands of dollars while being unemployed or underemployed. Many young students are finding that college may not be a step up as it was for previous generations, but the Hillsdale course showed a different way that could educate a new generation without putting future students in debt. Nathan Hardin writing in The American Interest noted, “In fifty years, if not much sooner, half of the roughly 4,500 colleges and universities now operating in the United States will have ceased to exist. The technology driving this change is already at work, and nothing can stop it.” Hardin added that many professors will be unemployed, and the education will be free and available to everyone. I am not sure of education being free but definitely less expensive.  One of Governor Rick Perry's goals is a $10,000 college degree, a price about one half of what many students are paying today; but with new technology, why not? Why not even less?

Hardin added, “We’ve all heard plenty about the 'college bubble' in recent years. Student loan debt is at an all-time high—an average of more than $23,000 per graduate by some counts—and tuition costs continue to rise at a rate far outpacing inflation, as they have for decades. Credential inflation is devaluing the college degree, making graduate degrees, and the greater debt required to pay for them, increasingly necessary for many people to maintain the standard of living they experienced growing up in their parents’ homes. Students are defaulting on their loans at an unprecedented rate, too, partly a function of an economy short on entry-level professional positions.” The faith in the importance of a college degree has high demand, but eventually how long can this be continued when students come out of college finding themselves either forced to take graduate level courses or find themselves taking entry level jobs that a college degree is not really needed for? When does a college education simply cease to be an advantage?

Eventually a new paradigm will be created, and if there is a new frontier for an entrepreneur, private internet based advanced education would be it. Hardin predicts, “The administration of exams and exchange of coursework over the internet will become the norm. The push and pull of academic exchange will take place mainly in interactive online spaces, occupied by a new generation of tablet-toting, hyper-connected youth who already spend much of their lives online. Universities will extend their reach to students around the world, unbounded by geography or even by time zones. All of this will be on offer, too, at a fraction of the cost of a traditional college education.” And Hillsdale College has shown how easy it is to education hundreds of thousands very inexpensively.

Hardin views the internet as a great destroyer of the traditional business model, and one example he gave was how the internet gave everyone information on managing their portfolio that was only available to traditional stockbrokers. Many realtors find that many of their clients already know what homes they want to look at and no longer depend upon realtors to be gatekeeper of what is available.

Higher education is about to experience a similar shakedown as universities will either disappear or change their focus to vocational training institutes. Hardin observes that, “Smaller, more nimble institutions with sound leadership will do best.” Harvard and MIT are already working on an online education venture and could make their courses available worldwide. What once was only available to elite students will be available to all.

Over the past several decades, many college campuses have become the purview of the left as much of the academia have simply became part of the leftist establishment. However, Hillsdale College has shown how a basic education can be made available to the masses while simply bypassing the leftist academic establishment. For many young students, they could work after high school while pursuing a college education, and many businesses can easily educate their own workforce while focusing on the latest development.

One may miss the campus scene, but many young workers won’t miss the massive debt incurred. They will actually be able to create capital while beginning their work career and education, which will become an asset as it was for previous generations.

With America poised to enter a new energy revolution, many blue collar jobs to go with many white collar jobs in accounting and engineering are poised to be developed from the Artic to the Yucatán. Many workers will need to be continually educated, including becoming bilingual, and online education will offer an inexpensive method of educating staff members while increasing the worth of their workforce. From all of these factors, much of the present university scene will be radically altered.

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