Yes, George and John, Dan Lips has caught the wave of what is happening in higher education, but I get a little uncomfortable when someone says that “the federal government could require” something. Lips says that “the federal government could require federally funded colleges to place a percentage of course content online and to offer credit-by-examination options. “
If this is a good idea, why do we need the government to require it? If it is a good idea and “federally funded” colleges aren’t doing it, shouldn’t we look at the reasons before we propose a federal mandate?
Perhaps the reason most schools don’t provide free online content has to do with protecting their incomes, a legitimate concern. Or perhaps it has to do with federal regulations, including those surrounding accreditation. Perhaps MIT can post its courses online because it exists in such a rarefied atmosphere that what it is really selling — the credential of the MIT degree — has a value far greater than the knowledge it imparts. That might not be the case for less well-known schools.
I believe that what Dan Lips is suggesting — “low-cost or free online learning” — will come to pass. But unless it happens as a result of the interacting incentives of buyers and sellers, rather than federal mandates, it will be artificial and likely in the long run to be neither low-cost nor free.