Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Creative Destruction


Fred: A great list! And, of course, there’s much to be said for face-to-face on-campus education, just as there is much to be said for printed newspapers, books, and traditional libraries.

My message is not that web-based education is wonderful. (You’ll find support for your critique in David Koon’s experience with online education at UNC-Chapel Hill.) I’m really more focused on the for-profit part of “for-profit online learning” and on entrepreneurs, whether they are for-profit or not. These entrepreneurs are likely to shatter higher education as we know it today by taking away chunks of the market, leaving many traditional schools teetering because of their high costs and low enrollment.

Online tools will be part of the entrepreneurial armament, but only part. Jeff Sandefer’s Acton MBA demands intense face-to-face interaction between student and professor — but Sandefer also hires editors and English teachers to work online as freelance writing coaches.

My larger message is that big segments of higher education may get into trouble in the next few years. The chief cause is the growing difference between what a college education costs and the value that it provides — similar to the widening discrepancy, a year or two ago, between the price of housing and the value of that housing, a discrepancy that led the bubble to burst. If there are other options out there (and the number is growing) traditional schools should watch out.


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