In one of his typically intriguing posts at his Center for College Affordability and Productivity blog, Rich Vedder writes about a development at the University of Illinois that is really an eye-opener. With regard to for-profits, Vedder writes:
Rather than complain about them, B. Joseph White, president of the University of Illinois, has decided to join them. With campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield, Illinois is clearly the flagship university in the state. Now it wants to open a fourth campus, a virtual site that will be a “Global Campus.” Most interestingly, the U of I wants to run this operation on a for-profit basis, and it is out to raise an initial $15 to $30 million to get the project going in a big way.
On the whole, I admire this effort. It plans to use modern technology to serve students not only in Illinois, but around the world. It plans to ask taxpayers for nothing to fund the effort. It is a recognition that the for-profit model can and does work well –often far more efficiently than the traditional, bureaucratic, less competitive, model that dominates American higher education. Joe White (who is an impressive man) is to be commended for this move, as are the Trustees of the University who no doubt had to approve this major departure from current practice.
I believe that this model will catch on and do to the many mediocre colleges and universities what digital recording did to vinyl records. Creative destruction comes to higher education.