Will Your College Survive?
Editor?s note: Guest contributor John Katzman is the founder and CEO of 2tor, an education startup that partners with universities to deliver selective degree programs online to students across the world. Katzman also founded the Princeton Review where he served as president and CEO from 1981-2007.
The Internet will save higher education, but it may kill your alma mater
Peter Thiel believes smart people don?t need college, and he?s right: There have always been autodidacts who can learn without assistance. Of course, we don?t really need supermarkets and restaurants either; we could all grow and cook our own food.
Yet having professionals help us has always been a cost-benefit decision. What are the costs of a great education, including the opportunity cost of four years of work, and how do these costs balance against the impact of that education on your life?
The Internet is the first technology since the printing press, which could lower the cost of a great education and, in doing so, make that cost-benefit analysis much easier for most students. It could allow American schools to service twice as many students as they do now, and in ways that are both effective and cost-effective. For reasons that will be outlined below, however, it will probably end up doing this with half as many schools. And your school, even if it?s bumper-sticker worthy, might not make the cut.
College tuitions have risen 2-4 points over inflation each year since World War II; we stand on the brink of the $250,000 undergraduate education. The rising cost of college was predictable: William Bowen, who later became President of Princeton, first put some math to this in 1966. The problem is not the cost of football teams or palatial dorms; it?s a lack of productivity growth. Putting a professor in a room with 25 students cannot become more efficient every year, while almost everything else in society does.
The ability to offer an online program of equal quality to its classroom peers can make education somewhat les