By Professor Doom
I’m pretty sure, “once or twice”, I’ve mentioned the corruption of higher education, and how it’s completely insane to teach 6th grade math to adults, charge a fortune for it, and call it “higher education.”
The main reason higher education is so “successful” in the US today is the massive student loan and grant scheme, which pours outrageous sums of money on institutions to teach students, teach them anything, no matter how ridiculous, useless, or outright wrong the material may be.
The main reason student loan debt is soaring is the same reason there was a housing bubble, or a stocks bubble before that: government money pouring into a system causes prices to rise in that system. With tuition rising, the loans rise, the tuitions rise again, the loans rise again. It’s pretty simple.
People feel trapped into taking ever higher loans, because they feel they *must* have a degree to get a job. I have my doubts about that, because the kind of degree is pretty important (and most of the crap sold at US institutions isn’t useful for getting a job), and even jobs for the right degrees are far from a sure thing. The fact remains: people are willing to pay (or borrow) whatever it takes to get that degree, so they can get that magic rainbow job.
Trouble is, houses and stocks are actual things, there’s a minimum, intrinsic value there. Education? Ultimately it’s just a piece of paper, which, much like US dollars, can be generated in basically infinite amounts. Only the rigged system traps students into thinking a piece of paper means anything and should cost a fortune.
But what if some place outside the system was formed, where tuition didn’t rise, and, in fact, was very cheap? If the education was every bit as good as in the US (and that’s a low, low, bar for most institutions), what would happen to the higher education bubble?
Can someone say “pop”?
Well, it’s happened. I present to the gentle reader, University of the People. If you or a loved one might be going into higher education for getting a job, I strongly recommend checking out the TED talk on that link. Fair disclosure: I’ve done some work for UoPeople, though I’m no officer or administrator or anything like that. Allow me to explain the good and ill of UoPeople.
First, price is by far the good. It’s tuition free. In case someone didn’t hear me, I repeat: TUITION FREE. One more time, because it’s just that important:
How exactly are traditional US institutions, with their $20,000 a year tuition, going to compete with that? I suspect laws will be passed very quickly to shut this place down, but, for now, the price is awesome. The only drawback is students must pay for tests, $100 apiece. For typical courses, that means the entire 4 year degree costs about $4,000 bucks. That’s for the entire degree, not just a year, or a semester. That’s ridiculously cheap compared to anything being offered in the US.
Second, textbooks are free. I’ve written a little on the textbook scam, which seems to only get worse. UoPeople only uses public domain textbooks. A 4 year education at a traditional school could cost $4,000 or more just for the textbooks.
That’s pretty much it for the good. I’m not damning with faint praise here, knocking 95% or more off the usual price of a legitimate university education is such a powerful good that there really is nothing I can say in the realm of “bad” that will be comparatively relevant. I’ll say it all the same.
As you might expect, UoPeople is all online. I’ve written before that online degrees are highly questionable, and are of minimal value in the marketplace. Of course, people are paying huge fortunes for online degrees now, so UoPeople’s very cheap online degree is superior in the only way that counts, once you consider its product is identical. This is “blessing with faint criticism” as far as I’m concerned.
Well, not exactly identical. UoPeople is taking the high road here (that’s why I do work for them, is they have that “integrity” thing that is sorely lacking in much of the US’s higher education system). UoPeople only has 2 degree programs: business administration, and computer science. The coursework is exactly what students need for those degrees.
These are the exact two degrees in super-high demand in the job market, and that’s what UoPeople is all about. So, no Gender Studies or Queer Musicology or other crud. UoPeople exists exactly for those people that think a college degree is necessary for a job, and it sells the best possible such degrees to those people, without crippling them with a lifetime of student loan debt. There’s no liberal arts at UoPeople. Nothing against liberal arts (and my degree is in liberal arts), but it really is long past time to stop taking advantage of people that want higher education just for a job.
How does UoPeople pay the faculty and staff? Not much, the people aren’t in it for the money (I volunteered). Again, it’s about integrity. It simply is wrong to cripple young people with debt for a worthless education, and I’m hardly the only faculty member willing to volunteer to stop crimes being done to the young.
Realize, online schools are very limited in interaction with an expert, and even moreso in UoPeople. Students grade each other’s work, and are, largely, responsible for their own education. Yes, they totally can cheat…but with no money involved, I’d like to think integrity is more common than in the cheating-infested for-money system everyone else uses. It can’t be less common than any other online school, after all.
Oh, one more detail. University of the People is FULLY ACCREDITED. Yes, accreditation is a scam, and I suspect, if UoPeople starts to threaten US higher education, accreditation will capriciously be revoked. Until that happens, however, a degree from UoPeople is every bit as legitimate as University of Pheonix, or your typical bloated state university, or just about any place else. It’s also every bit as valuable in the job market...it’s just so much cheaper.
If UoPeople can stay away from student loan scams, not be taken over by plundering integrity-destroying professional administrators, and not be cheated out of being accredited, it can single-handedly snap the neck of the incredibly corrupt higher education system in the US.
The only question is how long it will take before people realize “hey, I can pay $4,000 or $100,000 for the exact same product” and make the obvious decision.
Any guesses how long that will take?