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007 Hoo

Joined: 08/20/1998 Posts: 24382
Likes: 17376

The unaddressed, largest domino in the higher ed bubble... not related to technology. It's the dumb money that the taxpayers put into loans that drive demand and thus prices up.

I'm of the opinion that the government should either get a lot smarter about those loans - putting focus on funding valuable education in meaningful disciplines and/or at high quality institutions - or get out of the business altogether. Some people are of the opinion that taxpayers should just foot the entire bill for college, or lean that direction with ideas like loan forgiveness. Movement in either direction would have massive consequences for the amount and style of higher ed delivery in the future.

On the technology issue, I about a dozen MOOCs several years ago because I was curious about the model and was happy to get some free exposure to interesting topics. At least at the time, those MOOCs were interesting, but inferior substitutes for on-campus instruction. I talked to a few professors at different universities about their experiences delivering MOOCs and they found them to be a lot of work that wasn't worthwhile for them. The professor experience was probably the biggest reason that MOOCs fell out of the popular conversation for a while.

I do think there is a place for online delivery of higher education, but I don't think it's as a substitute for the residential experience at elite or even mid-tier universities (I drop my head when thinking about which category our beloved University might now be in). I think online tools can supplement the residential experience for top schools. There's not really much difference between taking a large lecture online from the dorm versus taking one in a hall with hundreds of students (or empty seats). There's a huge difference between taking an upper level class or a seminar and taking similar content online. There's also a big difference between a totally distributed model and students getting some content online while still spending time on a campus.

I see educational technology as an efficiency generator - a cost saver - rather than a way for elite schools to reach a very broad market. Stanford doesn't want to confer degrees on students who can't earn admission. The elite standards are what make the degree valuable. I could see mid-tier schools expanding their reach with online tools. How is Ohio State going to tarnish its brand by granting more degrees? And with that volume, the efficiency could be very appealing.

The schools that should be quaking are the ones that already should have been. The non-elite, especially third-tier, private liberal arts colleges will face a reckoning one way or another. With the millennial demographic peak fading, they cannot afford to have people question the value they offer. If federal lending gets less dumb, those schools are going to be in serious trouble.

(In response to this post by Hoos in da house)

Posted: 05/19/2020 at 10:23AM


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