We can’t help but love predictions. Before the start of college football season, ESPN always guesses who will win the national championship. Sports Illustrated’s NBA preview issue predicts it’ll be the Heat over the Lakers in the Finals this year. Days after the election, ABC News headlined a story with “After 2012 Election Expect 2016 Primaries to Begin Immediately,” making predictions about who may win the nominations for both parties in four years. And a blog called “EPIC 2020” is featuring a 10-minute video that sends us almost a decade into the future to see what colleges could look like.
Beginning with an overview of websites like Udacity and Coursera, which provide free college classes online, the video explains that Udacity has a job placement program that matches students with prospective employers. The best students are matched with the best jobs, and businesses pay a fee to take part in the system. Udacity uses the fees to help keep the courses tuition-free. Coursera is a collection of online classes from 33 major universities around the world. The website edX offers classes from MIT, Harvard, the University of California-Berkley, and the University of Texas.
Here’s where the EPIC 2020 video gets bold: what if companies like Apple and Google started investing in these “MOOCs” (massive open online courses), and employers started using credits from a MOOC instead of a diploma? What if the student loan market, with debt at over $1 trillion, collapsed, scholarships were abandoned, and students stopped going to traditional brick-and-mortar schools, and instead took free courses from Udacity, Coursera, and the like? What if education and a chance at a job were free for anyone, of any age, at any time?
It’s a grand vision and until we have a time machine, predictions are just guesses. But universities must admit that the traditional college experience is changing. Lawmakers should ask what state colleges are doing to answer the challenge MOOCs are presenting. Businesses want people with specific skill sets, and the traditional college diploma might not be attractive much longer.
Wall Street Journal: Student-Loan Debt Tops $1 Trillion