How to pop the college tuition bubble

“For a growing number of students, entering the lucrative college-educated realms of the economy is like being smuggled across the border—you can get to the promised land if you try hard enough, but you arrive in a state of indentured servitude to the shady operators who overcharged you for the trip.” So writes Ed Sector’s Kevin Carey, who offers A Radical Solution For America’s Worsening College Tuition Bubble. The only way to control college costs is to introduce competition, Carey writes.

New providers of higher education could be made “eligible for payment via Pell grants, federal loans, or other current and imagined federal aid systems if they agree to a few baseline conditions,” such as price regulation and transparency. “They would be required to provide public information about how much their students learn, and have their access to federal aid rescinded if students are not learning enough.”

. . .  a pair of well-known Stanford professors are currently teaching an Artificial Intelligence course to about 200 Stanford students—and more than twenty thousand students around the world, online. The non-Stanford students won’t receive credits from Stanford, but they will receive official documentation from the professors as to how they scored on course tests and their overall rank. Under this new system, those professors would be free to set up their own business teaching Artificial Intelligence over the Internet, and students would be free to pay them with federal aid. Other providers might take advantage of the fast-growing body of open educational resources—free online courses, videos, lectures, and syllabi—and add value primarily through mentoring, designing course sequences, and assessing learning.

To remain eligible for federal financial aid, old-line colleges would have to accept transfer credits granted by the new providers.

And because they will be inexpensive and attached to verifiable data about how much students are learning, they will make a compelling value proposition when competing with traditional colleges that have no such data, charge more money, and are weighed down by legacy expenses and change-resistant cultures.

Existing colleges and universities will have to adapt or die, Carey writes.

Making sure those new-style credits are transferable will be tricky. Colleges today often reject credits earned at other accredited institutions.

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