More on the Excessive Costs of Higher Education

What has happened to the costs of a higher education is unconscionable, as are the ridiculous amounts of debt young people are saddled with as a result of pursuing a college education. Moreover, it is not only these unfortunate individuals who are the only ones to suffer. The country and the economy of the country benefits from college educations. In spite of the fact that the U.S government was burdened with massive amounts of debt from World War II, it passed the G.I Bill that allowed millions of veterans to pursue a higher education. Undoubtedly the booming economy that followed was largely the result of the G.I. Bill.

The unfortunate irony is that these costs rose at a ridiculous rate when they should have been decreasing. Technology is the reason that they should have decreased. Classes can be delivered online. Texts can be distributed as PDF documents at low or no cost. Similarly library materials could be annexed online. It is a bit ironic that professional societies, whose purpose is the dissemination of information, charge fees for accessing their articles. This might change as a result of the government requiring research funded by the government to be freely accessible.

Change is already occurring in massive open online courses (MOOCs). Edx is a non-profit MOOC founded by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It is no a consortium of 28 institutions. Coursera is a MOOC that has formed partnerships with 83 universities.

This is an outstanding development for autodidacts as it has opened up an enormous resource of educational opportunities. The problem is how is the knowledge for completed courses documented and how can one get a college degree. Coursera has started charging to provide certificates for those who complete its courses.

So the technology exists, the problem is what is the business model. In other words, how to make a buck from this? I think it is important to realize that education is a public good, that all benefit from its ready availability, so costs should be kept to a minimum.

I think this can be accomplished by universities and testing organizations such as the Educational Testing Service (ETS) developing assessment tests. ETS has already done this for undergraduate content areas such as psychology, history, biology, and so forth. More specific tests could be developed for specific content areas such as educational psychology, neuropsychology, applied statistics, organic chemistry, and physical chemistry. Moreover, there could be different levels of expertise associated with different tests.

Frankly, this would be more informative to me than conventional degrees. In my experience, I do not know what I’m getting when a new graduate shows up with a degree in x. One might think, that regardless of the major, that a student with a bachelor’s degree should be able to write. But I’ve known people with Master’s degrees who have terrible compositional skills.

So it will be interesting to see what develops. But I hope the development occurs quickly and that there is a general realization that higher education is good for both the individual and the country, and that costs should be minimal.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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