Why College May Be Free in 10 Years

With the price of an undergraduate degree rising faster than inflation, and its effectiveness as a career launching pad being called into question, some educators are speculating that in as little as a decade, higher education will be either free or obsolete.

Free? Obsolete? You’re undoubtedly asking yourself, WTH?! Then why am I among the legion of Americans up to our necks in a trillion (yes, that was trillion with a “T”) dollars in educational debt?

While pursuing an undergrad degree straight out of high school is still the conventional educational model, a sea change has been quietly swelling for some time now. Online learning has been popular for years. While a Skyped lecture can never replace a lab or other learning experience requiring hands-on training, it has opened the door to higher education for millions who for whatever reason cannot access a traditional university. And there is no reason why it cannot extend to a broader audience. According to a recent Time magazine article:

Online courses will proliferate to such a degree that acquiring knowledge will become totally free. There will still be a cost associated with getting a formal degree. But most universities, “will be in the accreditation business.” They will monitor and sanction coursework; teachers will become mentors and guides, not deliver lectures and administer tests. This model has the potential to dramatically cut the cost of an education and virtually eliminate the need to borrow for one.

Some are looking even further afield toward a new education model. In the same Time article:

Hedge fund billionaire Peter Thiel has gotten a lot of attention for his view that higher education is broken, and that many kids would be better off saving their money and going straight from high school into a trade or developing a business. His “20 under 20” fellowship grants high school graduates with a sound business idea $100,000 if they agree to skip college and go right to work on their idea.

The thought that junior might forego a college education is undoubtedly enough to give many parents of college students nightmares, and with good cause. A degree (or two or three) is still the only universally accepted coin of the realm when it comes to job-hunting.

So stop trolling blogs and get back to your books!