In an age of technology do we still need physical campuses at large state and private institutions? This post examines the reasons why traditional college is becoming obsolete and what is replacing it.
Nothing Good Comes Easy
I remember those days as a child learning difficult subjects in school. I remember wishing I could just download the information to my brain instantly with no hard work. Like in The Matrix.
After all these years we still don’t have any instant knowledge download capabilities but we have something pretty awesome instead. Before I get into that I’d like to discuss why traditional college is becoming obsolete.
I graduated high school 18 years ago which seems like a lifetime ago. Like most fresh faced grads I had my heart set on college. Firstly I attended three years in religious education until my worldview changed. I paid for tuition strictly out of pocket. No financial aid for religious institutions.
Eventually, I attended an online university in pursuit of a business degree. The idea was that I would land a dream job making six figures in the corporate sector. The reality is that I have more debt now than I could dream up. I‘ve discovered that I don’t have much of an advantage in the business market place over high school grads either.
Time for a Change
After building this debt my career goals have changed. I’m not interested in becoming a business executive. I also don’t think I have the personality to climb the corporate ladder. I’m glad that I gained the knowledge that I now possess but was it worth financial cost? Probably not. Especially not after knowing what I know now.
Over time I have developed many other interests which require further education. Unless I come into a large sum of money, the traditional route to furthering my education is not an option. This idea discouraged me for a while.
Apparently this problem is shared by many Americans. According to a Pew Research paper from 2012 they discovered that one in five households held some level of student loan debt. They also discovered that 40% of all households who were headed by someone 35 or younger carried student loans.
For those who have found success in their careers after college and make a substantial living this is not a huge problem. However for a significant portion of those with student loan debt who haven’t attained a large income this is a major concern. According to a 2018 article by Forbes “there are more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. alone”.
This level of debt is only second to mortgage debt.This is starting to look like a bubble. Ironically student loans are preventing many younger people from obtaining a mortgage and the American dream. This is the biggest reason why traditional college is becoming obsolete. But is there an alternative?
After much frustration of feeling stuck, I stumbled upon the Khan Academy. I first heard about it on a podcast. Someone mentioned how Bill Gates was a huge supporter of the Khan Academy. Apparently he even encourages his own children to take courses through it. I decided to check it out.
There were many subjects to choose from and I dove right in. I began studying computer science. I’d never had the confidence to pursue this subject before but I took to it quite well
The courses are pre recorded but do require participation. Khan academy is a fantastic resource for adults and children at all levels. I recommend it to everyone I know.
My four year old has Khan Academy Kids on his Kindle which every parent should download for their children. You can go to https://www.khanacademy.org or download the adult or kids app.
After studying Computer Science, I became interested in learning to code. A friend at work told me about Udemy. They offer courses under $20 many subjects. I have taken courses in C Programming, business workshops and even blogging. They constantly offer promotions. Just go to https://www.udemy.com or download the app.
There are a growing number of other affordable online educational resources. Even Ivy League universities offer some courses affordably and in some cases for free. Often what you are paying for at a traditional school is an over inflated budget which is spurred on by an increasing student loan cap. This has spiraled out of control.
Out With the Old
These alternatives don’t function on the same system. They require little overhead. Mostly they act as content providers but in the realm of education. They enable professionals to connect with students and drop some knowledge.
Technology provides on-demand education which means faster and cheaper for the student but is it rewarding for the teachers? If a teacher can teach 10,000 students and only charge $10 per course then they are going to make more money than if they taught 100 students at $500 per course. Keep in mind the instructor only has to teach that course once.
Course engagement is harder to illicit within this setting however instructors can be involved through social media. Many instructors use Facebook, Slack or other forums to connect with their students. There are also required tests and assignments in many courses.
Students can feel free to follow their interests without being tied to one focus thus allowing them to discover themselves. There are those few people who have it all together at that age but for most of us we hadn’t a clue.
So if you’re like me and have wanted to go back to school to improve your skills or learn something new or if you’re just starting out then consider these options. I’m going to encourage my kids to do the same and in doing so save them thousands.
Pew Research Center. 2012. “A Record One-in-Five Households
Now Owe Student Loan Debt.”
September. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center, Social & Demographic Trends project.
“Student Loan Debt Statistics In 2018: A $1.5 Trillion Crisis”, Forbes Media LLC, https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2018/06/13/student-loan-debt-statistics-2018/#4672089e7310