A Degree from Where? Why Your College Could Go Bankrupt

Ann McClure's picture
Wednesday, February 13, 2013

As the higher education system in the U.S. faces rising costs and reduced state funding, many are asking what will colleges of the future look like?

According to a recent cover story in The American Interest, some won’t look like anything at all, because they’ll cease to exist. Author Nathan Harden estimates that in 50 years, half of the approximately 4,500 colleges and universities in the U.S. will go belly-up.

How could this happen? Through technology, he argues. Virtual classrooms, lectures through streaming videos, online exams – we’ve already seen these innovations crop up at major academic institutions, but they’ll only proliferate on a much larger scale and disrupt the higher education system as we know it.

Harvard and MIT already have the online education venture edX, while Stanford has Coursera and has formed agreements with Penn, Princeton, UC Berkeley, and the University of Michigan to manage their online education programs. Harden also predicts that as online education becomes more widespread, a college-level education will soon be free (or cost just a minimal amount) for everyone in the world, and that the bachelor’s degree will become irrelevant.

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