I was wide awake at 2 a.m. with my new baby, Lucy Ellen, when a story on my iPhone about free online college classes caught my eye. The classes are free, and job recruiters pay for leads to top grads. Sounds like a winning formula to me.
Could this model of higher education be the answer to the crushing cost of college? Something my husband and I are now thinking about. (A friend told us he’d saved every month and the account for his daughter, now a senior in high school, won’t even cover one semester of college. So much for a 529 plan!)
I’m not talking about online degrees, which can cost as much as attending a school with a physical campus. No, these so-called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are taught by professors from A-list schools like Stanford, MIT, and the University of Virginia, according to a recent story in the New York Times. The MOOCs are not accredited but garner credibility from their teachers.
Students across the world are signing up by the hundreds of thousands. The courses are limited to science, math, and technology, including anatomy, cryptography, game theory and computer programming. Sound familiar? Previously, we blogged about MIT’s free online courses, which have been around for years and are one of many free educational tools homeschoolers use. The New York Times story says:
“We’re going to have detailed records on thousands of students who have learned these skills, many of whom will want to make those skills available to employers,” said Mr. Evans, the Virginia professor. “So if a recruiter is looking for the hundred best people in some geographic area that know about machine learning, that’s something we could provide, for a fee. I think it’s the cusp of a revolution.”
Is it a revolution?
As a parent, it’s certainly exciting to think that I may be able to give my child a college education for free. College is expected to cost a half million dollars in 18 years, and I don’t even know if we’re going to be able to save enough to retire!
Will the Internet force colleges, like so many other industries, to become more competitively priced?