I have thought for some time that a visionary entrepreneur is going to do a “complete end run” around both the traditional colleges/universities and the for-profit institutions. Sounds like Udacity is on the trail, and it’s good to note that this does not appear to be another vehicle for over-charging.
If you can 1) teach people something, 2) certify their knowledge of it, and 3) get employers to accept if as a credential, then traditional degrees and degree-granting places might become suddenly irrelevant in many fields. (What, no residence? No fraternities? No sports? No debt? Well, maybe.)
A major problem of the current College education is that it pays little attention to what the customers
(students) want. For example, an engineering course may require as much as 20%
credit hours in liberal education-related courses, which increases the overall cost and cuts
time of technical electives. Although in principle liberal education courses
should be useful to prepare an engineer, their quality leaves much to
be desired and imposing them to all students is only a way to support
liberal-art related departments and increase costs. Instead, it would be more
useful just require students to do credits in English and read a list of books
that in fact can make a contribution to the student’s understanding of the
An engineering course could be reduced by a full year by eliminating the liberal
education courses (between $20,000 to $40,000 in a good stae university),
which by the way are not a requirement for the Professional Engineer’s exams.
Here a modest proposal to improve the situation: Let the customer/student decide what courses she
would find useful for her professional carrier.