There is no question that since Bill Gates stepped down from the CEO position of Microsoft that he has gone on to do some really great charity work. When you’re one of the richest men in the world, you can do that, but I think it also gives you a somewhat myopic view of the world. You have all of the money you could ever possibly need, so much so that you can afford to give it away, and you don’t realize that not everyone is as charitable as you are.
The Hill is reporting that during Mr. Gates’ talk at the Techonomy conference in San Francisco last week, he mentioned how he feels that college education “needs to be less place-based.” I couldn’t agree more on certain levels, and I’ve personally been a big proponent of online learning for years, but the idea of knocking tuition down to $2,000 along side this will never fly.
Yes, college is over priced, you would be hard pressed to find many people to argue with you on this point, but where you will find decenters would be amongst college administrators. The ecosystem for a college/university is such that it pays the salaries of far more people than just the professors. It is an intricate web of businesses, organizations and employees that would, sadly, put a hurt on our economy that would be hard to replace.
As for doing away with actually going to a physical school, well, I just don’t think we’ll ever see things go completely online. I have a good friend who is a college professor who teaches a few summer courses online, but they are merely an extension of the in-school experience that is hard to duplicate. You also have a situation where schools have worked very hard to get alumni to donate huge sums of money to get their names on buildings. While this is not reason enough to say no to online learning, schools are going to fight the concept tooth-and-nail to avoid it.
The craziest part is you would also see professional sports fighting this like mad. The MLB, NBA and NFL have turned college teams into a de facto minor leagues from which they recruit. An entirely new sports system would have to be created in theory for these leagues to recruit from, and if you don’t think they’ll throw insane amounts of money at this subject to stop such a thing happening, you’d be dead wrong.
I’m all for online education from a personal standpoint, but I also see how there are a lot of things that rely on the old system. It is a house of cards built on the back of the old university system, and if you remove that, it all comes tumbling down.
Even if online education was to take off, and the location part of the equation was removed, a 96 percent drop in tuition fees is still an insane amount. Schools would still need to be paid for their accreditation, professors would still need to be paid, someone needs to administer all of this and on and on and on.
Mr. Gates’ heart is certainly in the right place, but I sadly think he’s missed the bigger picture on this one. Colleges are a giant machine that are about a lot more than providing just the best education to students, they are also a business.
What say you? Do you agree with Bill Gates online education dream?