WP Remix


Many thanks to Kay – one of the gettinggiving.com faithful – for forwarding an article earlier this week about for-profit online education.  Both “scary” and “progressive” are words to describe Kevin Carey’s vision of higher education in the future. . . a comprehensive catalog of classes that can be delivered with a simple click of a mouse.  Carey, by the way, is a policy director for Education Sector, an independent think tank in Washington, DC.  While we all know this technology is available today, I think “We Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” pretty accurately sums up this topic.

Carey’s article highlights the emerging world of online educational opportunities that may, in the future, offer a complete and affordable alternative to the traditional college campus experience.  One example includes a service that allows students to take as many classes they want, work at their own pace and complete each one as quickly as they are capable of doing so — all for the low low subscription fee of just $99 per month.  That’s right, $99.  I guess if you gave up sleep for a few months and put your nose to the grindstone, that diploma could be hanging on your wall by the end of they year.  And it might cost less than the frame.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  As I’ve said before, I’m a techno-geek and all things like this intrigue me. In fact, I might just sign up to try it out.  However, much of the learning process associated with college takes place outside the walls of a classroom.  I don’t think I want my kids to stare at their computer monitor every day and end up with a degree a year or two later.  I want them to meet new people and become more independent.  I want them to have eight roommates in a two-bedroom apartment.  I want them to wear school colors and root for the home team.  I want them to walk across campus when there’s three feet of snow just like daddy did.  Above all else, I’ll want them out of my house rather than sitting at my kitchen table taking online classes! 

 I certainly know I couldn’t put a price tag on the experiences I had in college and the growth I experienced in those four short years.  (NOTE: Yes, it only took 4.  I screwed up because I really should have taken at least 5 if not 6 years to enjoy the journey).  I’ve thought about getting my MBA online, but as the article points out most reputable programs actually charge MORE to get a degree online than they do if you’re on campus.  I understand the ‘convenience fee’ and all, but it really is ridiculous when you think about it.  It’s kind of like letting me visit the bank for free (using valuable space, teller wages, etc.) but the ATM charges me $3 just to withdraw a twenty-dollar bill.  I know loan sharks with better deals than that.  At $99 a month, this is no longer an issue.

Regardless, the article is fascinating.  For those of us working in the traditional college campus environment, we need to spend more time thinking about how to work with those graduates who may never (or at least infrequently) step foot on campus.  I know most online programs are still relatively small, but they grow dramatically each year.  I’m not sure what the fundraising outlook is for those audiences, but if we expect to engage them in the future we’d better start thinking more about this issue today.  Right now they’re usually just a minor outlier in our strategy and it doesn’t make much of a difference to our programs.  This will no longer be the case as our online alumni population expands significantly.  It’s possible we’ll find that we simply don’t have much potential in this arena.  Or not.  One way or another, we’ll find out soon.

Read Kevin Carey’s article here and if you have any words of wisdom from your experiences with this type of population in your program be sure to share!

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