An Alternative?

In the last few weeks many universities, including some elite institutions, have signed up with Coursera, a venture offering free classes online. So much so that “there’s panic” said Kevin Carey, director of education policy at the New America Foundation, “whether it’s senseless panic is unclear.” MOOCS or massive open online courses let colleges reach big student pools at relatively low cost. Many wonder whether in future students will be willing to pay from $20,000 to $60,000 a year for a traditional campus experience. For now most of the students come from foreign countries and the free courses do not offer credits towards a degree. Some believe it is only a matter of time before they do, and worry what will that mean to universities’ budgets when that happens in some cases even trying to come up with ways to make the venture profitable. Free, or nearly free, online courses appear to be a way to make higher education affordable and available to all. Yet it seems that we are lamenting the lack of a business model instead of lamenting the many consequences of high current tuition costs.