"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Monday, December 19, 2011

MIT Hints at the Future

I have noted previously on this blog that MIT and other universities are increasingly putting courses online for free, and that there is less and less reason to pay $50,000 plus per year for an elite education, when the knowledge you would be buying is increasingly available at no cost:
In law and economics, one of the concepts underlying monopoly power (such that antitrust laws might apply) is the concept of "barriers to entry."   If a particular industry, say, auto manufacturing, has a high barrier of entry (it costs billions to set up plants and distribution networks, it costs billions to research and develop a car, etc.), then the companies in that industry can more easily develop monopoly power.   For years colleges and universities have had monopoly power because they were the only places you could go to get educated (or so they told us), and because the barriers to entry for accessing books and professors and course materials were so high.  You had to go there to get it -- where the professors were, where the libraries were, etc.    Now... not so much.   It's only a matter of time, and quickly accelerating at that, before American parents start thinking to themselves that they can lay out a course of study for their children for practically nothing that will give them the same education they could get for $150,000 or $200,000.   Homeschooling for college... a movement I am predicting will begin to take hold, and very soon.  
Now MIT is offering to provide certificates to students who complete their free online courses.   Would an employer take a stack of certificates from an otherwise uncredentialed young man or woman who claims to be able to have completed college-level work in serious technical subjects?   Maybe not now.   But soon they will.   In fact, I suspect that an employer might look pretty favorably on a 22 year-old who managed to get an elite education for free without getting into a pile of debt -- it might show the employer a lot of the kind of self-starting skills that translate into success.  

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