The Competition is Coming

Those of us in proprietary online education have lived a charmed life, I think. The first wave of public online programs, which began nearly a decade ago, more or less failed. The public schools, too, seem to have dropped their historical role of making a low-cost, or at least a reasonably priced, education widely available to almost everyone. Thanks to the Republican far right’s success at choking off federal funds, costs continue to be shifted to individuals through tuition hikes.

That political process created a huge demographic gap which the for-profits (admittedly, also thanks to a great degree to regulators sleeping on the job) successfully rushed to fill. There’s no real low-cost alliterative at this point. Eventually, I think, the public sector is going to fill their historic role again, although it may be the community colleges, rather than the universities, that will eventually offer the low-cost online education necessary to any democracy.

I’ve described this before as a tortoise and hare race. The proprietary schools are fast but in the long run they can’t beat public education. Once this first, “it’s new so it must be better” phase has passed, proprietary education, like the charter schools, will find a niche, but won’t take over the system. The recent decision of several business schools to create online MBA programs isn’t quite the low-cost alternative, but it’s a sign that the tortoise is out there, slow but sure.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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