Should Higher Education Be Free?

The eye-catching and thought-provoking question of the title of this article is posed by a couple of writers in the Harvard Business Review. And they’re not just any writers. Vijay Govindarajan is an international business professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and his co-author Jatin Desai is co-founder and chief executive officer of The Desai Group, an “innovation management consulting firm.”

In the article, the authors theorize that higher education system in the US is broken, due to both the skyrocketing costs of earning a diploma and the lack of guaranteed job placement upon graduation. They write:

Since 1980, we’ve seen a 400% increase in the cost of higher education, after adjustment for inflation — a higher cost escalation than any other industry, even health care. We have recently passed the trillion dollar mark in student loan debt in the United States.

Their goal is to seek out a new business model for higher education.

The costs of higher education, according to MIT president Rafeal Reif, fall into three categories: student life, classroom instruction, and projects and lab activities.

One of the potential solutions posed by the authors is the use of technology to cut into the cost of classroom instruction. They suggest, for instance, that perhaps the top 10 best teachers in the country could create online learning materials, and the rest of the instructors could act as mentors for the students to facilitate learning.

They also highlight a number of education providers that are currently experimenting with new business models, and explain the changes they might elicit. Read the full article for more information.

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