We all know the college debt crisis is crippling our economy and placing an overwhelming burden on recent graduates. The numbers tell the story --- $1.2 trillion in total college debt, with seven of 10 students carrying an average debt of nearly $30K. That’s the average debt. Students who go to higher-priced colleges, or go for advanced degrees, carry a much higher debt load.
The combination of a tough job market and stifling college loan payments means 36 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 31 are living at home. That’s the highest since 1969, when the U.S. Census Department started tracking that data. We haven’t even touched on the stranglehold private lenders have on borrowers, or the cost of serving the debt, or how that debt means graduates have less money to help fuel a consumer-based economy. Just a mess all around.
Then, I read this piece about nano degrees. In short, AT&T and Udacity are teaming to offer online courses in basic programming skills for entry-level positions as a data analyst and other like positions. AT&T it setting aside 100 jobs for these trainees, and Udacity is working with other partners.
Oh, the AT&T program costs $200 a month. Yeah, two hundred.
Now, some may dismiss this as an online trade school that has limited applications. I disagree. Think of all of the skills that can be learned online. In addition to almost anything programming based, English, journalism, math, social work, criminal justice, and marketing are just a few of the classes that can easily be taught outside of a traditional classroom using the same method. I’m not talking about online institutions that teach many of those classes and charge tens of thousands annually. I’m talking about the kind of “targeted education” being pioneered by AT&T and Udacity.
Those companies are showing us all the future of education, and this roadmap can be replicated by others. A public relations group, for example, could partner with the largest employers in its networks and offer a low-cost option for those interested in marketing work. A journalism organization could do the same for legacy media. Technology companies could ban together and offer similar programs with similar benefits.
OF course, this won’t work for all degrees. Aspiring neurosurgeons or bio-chemists need lab time and hands-on training. But there’s a whole swath of educational training that can be done, and it can be done a lot cheaper while maintaining quality.
A university simply offering online courses --- at its existing rates --- won’t be enough to compete. It could be those institutions will have to target what they offer and gear their business (yes, education is a business) aligned with specialized fields, especially in medicine.
This targeted education is the wave of the future, and higher educational institutions should start thinking about how they’ll deal with the disruption that will occur.