Occasionally I write a post that I think is really good. I had a brainstorm a few years ago when I wrote a post called The Empty School: A Thought Experiment. In it, I boiled down the essence of learning to the basics.
Let’s start with the student and the teacher. If the funding for education was divided evenly to all the students, each student would have about $10,000 of money with which to buy an education. Can you hire a private teacher for a year with that? Actually if that private teacher was to work with about 5-6 students, that works out pretty well. Yes but don’t we need a school? Why? You just need a student and a teacher, like my grandfather and myself. You can do a lot of that online and then just meet face to face when necessary.
All you really need is a teacher and a student. All the administrators, classroom, books and such are just extras. Sometimes they are helpful, often times they are not. I’m interested in homeschooling for my new son but I have not really thought too much about college. I figure that in 20 years the college scene will be either a) radically transformed, or b) way to expensive for anyone to attend.
So what if you could homeschool through college as well? What if you could disaggregate college to just a teacher and a student?
As a matter of economics, why not consider the option of hiring a single professor to teach a first-year curriculum to a small number of students? At the level of the individual student, it may make sense to some families. Rather than spend $50,000 for a year of college at a selective private institution, one could hire a single Ivy League-trained individual with a doctorate and qualifications in multiple fields for, say, two-thirds the price (far more than an adjunct professor would make for teaching five courses at an average of $2,700 per course). The idea becomes more attractive with multiple students. A half-dozen families (or the students themselves) could pool resources to hire a single professor, who would provide all six students with a tailored first-year liberal-arts education (leaving aside laboratory science) at a cost much lower than six private-college tuitions, and at the level of a real salary for a good sole-proprietor professor.
Dang that sounds a lot like what I was speculating about doesn’t it? I think this sort of thing is inevitable. Of course universities will still be around but most are running on the economic edge despite bloated tuitions. Economics will force a change and not everyone will survive it.