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The Ivy League Is Now Implementing My 1982 Educational Revolution Plan.

Written by Gary North on November 21, 2012

The Ivy League and top-tier universities are about to bankrupt private colleges all over the world. An educational revolution has begun.

Finally, the Ivy League has adopted my 1982 plan. It’s about time.

I first described this plan on November 11, 1982. I presented the idea to Pat Robertson at an evening meeting. He had invited me, Francis Schaeffer, and lawyer John Whitehead to offer ideas for his ministries. I chose educational reform. I told him how he could take over Christian higher education in America, and make money, too. I never heard from him again.

I published my strategy in a 1983 article, “Levers, Fulcrums, and Hornets.” You can read it here. It was my article on how Robertson could use his satellite TV network to transform college education. My plan was adopted by my friend Ron Godwin at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University to build the university’s “university without walls” program. He used videotapes instead of satellite TV. Today, it is the largest fundamentalist educational institution on earth: over 12,000 students on campus and 80,000 off campus.

Liberty was the first university to test my strategy. Now the Ivy League is testing it, among others.

The New York Times ran an article on how free open university courses on the Web will change the nature of high education.

I report this because some people still do not understand what YouTube and the PDF hath wrought.

It costs nothing to place a lecture-based course on YouTube. It costs nothing to view it. It costs nothing to embed a YouTube video on a Web page. It costs almost nothing to host the site.

It costs nothing to upload a PDF to Scribd. It costs nothing to download it.

Peter Drucker wrote that when a technology can be sold for one-tenth of the price of an old technology, the old technology is finished, except as an elitist affectation (e.g. Rolex watches vs. Casio watches).

What happens when the price is $15,000 vs. $250,000 (Ivy League)? The elitist affectations will survive. But woe unto the pseudo-affectations devoid of prestige (Podunk Private College).

Here is the issue, according to the Times article: “Already, a handful of companies are offering elite college-level instruction — once available to only a select few, on campus, at great cost — free, to anyone with an Internet connection.”

Moreover, these massive open online courses, or MOOCs, harness the power of their huge enrollments to teach in new ways, applying crowd-sourcing technology to discussion forums and grading and enabling professors to use online lectures and reserve on-campus class time for interaction with students.

Here is the threat:

The spread of MOOCs is likely to have wide fallout. Lower-tier colleges, already facing resistance over high tuition, may have trouble convincing students that their courses are worth the price.

They are not worth the price.

This new phenomenon is less than two years old. It began when Sebastian Thrun, a Stanford professor, offered a free artificial-intelligence course, attracting 160,000 students in 190 nations. “The resulting storm of publicity galvanized elite research universities across the country to begin to open higher education to everyone — with the hope of perhaps, eventually, making money doing so.”

This thing is spreading like the proverbial prairie fire.

The expansion has been dizzying. Millions of students are now enrolled in hundreds of online courses, including those offered by Udacity, Mr. Thrun’s spinoff company; edX, a joint venture of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Coursera, a Stanford spinoff that is offering Professor Duneier’s course and 200 others.

These courses are international.

Top universities with courses like Professor Duneier’s stand to gain, both in prestige and in their ability to refine their pedagogy; few seem worried about diluting their brand-name appeal. The risks are greater for lesser colleges, which may be tempted to drop some of their own introductory courses — and some professors who teach them — and substitute cheaper online instruction from big-name professors.

“We’ve reached the tipping point where every major university is thinking about what they will do online,” said Peter McPherson, the president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. “In a way, the most important thing about these MOOCs from the top universities is that they provide cover, so other universities don’t need to apologize about putting courses online.”

Soon, high schools will follow suit. Then what will happen to classroom education? It will get worse. The parents who want top-flight education for their children will pull their children out. Schools will become little more than child care centers for children of part-time parents. The voters will stop voting for bond issues. The teachers union will be broken.

It’s full-scale competition at the college level.

In the rush to keep up, elite universities are lining up to join forces with a MOOC provider. Coursera, which began with Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford and the University of Michigan in April, currently leads the field with 33 university partners. But edX, too, is expanding rapidly — the University of California, Berkeley, has joined, and the University of Texas announced that it would use edX courses for credit. Already, students in one Udacity class can get credit through the Global Campus of Colorado State University. Most MOOC providers are making plans to offer credit — and charge fees for certificates and proctored exams.

The educational revolution is coming.

This crowd-sourced version of college is seeping into every corner of academia. While the earliest MOOCs were concentrated in computer science and engineering — subjects suited to computer grading — Professor Duneier is one of the pioneers offering humanities courses, in which the whole grading process, from essays to exams, is handled by the students using grading criteria designed by the professor.

The professors love it. Says a Princeton professor, “Within three weeks, I had more feedback on my sociological ideas than I’d had in my whole teaching career.”

It is great if you are in the elite. It’s the end of the road if you teach in an obscure private college that charges $25,000 a year. For what? For low-tech classroom education and an economically useless liberal arts degree.

The educational cartel worked because accreditation kept colleges from multiplying. Schools were limited from expanding too much by the costs of bricks and mortar. Today, there are no limits imposed by geography.

These new programs will kill the marginal schools. Even if these major schools do not get accreditation for their programs (which they will), students can learn from the big-name professors and use examinations to get their degrees from on-line accredited colleges for under $15,000 total.

I described this six years ago. (Note: I no longer give away this information. In January, I will open my new website to the public: www.ZeroDebtDegrees.com.)

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9 thoughts on “The Ivy League Is Now Implementing My 1982 Educational Revolution Plan.

  1. Liberty started another idea years ago, to get a total degree with cassette tapes (now on CD). For a fee, you got books, cassettes (now CDs) to listen to in the car or where ever, and a final set of tests that you sent to the university for grading. You could take the courses at your pace, had the material for ever, and you'd in the end have a degree. This is an adaptation of that original idea. I think the total Theology course for degree I bought back then was (shock) $1000.

  2. Fantastic I'm sure but I am so grateful I was able to get my kids through school with no debt. Can you imagine the box a young person will be in dragging big student loan debt along while their younger competion swings in without college debt…ouch…As for the "college experience". Please, my most highly educated and productive child lived at home, commuted to UNH, worked full time and completed her undergrad work in 3.5 years…Saved us a fortune…made it very easy to fund her now completed post grad work…She spent as little time as possible actually on campus and I have to say she is much better off because of it. I hope this plan rolls out quickly perhaps funding for the grand kids education will be possible after all…Happy Thankgiving to all

  3. texasladyjuanita says:

    Maybe I am missing the point . . . my daughter got the job of her dreams with an online college education. It is a great thing . . . but, the debt created by online colleges, and trade schools is astounding. These are government loans. The school gets it's money at the beginning of each year. The student owes nothing until a short time after graduation. If they don't finish, the debt repayment starts immediately . . . BUT A HUGE NUMBER OF STUDENTS ARE NOT PAYING BACK THEIR GOVERNMENT LOANS . . . leaving the taxpayers with the bill. It is huge, and predicted to be the next bubble. (and the schools are making a killing!!!!)

  4. I think the point is that there is MUCH LESS debt, if there is any, involved in on-line education. It costs like one tenth or one twentieth the cost of on-campus education, hence the very low debt of graduates.

  5. Check this out. Now Coursera is working with ACE (American Council on Education) to offer credit for courses: http://goo.gl/wFfbq

  6. texasladyjuanita says:

    My daughter got her degree from University of Phoenix. She worked a small business she created, raising 3 kids, and I went to school too. She had been learning disabled through school. I remember putting her in a religious academy to finish. The taught one subject at a time and tested. It was a great success, and she graduated high school. Oh, maybe ten years ago (or 8 LOL), I started at UOP and though the courses were tough, I determined she could do it. People often outgrow some educational disabilities after working and striving in the workplace. After a few classes, I presented the whole idea to her. We both got government loans. It must have been about six months into it when there was a very difficult class on Critical Thinking. I did well. Being older my professor and I emailed casually regarding the class – me sensing being treated differently than the younger students. He explained to me that this was the class the University used to cut the people who did not have the stuff to finish the courses towards a degree. As he predicted my class size (groups go through school together, and often get switched to a new group if they move the start date of a class) dropped to 1/2 of the students I had started with. To their credit, they didn't want students who would not finish to run up their government debt – leaving a level of money available to hopefully more serious students. I watched anxiously for my daughter to get to that class six months later . . . she made an A. Due to health / surgeries, I was the dropout – but I had a great career that I had to leave due to disability also. I paid for the current class I was in out of pocket, and began paying on my government loan immediately. I am the exception to the rule.
    Here is an article that gets into the government debt – and there have been many warning articles regarding for profit colleges like UOP (and there are many), and all the for profit trade schools which are getting the government loans from the same well.
    Here is an exerpt, and a link to the whole article:
    "About 10 percent of college students nationwide are enrolled at for-profit colleges, yet the sector takes in more than a quarter of federal student aid dollars and is responsible for nearly half of student loan defaults.
    The report notes that for-profit colleges "contributed a substantial portion of the increase in overall student borrowing from 2001 to 2009, even though they enroll only 9 percent of all college students."
    The for-profit college sector encompasses a wide range of institutions, from trade schools such as ITT Technical Institute to larger, mostly online colleges such as Capella University." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/04/for-prof
    And that is from a liberal source. If you find a conservative source, they paint an even worse picture. This government loan default is growing rapidly each year – unless We The People put a stop to it. I read recently that due to the economy and poor prospect for jobs, these online-college goers are dropping out more rapidly. If half of those graduates from very respectable colleges cannot find work, what chance do they have with their UOP or Capella degree. My daughter graduated at 3.5 years (having schooled year round from the beginning), and got her dream job before the economy hit bottom. Lucky girl. 🙂
    I can tell you that the courses are tougher with each year. She had two statistics classes that my husband (who is a genius) and I would have had difficulty with. We signed in as her, read the text to help her, and told her to get a tutor – which she did. She has a business degree, and I saw her work go from 8th grade material to college graduate level. She would send me her term papers to read after they received high marks. It was amazing to watch from afar (she lives up north – no amount of schooling convinced her to get back to Texas GRRRR)
    The further point of all of this is that when the regular universities jump in and start doing this – the debt problem, even though for less total money, will jump by leaps and bound due to the volume of students who will now decide it is good to go to school online. You see, the opinion of most in America is still that a for profit online school is not a serious degree, and they could not be more wrong. I promise you this has the ability to be a bigger bubble than housing ever thought of being in 2008.

  7. It also depends where the children go to college to get an education or to party down.

  8. the old man says:

    Sounds like a modern day Abraham Lincoln method of gettin a decent education… I like it.

  9. I guess "back then" must have been the stone age. Liberty charges as much as $14,000 a YEAR for an online program. Phoenix University is more expensive for an online degree versus the same ON Campus degree. Bottom Line…it pays to shop around and online IS NOT necessarily the least expensive. Also if you want a degree that meets accreditation standards such as ABET (Engineering) you will NOT find an 100% online program. UND comes the closest but still requires ON Campus labs.

    In essence I find Dr. North's constant harping about inexpensive degrees and his refusal to refute me in previous posts a very serious distractor to his claims. And now that he is going to post a website to CHARGE us for this information only demonstrates his gross disingenuous statements to his readers, i.e., he has made many a claim over the past several months about "cheap" education but has NEVER mentioned EXACTLY who this educational institutions are.

    Frankly it is time for Dr. North to put up or shut up. When he makes claims produce the evidence….not charge us for the answer several months after the questions he thus far as refused to answer.