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August 20, 2009 11:40 AM College for $99 a Month

The next generation of online education could be great for students—and catastrophic for universities.

By Kevin Carey

Whether this transformation is a good or a bad thing is something of a moot point—it’s coming, and sooner than you think.

I met Burck Smith in his office on L Street in downtown Washington, D.C., in the spring of 2008. Thirty-nine years old, with degrees from Williams and Harvard, Smith looks remarkably like what you’d expect an Ivy League alum named “Burck Smith” to look like: Michael-Lewis-minus-ten-years handsome, open-collar shirts and sport coats, the relaxed confidence of privilege. He talked like someone who’d seen the future and was determined to be there when it arrived.

Smith was full of optimism about StraighterLine, which he planned to debut in September of that year. It would be the realization of an idea he’d been dreaming about since he was a graduate student at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in the late 1990s. In 1999, after finishing his master’s degree, Smith wrote a “looking back from the future” article, set in a hypothetical 2015. By that time, the higher education landscape would look “dramatically different than it did at the turn of the millennium,” he predicted.

Technological change was the spark that ignited the wildfire of change. Like a hole in a dike, cheap and instantaneous Internet-based content delivery and communication nibbled away at barriers to institutional competition… . Suddenly, a student seeking an introductory statistics course could choose from hundreds of online courses from anywhere in the world… . Feeling the effects of low-cost competition, site-based education providers started cutting course costs and prices to attract students.

That same year, Smith took the first steps toward achieving this vision, launching an Internet startup company called Smarthinking, which he cofounded with Christopher Gergen, the son of well-known Washington insider David Gergen. Smarthinking provided on-demand, one-on-one tutoring in a range of introductory college courses, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The tutors, people with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in their fields, communicated with students via computer, using an onscreen, interactive “whiteboard.” Math students typed in questions, graphed equations, and interacted with their tutors in real time from their own PCs. Writing tutors gave feedback on essays within twenty-four hours.

Smarthinking survived the dot-com crash because, unlike most of their entrepreneurial peers, Smith and Gergen had actually come up with a working business model. Their clients were colleges and universities which, looking to cut costs, outsourced tutoring in the same way companies farm out IT work, back-office support, and customer service to call centers overseas. Smith and Gergen knew that tutoring could take advantage of the same powerful economies of scale that made call centers profitable. It would be cost prohibitive for a single college to provide on-demand 24/7 tutoring for a few sections of, say, organic chemistry—the college would have to hire teams of full-time workers to work in eight-hour shifts, and much of their time would be idle. Smarthinking pooled the demand from hundreds of colleges and tens of thousands of students while hiring credentialed tutors in places like India and the Philippines. As long as “on demand” was defined as a high likelihood of being served within a few minutes, economies of scale and cheap foreign labor could be combined to drive per-student service costs to unheard-of lows.

As a result, colleges could buy multihour blocks of 24/7 tutoring in subjects like biology and calculus from Smarthinking for much less than it would have cost them to provide that service on their own. By 2008, the company had 386 clients, ranging from big research universities to community colleges and the U.S. Army. Major publishers like Pearson and Houghton Mifflin packaged hours of Smarthinking tutoring with college textbooks and instructional software.

But Smarthinking still fell short of Smith’s ambitions. He had built a particularly efficient cog in the mammoth, long-established higher education machine—but he hadn’t yet transformed it.

To be sure, much had changed in higher education. Technology had indeed altered how people went to college—that much Smith had gotten right back in 1999. Broadband access had become ubiquitous, and textbook companies had converted their standard introductory course content into inexpensive, Web-friendly form. While college students in 1999 were still making the transition to a Web-dominated world, 2008’s undergraduates had never known anything else. Both traditional colleges and for-profit companies like Kaplan and the University of Phoenix were diving headfirst into the online market, and students—especially people with day jobs like Barbara Solvig—were signing up in record numbers. Over four million college students—one-fifth of the total nationwide—took at least one online course last year.

But the other shoe had yet to drop. Even as the cost of educating students fell, tuition rose at nearly three times the rate of inflation. Web-based courses weren’t providing the promised price competition—in fact, many traditional universities were charging extra for online classes, tacking a “technology fee” onto their standard (and rising) rates. Rather than trying to overturn the status quo, big, publicly traded companies like Phoenix were profiting from it by cutting costs, charging rates similar to those at traditional universities, and pocketing the difference.

Kevin Carey is the director of the Education Policy program at the New America Foundation.

Comments

  • lena on September 02, 2009 4:53 PM:

    Great glimpse into the future! You should mentioned some of the 4,300 colleges that will go out of business forever or be taken over by the fed/state government.

  • Szalinsky on September 03, 2009 8:51 AM:

    But are these degrees/credentials obtained through online means recognized by the Board of Collegiate Exams?

  • groove me on September 03, 2009 3:55 PM:

    Transmission of our civilization? Seriously?

  • Sarah on September 03, 2009 4:48 PM:

    Paid puff piece. Although a fabulous idea, don't assume that you will get a degree through straighterline. A local community college may be a better bargain - for now.

  • Nick on September 03, 2009 5:19 PM:

    The big hurdle for these online programs is to be recognized as a valid option for young seniors in high school. As of now - the education that they receive is questionable but it does allow them to get some feel for the material and the skills. The big question here is to test those skills against those in the big universities, understand the disparity and attempt to reconcile the difference in skill either by rationalization or by hard work on the part of both the program coordinators and the online students.

    There will always be a role for the university system with certain majors (engineering and science is definitely one you need to be AT the institution to work) also ancient literature would be hard pressed to find the required texts without a great library. But many majors may be able to get by with just a book and a test.

    I would actually appreciate the deflation if this were all possible but alas, it seems that businesses would be right in questioning the skills that come out of these systems of education.

  • Bill on September 03, 2009 6:28 PM:

    As a teacher at a community college, I don't see our exit skills listed within the exit skills of the basic English course provided by this company. Further, when I looked at the syllabus provided, it was set up to be more like a series of exams that ask questions about "the rules" of the course rather than teaching students reading/writing/critical thinking strategies and having them produce short-long essays....essays that require more reading/feedback than this company is willing to factor in with their business model.

  • Derek Blain on September 03, 2009 8:08 PM:

    Disastrous for universities? The Free Market at work is NEVER disastrous for Universities - but here's whey the author is uneducated enough to try to make this point.

    I'm sure this has been covered by someone earlier on but capitalism has all but been forgotten just as critical thinking has all but been forgotten. This is due to government intervention in education.

    It not only manifests in primary and secondary school - where the government hires the teachers and writes the curriculum! (honestly, if you were the government would you want to teach your future revenue stream to be anything BUT a good little taxpayer when they grow up??). This is also in the post-secondary institutes due to the student loan scheme that goes on.

    Call it an unspoken agreement. The schools teach things that the government finds acceptable for its students. The schools create a monopoly on that information through a labor union and closed guild-style education. To support this system they must constantly raise tuition rates to a level far, far beyond acceptable return on investment for students and the parents who often co-sign the loans for attendance.

    The government's side of the agreement? They will always offer student loans high enough to meet these exorbitant tuition levels. This skews competition because schools really don't have to compete on actual curriculum and even more so on price, so the actual quality of educational material has DETERIORATED post-secondary (not to mention earlier years of public school) ever since the government student loan programs were initiated.

    Thankfully this is an unsustainable course - schools are beginning to realize the errors of their own ways - they can't afford the legacy costs of tenured profs and the huge expansions the pre-greatest-depression credit boom enabled them to have. Take MIT for example. They are posting their curriculum ONLINE IN ITS ENTIRETY!!! This is a HUGE step to removing the guild-like wall of secrecy that has allowed this type of education structure to even exist!

    Now you can take challenge exams through MIT after self-studying the material. This will drastically cut their labor costs while still offering them an impressive rate of return (exams are still pricey but only about 20% of the course cost I think) on their penned curriculum. Hopefully this is the start of a wave of such happenings. This will put many schools out of business whose curriculum is sub-par and who have been using the monopolistic guild-style education system (government-backed, as always with unnatural monopolies) to their unfair advantage.

    We should all be letters of praise to MIT for answering the call of the free market! And to this new breed of course - the more competition the better. This will DRIVE DOWN costs and DRIVE UP quality of education. It will also create more a more diverse and rich selection for potential students. What's NOT to love (unless you are one of these over-paid, underworked, tenured professors whose post-grad students are doing all your lectures for you!)

  • sassafras on September 03, 2009 10:21 PM:

    I certainly hope that internet education doesn't come to the massess in THIS FORM. Straightline seems to be outsourcing professorial jobs to other countries. This means that the United States will lose jobs and money. The collapse will be simmiliar to the Ford and newspaper collapse. When these buisnesses fall-America;'s economy will be destroyed. Therefore, the gains in tuition to students ( a very good thing) will be offset by less jobs and eventually less job security. Straightline will eventually create an evironment in which despite one's degree; the person will not find a job.

  • Glen on September 04, 2009 10:23 AM:

    Great article. Accreditation has to evolve. At www.nixty.com we are working on a form of open accreditation - or personal accreditation - that employers/peers can look at to assess a person's competencies. Degrees are still somewhat valid indicators of a person's knowledge, but their predictive value is steadily decreasing for a number of "anonymous institutions". What is needed, instead, is a form of personal accreditation that is based on test scores, work display (papers the individual has written that others can download/comment on), resume, and recommendations. We hope that this type of open accreditation will yield strong results that can help support the current form of accreditation.

  • vanyali on September 04, 2009 11:00 AM:

    People don't get degrees to learn things, they get degrees to show to other people (like employers).

    Maybe something like this could be useful for courses in specialty areas, like a specialty statistics course designed for financial professionals for example, that working professionals need to learn quickly on their own to do their jobs, but don't necessarily need a showy credential in.

    A degree does you no good if people don't respect it. But learning can come from anywhere.

  • JR on September 04, 2009 11:20 AM:

    In reply to Bill, look at the English syllabi closer, and you will see that students ARE required to submit essays for critiques and for grades.

  • Henry Cate on September 04, 2009 12:55 PM:

    "Great glimpse into the future! You should mentioned some of the 4,300 colleges that will go out of business forever or be taken over by the fed/state government."

    Is the goal of colleges to provide an education, or to provide jobs for professors?

    If online courses can provide a decent education at a fraction of the price, then it is a great benefit for our society.

    Cars destroyed the buggy industry, but very few today would argue that we should have kept the jobs of the buggy makers.

  • Ryan on September 04, 2009 1:08 PM:

    @sassafras

    Let's stay in the mindset that the all powerful American economy must remain this way forever and any attempt at a unified economy or world system where humanity is united underneath core drivers for humanitarian growth is merely a euphoric world existing only in theory. Recent market behavior hasn't opened anyone's eyes as to just exactly how interconnected the economies of the world are? Yes, let's take 5 steps back instead of one step forward and keep pushing towards economic segregation where hippies run "non-profit" organizations to provide monetary aid to 3rd world countries, when the reality of the solution would be to embrace all nations under a unified economy.

    Cool story bro. Certainly not arguing that this is the future, but it's definitely a step in the right direction.

  • Yale Wood Shoppe on September 04, 2009 6:26 PM:

    If this company is hiring teachers and tutors in India, your typical "free market" thinking American student will hire a Chinese student to earn his degree for him. Hell, at $99 a pop, I can hire 32 Chinese students to earn me every degree on tap!

    You are not being educated if your ideas are never challenged and you are not in a social environment where you will learn to think in ways you have never considered before. A fast-food degree online would be useless.

    And if you think the only reason to get an education is to earn more money you are a fool! Our biggest problem as a society is not the inability to screw around with machines and computers, but the inability to think, to reason, and to be capable of relating to different social groups and classes.

    We don't need a country full of isolated freaks, hunched over their computers learning chemical engineering so they can go blow shit up. We are better off with more literature, more poetry, and lunch with the coed sitting in the next row!

  • Spastica Rex on September 05, 2009 10:32 AM:

    Inevitability is a simple rhetorical device used to persuade readers that one particular unknown future outcome is more likely than another. Perhaps the vision outlined by the author will come to pass; perhaps not. Certainly different individuals and groups will benefit and suffer in different ways and degrees depending on the outcome. Proponents of global capitalism will benefit from the future outlined in the article.

    Just as the future described in the article isn't inevitable, neither is capitalism a natural law written into the fabric of the universe; despite what pop-philosophers like Ayn Rand have claimed. Capitalism is merely a societal construct in much the same way that the American university system is. Will a global capitalist post-secondary education system produce superior results to our existing system? I see no evidence that it will. No evidence is presented in the article.

    I think the important question here is not where credentialing services (degrees and certificates)are going to come from, but what is "education" in the 21st century and how will our citizens obtain it?

    In the article, the author conflates education with credentials to present a future that is sympathetic to the aims of global capitalism. I reckon that's easier work than writing about the very messy process of education. Yawn.

  • jm on September 05, 2009 1:39 PM:

    The major flaw with this article is that the author assumes that universities sell content. Education is NOT content. Content is the medium through which education flows. Nearly all of the content introduced to a typical student at a typical university is in the public domain. What a university sells then, which is markedly different from a newspaper or a car factory, is *perspective* on content. Education not only tells us which articles to read, but how to read them, what the key thing to take away is, and gives a relative probabilistic indicator of how well the student actually learned the concept. And this isn't an easy thing to do.

    Accreditation exists because the outcome of education is highly probabilistic, so society needs market controls to ensure that what you the employer get when you shop for a worker is what you pay for. Otherwise you would have thousands of unscrupulous degree mills just selling pieces of paper.

    Also, I think the management of straighterline and the author grossly overestimate universities' general willingness to transfer credits.

    Finally, the author makes it sounds like universities are doing nothing (like the car and newspaper industries) while the long fuse of capitalistic efficiency eventually blows up their freshman cash cow. This couldn't be more wrong. Most of the progress happening in online education right now is in fact happening in the online education units of universities. The online university *is* the replacement for the huge freshman class revenue stream, but its not going to come from private industry, but from colleges and university themselves. Any university that doesn't realize this and isn't working on their online component right now is destined to fail.

  • steve on September 05, 2009 5:12 PM:

    This article makes me wonder if we are destined to have a "War on Unacredited on-line courses". Much like the "War on Drugs", this is just another example of a bloated government bureaucracy maintaining the status quo because it is unwilling or unable to honestly evaluate the costs and benefits of change. Maybe it IS in the governments best interest to keep a majority of it's citizens uneducated (or at least undereducated) because people too busy struggling to survive don't have the time to question what their leaders are doing.
    If half the money spent fighting the "War on Drugs" was spent for ushering in the use of technology to reduce educational costs, the "War on Poverty" (Funny how that one just evaporated, isn't it?) might win itself. Just a thought.
    Unlike newspapers, colleges have alumni in positions of power. Don't expect a swift and radical change in any industry that deeply entrenched in government. Once again, the American public loses to the good ol' boy network. Maybe that can change. The real question is how many generations will it take? Especially if you look at the nepotism rate in government. (Can you say Kennedy?) Good luck America... we're going to need it.

  • jd on September 05, 2009 8:52 PM:

    I agree that the quickest, easiest road to a higher paying job is the best for this country. After all, it was overvalued houses and not overvalued degrees that sent the economy down the tubes.

    I got my online degree for $200 and now I make $70k a year updating my facebook profile. The invisible hand has yet to have the last word in this mess--maybe we should be trying to invest some time and effort into careers we care about instead of finding the quick and cheap way to make more free money.

  • katie on September 06, 2009 11:21 AM:

    online education delivery is still in its infancy.
    Most colleges offer an online version of their classes, but don't bother to tune the delivery to match the differences between online attendance and in-class attendance. The result is a lower educational experience for online students, but at the same price.

    This model is basically the same as other online models, but students don't pay through the nose. Rather, they are expected to own their education. Online learning is not easy. It requires discipline, drive and the ability to truly understand written material. Decent writing ability is probably very helpful here too.

    I'm a 46-year-old recent graduate from a local community college (Associate's in Computer Info Systems). I found it much easier to attend class in the classroom. Some courses were impossible for me to do online. For instance, math. I need to see math problems being solved to be able to mimic the instructor's actions. Programming, too.

    However, for young people, whose lives have been immersed in technology since they were babies, I think this is an appropriate alternative. There will always be the snobs who think that no degree is legitimate unless it's from an ivy league greed mill. The rest of the world can have access to education for less and know just as much as the butt-time folks.

  • Trace Cohen on September 06, 2009 12:12 PM:

    It is the sad truth that someday this whole collegiate experience will be a thing of the past. There is no way to justify these outrageous tuition especially if no one is getting jobs after they receive their degrees. Almost anything you want can be found online if you look hard enough. The one problem I see with it is the interaction; having everything virtually takes away from the "experience" and social interaction that you get with most universities.

    Still though, something that should be highly considered.

  • Louis Mahern on September 06, 2009 7:03 PM:

    Good job, Kevin. Proud to see an Indiana Senate Democrat alum doing well. I'm going to share your piece with Teresa Lubbers, our new Commissioner of Higher Ed, and others.

  • Valerie Protopapas on September 06, 2009 8:44 PM:

    It's about time! Academia has been bilking the American people longer than the Mafia and taking a lot more money. Instead of an education, most often the kids are indoctrinated into academia's favorite liberal viewpoints and those who resist are often "flunked out" by what is supposed to be the place where young people go to exchange viewpoints and learn about the world.

    I've always believed that the ludicrous cost of colleges and universities would quickly come down if nobody went to college for the next four years and these tenured professors had to learn to live in the real world.

    No, the internet won't REPLACE academia, but it might just jolt it out of its elitist fog and bring it back down to earth with the rest of the masses.

  • kth on September 06, 2009 10:23 PM:

    Most public universities already accept some or all of the AP and CLEP advanced placement examinations. Surely it will occur to some online education provider to piggyback on that de facto accreditation system, if they haven't already.

  • jm on September 06, 2009 11:29 PM:

    great website. hey, i could have saved several thousand dollars of tuition. it doesnt make sense that college education keeps getting more expensive every year. if education did what the cost of transistors when through, we would have kids coming out of college at age 6 with over 20 degrees and can build a spaceship that can fly out of this galaxy. We would have solved world poverty, hunger, cure all diseases, we wouldn't have lack of anything. We would have people who are skilled vs attitude of being superior.

  • Paul on September 08, 2009 9:12 AM:

    Interesting analysis, except for one thing. You say "They're also in the information business in a time when technology is driving down the cost of selling information to record, destabilizing lows."

    Colleges and universities aren't in the information business - they're in the certification business. The value of individual degrees lies in the perceived value of the certification. There's more value in a Harvard degree because there is more prestige in a Harvard certification.

    The threat to colleges is at the lower end of the perceived value chain.

  • Jim on September 08, 2009 9:29 AM:

    The author of this article failed to dig deep enough into this story, besides the accrediting issues, take a look at the economic ones. Assuming an 8 week course with 30 students in a class the total revenue for a course would be just under $6,000. After paying the PhD faculty member lets say a low rate of $3000 to teach the course that lives $3000 to pay support staff and operating cost. The only way to make this program financially possible would be to make the classes totally non-inactive with auto graded quizzes. The student reads, studies, and then takes a quiz. This system has been around for years, worked for Abe Lincoln, however, the success rate is in single digits.

  • Patrica on September 08, 2009 10:44 AM:

    I ask a simple question, (since I am a simple minded person,)about the value of the accreditation process through a historical perspective. Seems to me, if memory serves, we would be hard pressed to find the accreditation paperwork for classes taken by Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Socrates, Plato, Shakespear, Moses, Jesus, Galaleo, Descartes, Homer, Shelley, Byron, Keats, or Blake. Hummm I think I lost my train of throught. Remind me once more why we care about whether or not a person's education is evaluated by some committee that looks at some list of activities the student must do, knowing full well that there is no way to monitor whether the student really does it. Nor is there a monitoring device that insures the teacher give a hoot, actually discusses what is on the agenda, or is mentally competent to stand trial. But I digress. Can you say, personal responsibility for our own learning? But that's just me and I am a simple person.

  • Aatos on September 08, 2009 1:31 PM:

    Well why does anyone hire a personal trainer? You can eat less, walk, run, jump, squat, bend, sit up, push up, pull up and lift heavy objects for free. All the moves are available online.

    The answer is that most people don't have the self discipline to do it themselves. Most people need an authority figure to give orders, and/or a large group of similar people doing the same kinds of things. Traditional schools provide both.

    I guess to convince me, the author would've had to interview successful online students who landed great careers with their degrees, and major employers who seek out online graduates who know just as much and are better motivated.

    Until I read that article, I'm skeptical.

  • Antial on September 08, 2009 1:36 PM:

    You know, Kevin, you really ought to talk to someone in education, and not just write from the perspective of this guy. I'm a community college teacher, and guess what? You can get a 2-year degree or two years of college, fully transferrable, fully accreditable, at most state community colleges, no funny stuff needed, for about $3000 a year (and most students qualify for federal and/or state aid, which makes it cheaper). You can take that $6000 first two years of college to most of the state's 4-years colleges and get full credit, and you'll pay more for the last 2 years, but you will still get a 4-year degree accepted at any graduate school, the military, and any employer. It's not $99 a month, but it's also not just a class at a time.

    You know, I don't actually care whether the universities have a monopoly, etc. What counts for me is my students. And the truth is, I've never met one who took general courses at one of these for-profit schools and thought it was a good investment... because the courses are not accepted for credit elsewhere. Many if not most for-profit colleges are getting lots of money from federal student loans, and the kids end up with lots of debt and not a lot to show for it when it's time to go into the job market or transfer to a university. That's too bad, but that's the reality. I can't tell you how many students I've had who have told me sad stories about trying to get credit for courses they paid for at different for-profit schools. (1 year and 2 year health care training, btw, seems to be the exception, but those are also much, much more expensive than "$99 a month".

    And most students don't need to go far for either in-person or online education. Most states have a community college system with transferrable credits and many, many campuses. (My own in a medium-sized state has 23 campuses.) And you can also take many of the lower-level (freshman) courses, the required ones, online either at a community college or a big state school (University of Maryland has a very extensive online system, used by many in the military). It's cheaper, of course, if you take the courses in the state where you reside (much cheaper).

    And when you finish, you have actual credits. I don't know if you get a great education-- though I teach online, I'm the first to say that in-person classes are usually better-- but then, I think you can get a great education online at Podunk Comm College or a terrible education in-person at Harvard-- it depends very much on the student's desire and willingness to work hard. I just hate to see those virtues exploited as they traditionally have been by the for-profit college education companies (I don't know if this one is exploitative, but the history of the industry is not salubrious). Yes, non-profit colleges also engage in chicanery (I think they often make freshman classes onerous so that students will pay tuition and then drop out), but at least, if you persist, the degree is worth something. (I'm a firm believer that the purpose of all this is knowledge, wisdom, all that good stuff, but you know, my students aren't wrong to think that there should be a more pecuniary reward too.)

    I really think that if you'd done a better investigative piece, maybe look at whether the graduates of this school thought it was a worthy investment of their time and money, you might have had a better article. This sort of sounds like a press release. How about, next time, interviewing some people engaged in education, and not just the ones who hope to make a profit from it?

    The only profit that can be made from education, I fear, comes by ripping off students in some way. It really isn't a profitable pursuit. It's not supposed to be, and it never has been, and it never will be.

  • Josh Jacobs on September 08, 2009 5:03 PM:

    @Derek Blaine
    As other commenters note, MIT Open CourseWare and other similar free publications of course *contents* are explicitly labeled as not-for-credit materials for self-study or reference by educators/students.

  • Kramer on September 08, 2009 7:59 PM:

    Western Governors University is an independent, non-profit, regionally accredited, 100% online university. Not quite as inexpensive as $99 a month, but students can work at their own pace and complete as many credits as humanly possible for a flat rate of under $3,000 per 6 month term. They are a good option for those who already have real-world experience in their course of study.

  • nedm on September 09, 2009 10:40 AM:

    I can say that having gone to a two year school and then to a 4 year and taking online classes (I'm a senior on my last semester) a few things.

    1) We ALREADY have online classes. I've taken two economic classes one of which was all online and the other was pretty much online but the professor still held class. You had to use Aplia.... Having said that I know one professor that refuses to do any online classes because he fears another professor from another area will take his job.

    2) We also use Blackboard which makes some classes partially online. So the idea that a class cannot be online is a bit of a joke at least on the lower levels.

    I think that with most colleges 100 and 200 level can and in some cases should be online. Going onto some 300 and 400 level ones it can be harder mostly because of the content. The head of my major doesn't like online classes but they can still happen.

    Accreditation IS a huge thing. I went to a two year school and got a decent grade with an associates. At the time however the school had problems with accreditation. A women from where I now go denied me not just a few credits but the WHOLE two years. I was taken aback but later vindicated when I was accepted (and I found out she later on moved to some ghetto in arizona painting cars ?!? I don't get it). Also the program I'm going to for grad school just got accredited and there's only a handful of schools in the state (that are much higher in price)

    as a conclusion education is required for more and more forms of employment but at the same time the prices have to eventually be affordable. Online classes can easily fill this need.

  • smchris on September 10, 2009 8:26 AM:

    Old news. Almost 200 years old.

    With the rise of industrialism came a need for a literate population beyond the upper classes mingling at Oxford and Cambridge. University of London (1836) established an external program. Get the study however you could and get the degree through board examination. The system exists around the world. A direct copy of U of London was UNISA (University of South Africa) which currently handles a huge student population -- 200,000+ last time I looked.

    Is this an efficient system? Yes and no. It's very cheap and standards can be maintained but the results can be miserable (when standards are maintained). UNISA quickly found that their certifying board was interviewing a vast army of the underqualified and they transitioned in the 20th century to providing their own distance education. Even here, the eventual graduation rates are very poor because student isolation puts a real burden on personal responsibility over the course of several years.

    Is it a _good_ system? It certainly isn't an ideal system. Universities were established as a way for students to mingle with scholars and learn through direct apprenticeship. Distance education "virtualizes" that element at best. Distance education can be an _adequate_ system to train people however. At least, _some_ people.

    What I haven't looked into with StraighterLine is how they control cheating. With UNISA, one's papers over the year earn "points" that qualify one to sit for the course examination at centers throughout the country and embassies abroad. Passing the course generally depends solely on performance on that final exam. So how does StraighterLine assure that the student is who he claims to be?

  • mbk114 on September 12, 2009 3:08 PM:

    Interesting article and an interesting change. I'm surprised, though, that there is so little discussion here of the major consumers of college graduates -- businesses. Sure, they want college graduates, but they want those college graduates to be EDUCATED and possess the skills that should come with their degrees, otherwise they have to expend additional resources to educate the graduates themselves to bring them up to par.

    Online education is great for providing access, but are graduates from online degree programs as well qualified as those from brick-and-mortar universities? I've heard from several people in both the public and private sector who hire and train employees that graduates from online education programs are generally less well prepared. While this is not universally true, it was enough for them to pass on online degree-holders as a rule. This may be correctable (though given different learning styles that people have, I think that there is a limit to what can be accomplished in this respect), but until it is online educations will be inferior to the in-class model.

  • Professor Smartass on September 13, 2009 1:37 PM:

    I teach English composition at community college, and once I was curious to hear what my students think of online education. Rather than ask in a class discussion, which would only get a handful of responses, I used a neutral news article on it for a midterm reading and students had to write whether they thought what was presented in the article was a good idea.

    I expected to get roughly equally distributed numbers saying it was good, saying it was bad, and not taking a side.

    Instead, in two different class sections, the overwhelming majority said it sucked. They said it was too easy to cheat and lose motivation, and technical problems were too frequent.

    Humans (and every other living thing) learn best through socialization. Those who claim otherwise are either selling the software or their online degree mill, or are administrators of colleges practicing health insurance company ethics: they are trying to collect money from the state meant to educate students then spend as much on building, equipment, and software contracts that can generate kickbacks as possible.

  • wakramer on September 16, 2009 2:59 PM:

    Professor Smartass:

    I have to call you out on your critical thinking. You demonstrate that you can be impartial by at least presenting students with a "neutral" news article on the subject and stating that you expected to get a somewhat neutral response. Instead, your class overwhelmingly disapproved of online education and you use this flimsy evidence to support your conclusion that people learn best through socialization and that anyone who states otherwise is motivated by money.
    Have you considered that individuals have varied learning styles?

    I for one have had good and bad learning experiences in the classroom. I have had professors who weren't even competent in teaching the subject. I have also been in classes where most of the students were keeping up but the professor spent an inordinate amount of time accommodating the few who didn't "get it". In these cases, I would have been better off learning on my own instead of wasting time parked in a seat.

  • Dr. Jillian T. Weiss on September 20, 2009 11:02 PM:

    Thank you for this thoughtful piece. As a tenured professor at a public college, I have had mixed results with online learning, just as I have with face to face classes.

    In those courses in which I have had many highly motivated students, they have enjoyed the online course and learned a great deal. In those courses in which the class is waiting to be spoon-fed material and is too busy to take advantage of my freely offered time and attention, there have been a lot of complaints that the material is too demanding and they couldn't figure it out on their own. Well, I knew that.

    In the future, I'm going to make online learning much more like traditional face to face learning. I am going to try imposing an attendance requirement at simulcast events. Otherwise, they will continue to think they can learn it all at 3am in their pajamas the night before the exam while watching TV. That doesn't work in a traditional course, and it doesn't work in an online course.

    I surmise that the online teaching industry is going to segment, just like traditional colleges, with some attracting students who are motivated self-starters seeking insight and learning, and willing to commit the time and effort required. Others will cater to those who have a busy schedule and prefer to learn less, and need a lot of structured materials to help them learn.

    I think it is a mistake to talk about "online learning" as if it is all one thing. Different companies and professors have many ways of creating online learning that suits diverse audiences.

    There is a lot to learn before we can announce the revolution.

  • Kevin Carson on September 22, 2009 1:25 AM:

    Imagine how much cheaper AND user-friendly this would be if it weren't proprietary, but were instead organized on open-source and peer-network principles.

    A free P2P University might include online lecture transcripts like those at MIT's Open Courseware project, along with open-source textbooks (or even assign--with a wink and a nudge--proprietary textbooks available for free, in digitized form, via bittorrent at future incarnations of The Pirate Bay). Those in need of special help might turn to wikis, email lists and other social networking tools like those of various software or computer user communities (like user communities giving each other tips on how to fix Apple hardware problems the Genius Bar refuses to handle, Linux support, etc.).

  • isha on September 22, 2009 1:21 PM:

    1.

    "But are these degrees/credentials obtained through online means recognized by the Board of Collegiate Exams?"

    2.

    Two biggest scams:

    A. Over priced higher educational system;
    B. Over priced medical care system;

    Both of them need a serious revolution.

  • rl111 on September 23, 2009 6:56 PM:

    Jaw-dropping hypocrisy. The entrepreneur behind these courses has a B.A. from Williams and an MBA from Harvard, the gold standards of liberal arts and graduate education. The author of the article states openly that the four-year, cloistered liberal arts model, like Williams College, is simply "the best," and that "some people" (the rich, you know) "will always be willing and able to pay for it."

    But for everyone else (i.e. the poor, euphemistically re-branded as real Americans who don't need fancy classes from those overpaid professors) Mr. Harvard thinks a series of cheapo online courses is good enough. And the real American who stars in the article? A fifty-year old mother of three who never got a B.A., has now lost her job, and needs some new training quick so she can get hired somewhere.

    Mr. Harvard is happy to supply a shoddy market solution as the humble folk lurch from layoff to layoff in the New Economy. Any why not further degrade the TA/Grad Student/Adjunct circuit (itself a market solution to the university's "problem" of having to pay professors) by eliminating even those jobs, and letting Harvard-educated entrepreneurs rake in the cash with their McClasses?

    At least the embarrassment of the failed accreditation scam caused the company to come to a parting of the ways with the entrepreneur, and to rest content with their already-dubious online tutoring business, built on (what else?)outsourced foreign labor.

  • Drop-out by chance on September 25, 2009 2:10 AM:

    An observation: Most people would agree that there is no substitute for spending the time from ages 14 to 18 in a good private or public high school, with dedicated teachers, innovative administrators, loving supportive parents, and a bucket of money. But many teenagers for many reasons don't get that experience and leave school without a diploma. Those kids can go to night school later or educate themselves and take the GED, a battery of exams that demonstrate basic proficiency in reading, writing and math. An equivalency diploma is hardly the equivalent of, say, an International Baccalaureate, but it is a legitimate recognized credential that someone can show to an employer and college admissions offices.

    There needs to be something comparable to the GED at the college level. Spending ages 18 to 22 at an elite university (once again, ideally with a bucket of money) gives someone educational and social experiences that can't be duplicated, but the world shouldn't end if you miss that bus. A broadly recognized college equivalency degree would allow students of any age and life circumstances to educate themselves with online courses from multiple sources, independent reading, private tutoring, work experience or anything else that worked for them, and demonstrate their accomplishments in a uniform way. This would not be dramatically different from the educational structures in countries where students "read" for a degree and pass comprehensive final examinations, rather than assembling a basket of course credits over a period of years.

    The College Board used to offer Graduate Record Exams in a wide range of subjects. These were designed basically to allow students from colleges with varying standards and programs to compete for graduate school admission on an equal footing. If I recall, at least one state university granted college-level credit for satisfactory scores on the GRE subject exams, which, after all, were supposed to measure what you would have learned if you had majored in biology, American history or some other academic field. If you earned sufficient scores in a variety of subject exams, it would add up to a degree and you would be awarded one. But the GRE subject exam program has been cut back too far for that to work now.

    Nevertheless, this could be a model for a college equivalency degree program. Instead of assembling credits course by course, and maybe not learning much from each one, the student could earn a block of credit by passing a comprehensive exam that would demonstrate broad competence in a particular field. If he passed several exams, perhaps with a specified distribution, he would receive a college equivalency degree that would probably carry as much weight, if not more, than, say, a B.A. in business or communications from a no-name state college, and it wouldn't matter how he learned what he knows. A college equivalency degree would never be much competition for a Harvard sheepskin, but it would be a practical alternate route for folks who didn't get through college the traditional way.

  • Reader of this interesting question on October 06, 2009 2:00 AM:

    I went to college and absolutely loved the experience. In four years, I went from an ignorant 18 year old to a worldly and very socially astute 22 year old by the time of graduating. Not only the classes, but the people and activities and the knowledge that the world is my oyster, and I can make of it what I wish, is what the college educational experience is about. If I sat at home for four years in my cozy family home in the middle of the far suburbs, I would have missed joining the competitive sports team, becoming elected to my dorm's executive council, studying abroad in Italy, realizing I can overload my classes while getting As and Bs, and meeting people from around the country and the world. College was socialization on steroids....and perhaps the only time in our lives where we figure out who are and what were are capable of within a social context.

    Online colleges, I think, completely fail to provide the environment to grow as people. We are relegated to doing it ourselves. There is a reason why government and business is dominated by people with college degrees...they understand how to succeed in a social world where a combindation of skills is required. Not just bookish knowledge. An online class is equivalent to studying diplomacy without ever meeting a person from a foreign country.

    That being said, I agree that tuition is outrageous and there is certainly a place for online education. I simply believe that an online college will fail to provide the individual the environment to grow as a person, and that sociey and ideas are led by those who have grown and realized where they are in the world earlier rather than later.

  • Dictynna on October 12, 2009 9:31 PM:

    I have a strong suspicion that this is MEANT to be 'catastrophic for universities'...look how well it worked on the newspaper business.

  • Kampechara Puriparinya on October 19, 2009 2:00 AM:

    Billions of people worldwide prefer online education because of their brain
    fit for self-directed learning[SDL]. They can be working, and get their e-portfolios by work-based learning [WBL], and blended learning [BL].
    The ICT generations 2.0, 3.0...are very great initiatives. The world is flat
    for all generations [ Boomers, X, Y, Millennial Generations ]. Also the
    blended learning, ubiqutous learning are very popular. It's a choice for
    everyone to learn amid 24 hrs of the timeframe they prefer. Many mega-
    universities [student body exceeds 100,000 + ] worldwide propose lot of
    quality academics programs in soft, hard sciences, and multidisciplinary
    programs, ie., Global U21, Open universities in India, PR China, UK, Thailand,
    USA, and so on. The body of quality assurance & accreditations should be
    effective, public accountability, academic integrity, and best core values for
    all around the globe, ie, the pre-eminent strategic initiative by Higher Learning
    Commission [USA]. The trends of online education, and distant learning
    are growing alongwith exponential time. The traditional universities with
    a bureaucratic style of management by the boomers' bureaucrats, and
    groups of Academic Mafias including some of the University Council Members
    are running the colleges & universities towards vicious cycles, chaos, nepotism,
    and group-thinkers..The trends of catastrophic for the traditional model of universities, they are going to be died or left behind!!

    Bangkok, Thailand.

  • John on December 03, 2009 2:49 PM:

    I can't speak for how this "eRevolution" will benefit or hurt the younger generation, but as someone in their 40s who didn't finish their degree this has proven to be a godsend. I haven't used Straighterline, but I am using other online sources (ALEKS for math). I have the experience already from my career, it's the degree that I've been missing and am now finishing. You can already get a degree online from regionally-accredited schools like Thomas Edison State College, Excelsior College or Charter Oak State College. Through CLEP and DSST you can knock out most of the courses too. TESC also took the 37 credits I have from community college as well as all my Navy courses. I'd say weigh the pros and cons for yourself. If you need to go to a "brick and mortar" school for the experience or learning environment, do it. If the presitge of an ivy league school helps your career, okay. Yet if you don't need those for your career, finish your degree online. Heck, you can just knock out basic courses online and finish the rest at the local university if you prefer. Whatever you do, get it done!

  • Mike Feddersen on December 21, 2009 2:55 AM:

    Interesting and hopeful. The comment section seems to be a mass of +'s and -'s. I was finally encouraged when I started to read the MBK114's comments on who hires any graduate but I wonder who their 'business' friends are that 'passed on online graduates'? Seems they are passing on 'self-starters', also anyone with 'iniative', don't forget all those that 'dared go online for a degree' while working 40,50 or more hours per week. No we wouldn't want to hire any of that ilk.

    I think all of you that have already passed your judgements either nay or yay should stop and think from the other persons perspective for just a few minutes. Costs matter. Social interaction matters. Speed matters. Ease of use. How about shortening up the current 13 years of basic school and give our kids a degree that will at least allow them to earn a living?

    What would be interesting is if the Straightline bunch combined their cheap foreign tutors/teachers with an actual physical place for the students that could attend in person with the economic costs of that area. "Room, board and a degree."

    Mike

  • Burck Smith on February 10, 2010 3:36 PM:

    This article has obviously triggered a lot of emotions and opinions. I'm not going to wade into the debate (I think the side I would take is pretty clear). However, I do want to update the story with the fact that all of StraighterLine's courses were approved by the American Council on Education's Credit Recommendation Service in November. This service recommends courses from third parties (like StraighterLine) for course credit. About 1,000 colleges adhere to these recommendations in some capacity. The colleges that will award credit for StraighterLine courses has greatly expanded. So, for those who contend that StraighterLine courses aren't of sufficient quality (with what evidence?), the courses have been reviewed and deemed credit-worthy by multiple regionally accredited colleges, approved by the American Council on Education, approved by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC, an accreditor recognized by the DoE), and we have a distinguished Advisory Board composed of former accreditors and current provosts.

  • Todd on March 15, 2010 10:44 PM:

    It's about time. College is outrageous. The prices are too high, and the quality of the education has obviously gone in the take lately. I know i see the "college educated" that have trouble placing the U.S.A. on a map. Don't get me wrong some kids come out smart, but a good deal just wasted their money.

    I think this is great. This will hopefully show the bigger colleges that they need to stop ripping off the students while greedily hanging on to huge endowments. Maybe they will stop a lot of the garbage filler classes. Reasons I never went, and fortunately for me I have made my way without it.

  • Roundball1 on May 04, 2010 11:44 PM:

    Just watched College, Inc. on Frontline.
    Very interesting arguments against the for profit model.
    No shortcuts to success.
    I got burned over 20 years ago.
    Was recruited when I was down on my luck and ended up $6000 in debt after two mos.
    The rationale was that I could start over for $6000.
    Started over without any employable skills and $6000 in debt.

  • Tomer on June 03, 2010 6:37 AM:

    Nice post,
    I learned a lot of information from this post. Thanks for the effort
    you took to expand upon this topic so thoroughly. I look forward to future posts.

  • Matt on June 17, 2010 5:23 PM:

    I had a similar situation to Roundball and Scott. Except mine came in the form of a brick-and-mortar university, the amount of debt incurred was far, far larger, and I'd spent the 2 years in classes falling behind on technology.

    If I were confident that an institution like this would award a degree that HR drones would respect, I'd go for it. Not much other reason to bother, at this point. And certainly no reason that would justify taking years off my life and going back into debt, the way I did when I was young and stupid and had family pushing me into the college system.

    Ask a college professor what his job is sometime. They'll happily explain that, unlike in high school, their job is not to teach you. Learning is YOUR responsibility, teaching is not theirs. Given that, I have to ask in response just what benefit they imagine themselves to be providing over and above what we could get for free (or at least cheap) at the library and the bookstore. "Accredited degrees" appears to be the only answer that holds water.

  • terry veggan on September 09, 2010 12:03 AM:

    Credentials which match the current norms are nonsense. There should be no future entitlements by virtue of a contrived evaluation based upon relative merits of respective institutions. A statement that little Johnny has read at Harvard for 4 years or little Mary has read at Vasser should suffice. No degree, just an attestation of time spent reading. Then comes the opportunity to excel if you have the stuff.

  • Lou on September 22, 2010 1:59 PM:

    If one looks at the source of rising costs at most state universities, you'll find that declining state support is the principal cause. State governments no longer consider higher education a public good, and they are making students shoulder more and more of the cost.

    Prestigious private colleges charge what the market will bear. It isn't complicated.

    By the way, I've taught online and my experience is that the dropout rate is terrifically high. Sometimes the majority of students don't finish the course, and I am forced to assign them an "F".

    Technology is changing many things. It isn't going to change the human mind or human nature. Until someone invents a USB port for the cerebellum, we will still learn the old fashioned way.

  • Jake Hall on November 18, 2010 6:00 PM:

    Great read. This exactly the kinda of information I've been looking for. I did a Google search for it and eventually lucked up and found this site. Great job!

  • Rod Farthing on December 08, 2010 5:43 PM:

    As a current college instructor at two colleges (one private, for-profit, the other private, non-profit), teaching both seated and online courses to essentially the same student demographic, I strongly see the value in this movement going forward. There is essentially no difference in my courses that I teach, and interaction between the seated students and online students. Technology allows student collaboration and meetings for the online student as well as the seated student. I write this even though a movement such as this could certainly impact my tenure as an adjunct instructor at both colleges.

    Just because it has been that way for 90 years, does not mean the lessons of 1500 years should be ignored. All industries need to evolve or perish.

  • Mark on December 28, 2010 7:40 AM:

    Most public universities already accept some or all of the AP and CLEP advanced placement examinations. Surely it will occur to some online education provider to piggyback on that de facto accreditation system, if they haven't already.

  • bob kesto on February 24, 2011 6:53 AM:

    On the one hand, private colleges are totally over-priced and out-of-whack in terms relative to inflation. I really loved my private college experience, but if I knew now what I knew then the money would have been much better spent on a solid state BA or BS and then a year of two of travel around the world. (I did have a partial scholarship, which helped out.)

    But some families are always going to want the prestige of Princeton or Stanford. And those schools will be fine.

    It's the second-tier institutions like my own alma mater that I worry about. Honestly, it just isn't worth the cost any longer. Employers these days are more interested in where you've interned than the name of your college, IMO.

    But having said all this, I remember hearing about the imminent death of private colleges two decades ago as well. Who knows.

  • hardened on April 12, 2011 3:07 AM:


    It is a readable and cognitive article. It has been very helpful in understanding of different things. I'm sure many people will share my point of view.

  • ricky on May 06, 2011 2:43 PM:

    hmm, interesting article. I am in to education domain from last few years. As per my study and bservation education is getting very costlier day by day. Where as quality of teaching and other things is maintained but normal people just cant afford it. bigger collages like engineering and medical collages ae just ripping off the students. Also how can we forget about private tutions , normally students use to attend them even after paying a lot for collages.

    The thaught of online education, is itself a big deal and really helpful to every one. I strongly support it :). I dont know how users can get certification or lets say approved degree certificate over internet. But as long as coast and other things are in picture , its a best way to learn. Which ultimately saves your time too.

  • Nico on July 20, 2011 10:23 AM:

    El Salvador is the SMALLEST country in Central America.

    It's gross GDP is $44.077 billion (2010 est.)

    So you make no sense. Too bad, it was almost funny that you could use a poor country to exemplify how much stupid people, I meant, some US citizens, choose to spend their money.

    "The same courses would have cost her over $2,700 at Northeastern Illinois, $4,200 at Kaplan University, $6,300 at the University of Phoenix, and roughly the gross domestic product of a small Central American nation at an elite private university.

  • James on August 18, 2011 9:46 AM:

    Online colleges, I think, completely fail to provide the environment to grow as people. We are relegated to doing it ourselves. There is a reason why government and business is dominated by people with college degrees...they understand how to succeed in a social world where a combination of skills is required. Not just bookish knowledge. An online class is equivalent to studying diplomacy without ever meeting a person from a foreign country.

  • Elke on September 29, 2011 8:42 PM:

    I believe on-line education will drive the standard of all education down, regardless who is offering it.
    First of all, everybody can cheat, nobody knows who is actually doing the course work.
    This opens up new enterprises, student for hire. This way you can get your degree without even learning a thing.
    Why not go on-line and purchase your degree directly, like they used to do in "old" times.
    On-line education cannot be monitored and watched, is that what the country is turning out now for new professionals? Sad times ahead of us.

  • Herbie Dawk on November 06, 2011 7:27 PM:


    I consider obtaining an online degree as credible as becoming a billion year via cyber space. Since the advent of the internet, some of the top paid jobs in our society can be had in technology. Every single financial institution and governmental agency I know today is using the web to conduct business as usual. The cost of attending college has surged several folds over the last 10 years. Today, students owed more loans than debts owed on credit cards. Instead of considering closing down schools, why not develop some effective, relevant and credible online programs in both in andragogy (adult education) and pedagogy (children education) to educate the millions of people globally that have easy access to the internet on a daily basis? We are charging too much for education which is bankrupting students even before they are able to graduate and find jobs. The idea of $99.00 a month college should be welcoming news to the many who have the ambition to get a good college education but cannot afford the high cost of attending.

  • henry on February 01, 2012 8:09 PM:

    Usually dislike any form of commenting, but whenever you read an excellent post at times you just have to get out of those lazy methods. This is such a post!

  • Matt on February 10, 2012 12:09 PM:

    @James: Your concept makes sense for 17, 18, and 19 year old students. But if you're, say, 30, 35, 40+ you've already been through the world enough to know how you fit and how to make social interactions beneficial, or at least you should; this is where online learning is a great avenue for adults whose main focus and need to obtain the education and credential needed to maintain or advance in their careers.

    I wouldn't recommend online learning to 17, 18, and 19 year old kids as readily as I would to older adults who are professionals or simply too busy to meet the brick and mortar college schedule because of their job's work hours. For older adults, online makes perfect sense.

    @Elke: I'm sorry my dear, but you are lost on this subject entirely. FYI, people cheat offline DAILY. In fact, there have been cheating scandals at Brick & Mortar schools for many decades, and we hear about them constantly in the news. People are going to cheat no matter what the venue is. That's reality.

    What you fail to understand--and you do so because you are not educated on this subject--is that practically every school who has online programs REQUIRE proctored exams just like they do offline. Does that mean cheating is impossible? No, because even with offline schools people fake ID's and have a hired gun take the tests. But the point is that the standard for exams is pretty much the same online and off. If Straightliner doesn't have proctored exams, well that's a shame and I wouldn't deal with that organization, but your slant to attempt to make it appear as if cheating is rampant or more of a problem online than offline is nothing more than misinformed rhetoric.

    At the end of the day, if a person cheats their way through school it won't help them much, because they won't last long in any field where the skills they were supposed to pick up in school are critical to the job and they don't have those skills. Give that some thought.

    In closing, I have an offline brick & mortar degree, and I have an online degree. At the end of the day, the online degree was just as challenging and moreso in many aspects, and keep in mind that my B&M degree was earned through an Ivy League school. Don't be a dinosaur... embrace the future, because the future is now and we're not going backward, like it or not.

  • Lance Bettencourt on March 03, 2012 9:52 AM:

    Many of the critiques to the coming disruption of higher education mentioned in this article focus on how online education is not as good as a classroom setting for some aspects of learning or for some class types or for some other reason. Those critiques miss the point. By definition, a disruption of this nature isn't intended to be as good on some dimensions. It is only intended to be good enough for some people in some situations. In doing so, it is better on other dimesions - most notably cost and convenience. So when a critique is offered that this model offers lower cost and greater convenience with some sacrifice in performance elsewhere, the critic is actually reinforcing the article's main point - this is a disruptive model and it is coming. When you combine this perspective with the realization that like the general hospital, the traditional 4-year university subsidizes many non-educational activities and low demand courses and subject matter, it is not hard to envision the possibility of a lower cost model coming along that can offer good enough education at a considerably lower cost - for some people in some situations. From there, it will become better.

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  • Shelly on July 11, 2012 10:54 PM:

    Actually some of you don't understand how Straighterline works and just go about commenting. I am a working health professional who is looking to continue my education to obtain a bachelor's degree in Health Science. I have emailed my course advisor at my university about straighterline claiming to be partners with the schools enlisted on their site, including mine. The claim was accurate and the courses I wanted to take are transferrable. Why not try to save some money when you can and when all you need at the end of the day is a that piece of document you call a degree. Like the article stated, Straighterline solely works in partnership with another university/institution to fulfill transferrable courses and not as an accredited university, not yet at least. All you have to do is check with your current school regarding straighterline. If you are not motivated enough, this may not be the path for you.

  • martin1 on July 15, 2012 7:56 AM:

    Actually some of you don't understand how Straighterline works and just go about commenting. I am a working health professional who is looking to continue my education to obtain a bachelor's degree in Health Science. I have emailed my course advisor at my university about straighterline claiming to be partners with the schools enlisted on their site, including mine. The claim was accurate and the courses I wanted to take are transferrable. Why not try to save some money when you can and when all you need at the end of the day is a that piece of document you call a degree. Like the article stated, Straighterline solely works in partnership with another university/institution to fulfill transferrable courses and not as an accredited university, not yet at least. All you have to do is check with your current school regarding straighterline. If you are not motivated enough, this may not be the path for you.

  • lisa on October 13, 2012 10:47 PM:

    The claim was accurate and the courses I wanted to take are transferrable. Why not try to save some money when you can and when all you need at the end of the day is a that piece of document you call a degree.

  • johnny on October 18, 2012 10:54 PM:

    The claim was accurate and the courses I wanted to take are transferrable. Why not try to save some money when you can and when all you need at the end of the day is a that piece of document you call a degree.

  • andrew on March 20, 2013 2:26 AM:

    This is the future of education, the road to this as a standard education is shorter than we think,just given the state of the economy alone. It is clear that changes are going to happen faster not slower. I would say in around 5 years and maybe as soon as 3years this will be the answer to the College/ University student debt crisis that is already looming, students do not want to go into debt ever and now are actually unwilling to do so! So many people with expensive degrees cannot get jobs! They live with their parents like children. The amount of people who had to move back after obtaining a degree was at 41% several months ago, I predict that number will rise rather than fall. Why do I say that the futures is moving like a fast train toward us all. Well from what I can see and have heard in person shows the way. Many current students and past students with loads of debt have said that they cannot buy a car or a home or afford to start a family, and that they are stuck with this debt well into their 40's. Remember you cannot bankruptcy out of student loan debt! It is my understanding that a lot of landlords and employers ask about student debt, as it shows responsibility and ability to pay ones bill in a timely manner. I even heard a prospective renter say he had dodged the student debt bullet by using the internet and was glad he did. The 21st Century is full of change and the big institutions are on their way out, they are going to kick and scream all the way out the door, but they are dinosaurs, and we all know what happened the the dinosaurs. I think that when the changes are all said and done, we are going to be living better, lots happier not being debt slaves. The internet is going educate the masses as the most innovative free thinkers the world has ever seen. I for one cannot wait, bring it on!!