Nice piece in techcrunch by John Katzman, founder and former CEO of Princeton Review and currently CEO of 2tor, an education startup partnering with universities to deliver online course and resources. From Will Your College Survive? by John Katzman:
Some might imagine that in this consolidation, the top schools will win and the less prestigious schools will lose. Not so.
Universities and bookstores compete differently. Schools are more specialized—engineering schools don’t compete with music schools, for instance—and they are of varying levels of selectivity. Since much of a school’s value comes from the interaction among students and between students and faculty, universities both recruit and are attractive to students of similar academic backgrounds. Harvard, in other words, does not compete for students with Devry.
The likely winnowing, then, will happen within each tier of university. Instead of competing for students on a regional basis, online schools targeting adult learners compete on a national basis; so will the elite schools or the schools focused on any particular academic discipline. And within each tier, only the schools that properly navigate the quality/size cycle will survive the shakeout.
Within the elite tier, a few others will have a second chance. Due to their endowment and general excellence, most Ivy League schools might become less central to the global education world, but still be islands of research and learning. Within other groupings of universities, though, the new competition will be less forgiving. As states continue to lower subsidies, and as schools with similar reputations step up their competition, this could be a difficult decade for many colleges.
Evolve or Else
Like any other disruptive transition, the move to online and blended universities will bring tremendous benefit to students—better education in more places at lower tuition. However, these changes will be painful for many schools. Most bookstores and travel agencies found themselves on the wrong side of a steadily growing force; the schools that thrive over the next two decades will do so only because they have carefully harnessed that very same force: the Internet.
While I think the internet is a huge reason that higher education is under pressure, the question of whether BAs, MBAs, and PhDs as credentials matter is a big question many are now asking. For many they still do, but for many they do not.
Entrepreneurship education, which many schools are still trying to figure out, is under pressure from accelerators, entrepreneurship events such as 3 Day Startup and Startup Weekend, and radical experiments such as the Thiel Fellowships and the uncollege movement. How administrators and professors evolve their delivery of entrepreneurship education will determine if it continues to be a cash cow for the universities or becomes a missed opportunity to provide value to students, society, and the schools themselves.