Tag Archives: Online Education

Implications of Georgia Tech’s new $7,000-per-year Masters degree in computer science

The Wall Street Journal reports on something that is of interest to all Christians.


Anyone who cares about America’s shortage of computer-science experts should cheer the recent news out of Georgia Tech. The Atlanta university is making major waves in business and higher education with its May 14 announcement that the college will offer the first online master’s degree in computer science—and that the degree can be had for a quarter of the cost of a typical on-campus degree. Many other universities are experimenting with open online courses, or MOOCs, but Georgia Tech’s move raises the bar significantly by offering full credit in a graduate program.

It comes just in time. A shortfall of computer-science graduates is a constant refrain in Silicon Valley, and by 2020 some one million high-tech job openings will remain unfilled, according to the Commerce Department.

That’s why Georgia Tech’s online degree, powered by Udacity, is such a game-changer. For the same $7,000 a year that New York City spends per student on school buses, you can now get a master’s from one of the most well-respected programs in the country. Moore’s Law says these fees should drop to $1,000 by 2020—a boon for students and for the economy.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could fire the majority of college professors and just keep the ones who are actually good at teaching students? Online education puts the focus back on teaching students – not on doing research, which may not be very useful for finding a job in any case. I had to do a lot of research for my Masters degree in computer science, and I applied little of what I researched to real life. The course work was far more useful to me in my career, and that’s why I went to university.


MOOCs will inevitably come to K-12 education too. Everyone knows great public school teachers. But we also all know the tenured type who has been mailing it in for years. Parents spend sleepless nights trying to rearrange schedules to get out of Mr. Bleh’s fourth-period math class. Online education is about taking the “best in class” teachers and scaling them to thousands or millions of students rather than 25-30 at a time.

The union-dominated teaching corps can be expected to be just as hostile as college professors to moving K-12 to MOOCs. But a certain financial incentive will exist nonetheless. I noted this in a talk recently at an education conference where the audience was filled with people who create education software and services.

I began by pointing out that in 2011 only 7.9% of 11th graders in Chicago public schools tested “college ready.” That’s failure, and it’s worse when you realize how much money is wasted on these abysmal results. Chicago’s 23,290 teachers—who make an average salary of $74,839, triple U.S. per capita income and 50% more than median U.S. household income—cost Chicago taxpayers $1.75 billion out of the city’s $5.11 billion budget.

Why not forget the teachers and issue all 404,151 students an iPad or Android tablet? At a cost of $161 million, that’s less than 10% of the expense of paying teachers’ salaries. Add online software, tutors and a $2,000 graduation bonus, and you still don’t come close to the cost of teachers. You can’t possibly do worse than a 7.9% college readiness level.

When I made this proposal, only slightly facetiously, in a roomful of self-described education entrepreneurs, it was if I’d said that Dewey had plagiarized his decimal system. I was upbraided for not understanding the plight of teachers. The plight of students, as is too often the case in discussions of education, didn’t seem to rate the same concern.

Online education is one of the forces that gives me hope for the future. The faster we take money away from leftists in the academy, the better things will be. Right now, a whole lot of people are buying useless degrees for far too much money. It’s even worse when you consider university administrators and other educational bureaucrats, who have inflated salaries and contribute nothing to a student’s real capabilities. The humanities are dominated by secular leftists, and should be totally overthrown by online competitors who will be more responsive to customers than left-wing tenured radicals.

Hope: California set to offer college credit for online courses

There are forces in motion that could turn the tide against the secular left, and one of them is online education.


A bill in California’s Legislature would force public colleges to award students credit for taking some outside online courses. It looks likely to pass, and its implications for higher education are vast.

A successful monopoly has an impregnable wall around some much-desired good, such as education, and controls the only door.

The higher education establishment in America has always operated this way. But cracks are starting to appear in its wall. A significant one opened this week.

On Wednesday, a bill was introduced in California’s state Senate to require public colleges to give students credit for online courses from outside providers.

If students can’t take an introductory or remedial class in the traditional way, they can turn to offerings from businesses such as Coursera, Udacity and StraighterLine, or the nonprofit EdX, a joint project of Harvard and MIT.

The bill looks likely to pass in some form.

[…]For the first time, colleges would have to offer credit for courses outside the academic establishment. As StraighterLine founder Burck Smith told the New York Times, “This would be a big change, acknowledging that colleges aren’t the only ones who can offer college courses.”

Up to now, online teaching could offer plenty of knowledge but not the credits leading to degrees.

Colleges could refuse to recognize the courses, and most did. That balance of power would shift if Steinberg’s bill becomes law.

That would be the start of real competition.

If online courses can teach more students just as well and cost the public less, the professors behind the walls will have to change their hidebound ways or lose more business to outsiders.

Either way, the public would be well served.

The faster we can disrupt the current higher education monopoly and focus students back on getting marketable skills at a reasonable price, the better off we’ll be. The financial crisis actually helps with this, because young people now have to be more serious about what they are choosing to study and how much they are paying to study. We have a chance here to turn the tide. It’s good news!

A look at homeschooling and alternatives to college

I do think that college can still be a good deal as long as you are careful to choose a major that will re-coup the costs of your education in a timely fashion. That will probably mean a STEM degree in something like computer science or petroleum engineering. I myself have the BS and MS in computer science, and I think that those are excellent choices for a man to deliver on his obligation to provide for a family. But it was a much better deal back when tuition was very low, and salaries were very high. Plus, public schools used to me much better at preparing you to go to school to learn STEM subjects. These new problems: underperforming public schools, college debt, and a weak job market, it makes sense to consider alternatives to the mainstream education system.

Here’s an article about homeschooling – an alternative to brick-and-mortar schools – that was posted in the Wall Street Journal.


Today in the U.S., some two million children are home schooled, growing at an annual rate of 7% to 15% for over a decade, according to the president of the National Home Education Research Institute. The term “home schooler” once implied “isolationist religious zealot” or “off-the-grid anarchist who makes her own yogurt.” Today, it also means military parents who hate to see their kids keep changing schools; or the family with a future Olympian who ice skates five hours a day; or your cousin whose daughter is gifted but has a learning disability. The average home schooler is no longer a sideshow oddity.

“I could never ever teach math,” more than a few parents told me in horror at the very idea of home schooling. Or science. Or a foreign language. But mostly, it was math. Here’s my secret: I can’t teach math either. Once they start calling them integers instead of numbers, I recoil as from a fat, angry snake, which is why Alice takes an online math class, with great lashings of help from her father.

But the biggest thing people want to talk about is socialization. Everyone is worried that I keep my child in a crate with three air holes punched in it and won’t let her have friends until she gets her AARP card. There’s a long answer, of course, but I’ll sum it up this way: Homo sapiens have walked the Earth for at least 130,000 years and, in this time, they learned to be human from their elders, not from their peers. Mandatory education in the U.S. is less than 150 years old. Learning to be a productive adult human by spending a third of every day with other kids might be a good idea, but it’s too soon to tell. I’m still unsure that the people best equipped to teach a 14-year-old boy how to be a man are other 14-year-old boys.

In fact, home-schooled kids are just as socialized as other children. They certainly seem to grow up to be, and feel, fully engaged. One study, by a Canadian home-schooling group, found that 67% of formerly home-schooled adult respondents said they are “very happy,” as opposed to the general population’s 43%. Another study, published in the Journal of College Admission, found that home-schooled students perform better on their ACTs, have higher college GPAs and are more likely to graduate in four years.

So how far would you go with alternatives to mainstream education? Well, the smartest engineer I know doesn’t even have a college degree in computer science – or the student loans that often go with them.

Just look at these numbers: (links removed)

Across the nation, graduates are tossing their caps into the air and investing their hopes of success in their sheepskins. Not since the Magna Carta has so much faith been put into a piece of paper; indeed, belief in the college diploma seems these days to outpace belief in the document that binds a man and a woman. For the past couple of generations, conventional wisdom has said that a college degree is the golden ticket to a great job. For a time, because of the simple laws of supply and demand, this was true.

In 1947, when just 5 percent of Americans age 25 and over held at least a bachelor’s degree, the supply was low, making demand for degreed employees higher. However, with easier access to college through taxpayer-funded student loans, today’s bachelor’s degree has become yesterday’s high-school diploma. Now that over 30 percent of Americans 25 and over have a college degree—and the President has called for that figure to grow to 60 percent—the supply is up, which might help explain why 53 percent of recent graduates are unemployed or underemployed.

What’s more, the burgeoning cost of college means that even for those who do land good jobs after graduation, payoff on their investment will be diminished and take more time. The graduation rates tripled between 1980 and 2010, rising 37 percent between 1999 and 2010. Two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with debt in 2008, compared with less than half in 1993. The average debt for last year’s college was $24,000, while the total outstanding national student debt has passed $1 trillion, more than the nation’s credit card debt. Not surprisingly then, the national student loan default rate is on the rise, too, hitting 8.8 percent for the 2009 budget year. Even the number of Ph.D. holders on public assistance has made recent headlines.

College still works for people, but you have to choose your major more carefully – or just choose to focus on practical skills and then attend a trade school. It’s probably a good idea to put more emphasis on getting work experience at an early age, no matter what you do after high school. Work experience is very important for getting a job, which is why the liberal fixation on higher minimum wage rates hurts younger workers. Sometimes, online degree options can be more cost effective than regular school, but again work has to be done to see where the jobs are and what skills are required before you make a decision.

People sometimes ask me whether this is it for civilization, and I point to new discoveries and feedback mechanisms like these alternatives to government-run or government-regulated schools as an example of how we can get things turned around. What taxpaying parents need to realize is that they have to start thinking practically about laws and policies that promote freedom in education. We have to vote for more choice and competition, and lower taxes, so that we can buy what we want instead of letting an ideologue who has spent his or her entire life in a bubble decide for us.