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Tom Vander Ark Headshot

Riots or Innovation?

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British students rioted this week over higher tuitions. The New York Times responded, "The legislation they opposed, a tripling of university tuition fees, is bad public policy, both myopic and unfair."

Tripling fees when struggling economies need massive upskilling is obviously bad policy. But the underlying problem is the tripling of the cost of higher education. It is no longer possible to justify a generation of double digit education inflation -- it can be avoided and dampens returns on education to society and individuals.

The subject of higher education inflation is highly relevant to all 50 states which, together, face a cumulative deficit approaching $200b. Most states will increase tuition, but they should be attacking costs and creating incentives for innovation.

Abandonment is one approach piloted by Colorado -- CU is basically a private university with a little extra bureaucracy, but at least they can set the price point and decide where in the marketplace they want to compete.

Indiana Governor Daniels created a partnership with Western Governors University to cost effectively expand access to higher education. WGU students earn a bachelor's degree, on average, in 30 months because the accept prior credits, allow students to test out of courses, and encourage them to move quickly through courses.

Now that it's possible for anyone to learn anything anywhere, it's time for universities to reengineer their basic delivery strategy and incorporate personalized online learning. State legislatures should stop feeding the pig and should start incentives for performance, completion, and innovation.

Parliament's action this week will push more students to Open University which already serves 180,000 students online.

Every state education committee should hold a hearing in January to discuss blended solutions to increasing costs and flatlined quality. We can avoid riots in the streets of America by blending the best of online learning and face-to-face application, integration, guidance, and support.