Higher education’s business model is simply unsustainable.
Colleges have so far gotten away with their price hikes by making it easy for students to borrow money. But now the customers are tapped out. They owe $1 trillion, and they are having a rough time repaying that debt with the kinds of jobs available in today’s economy. Vedder notes that 115,000 janitors have bachelor’s degrees.
The system is ripe for an upheaval. Cheap online courses seem poised to deliver it. Traditional colleges at opposite ends of the glamour spectrum will probably survive. At one end, community colleges could deliver bankable skills in fields like nursing and computer network installation. At the other end, elite institutions like Princeton will carry on for a few more centuries.
In between? “It’s going to wipe out high-cost mediocre private schools without big endowments,” Vedder says.