does higher education need radical surgery?

Can you invest in future potential of a person? If current trends are to go by, it is increasingly becoming possible. In the next few decades It will very possible that many will opt for home schooling and might not even undertake normal 4 year university course as they are structured today. If the current developments are anything to go by, the nature of what it means to learn is evolving. The biggest change is happening at the higher education level, post secondary level.

A new model is emerging that promises to ensure graduates not only increase the prospects of getting a job but are in fact assured of getting a job. A silicon-valley based school called Lamda school has generated a lot of focus on social media in the last few weeks.  It is a venture funded school that does not charge fees upfront. Students take the course and only pay the fees after they land a good job. The model is being called Income Share Agreement as explained by New York Times. In this model, education becomes an economic model investment. If graduates don’t get a job, the school loses money. Graduates who get a job paying $50,000 a year and above pay 17% of their salary to the school for 2 years. If they don’t get a job or the salary is lower, they pay nothing!!!Also if the graduate losses a job, they stop paying.

This model is gaining more ground even in Africa.

Andela has model closely related to that. Students enroll for software engineering training and paid during the training. After that they are attached to a top tech company in USA and work as a software developer, mostly remotely. The company takes a cut from the salary.

African Leadership University (ALU) has also a program for training university graduates in courses such as data science and other technical skills. Similar to Andela and Lambda, only when a student gets a job do they pay back the student fees (loan). You can read more here.

Majority of the focus seems to be data science, coding, cybersecurity and related courses. Also they are short term courses of between a few months upto a year. So for now, they are not really a replacement of current 4 year university course system. But with time, if they continue to register, success,  many will start to reconsider whether they should really undertake the 4 year course in the first place in their current form. Also of course the entry requirements are most likely very stringent. They must properly assess that you have the ability to learn and motivated enough in order to avoid losses due to failed job placements.

in USA and maybe the west, the main problem seems to be spiraling student debt which stands at $1.5 Trillion. In Africa on the other hand, it seems the problem is skills gap. But generally, there is growing demand for tech related skills especially coding. It is possible that these models could end up being fully-fledged universities. But the main question that remains what happens to less prestigious courses such as arts which are not necessarily ‘hot-cake’ courses? will they lag behind and what will that have on overall job landscape? I also don’t know yet. Also what will be the role of government seeing that everyday government is being stripped of its traditional roles slowly. Will it still make sense to pay hefty taxes? Or maybe governments will become leaner and more efficient. I think the later is true. What we are seeing with technologies such as bitcoin is that the monetary role of government might be reduced significantly if it works. Now education is following that trend. Governments of the future will be leaner and more decentralized to serve needs of people at grassroots and adopt a bottom up strategy. Time will tell.

 

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