Can the Internet lower college costs?

If the current college model is unsustainable due to rising costs could an offline/online hybrid model make an education more affordable? One progressive principal thinks so.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

Chris Lehmann, principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, has a lot of good ideas on what needs to be done to revamp the educational system. One area that's going to need a serious overhaul is colleges and universities. Why? The current model just isn't sustainable.

Speaking at the Supernova conference last week at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, Lehmann said:

I doubt my kids will have the college experience the same way we did. Most of us just can't afford it and the system is going to break. College will be a hybrid online/offline experience.

Lehmann, speaking on a panel about restructuring legacy institutions to innovate better, was referring to the costs of a college education. Year after year, college tuition outpaces inflation by a wide margin. Toss in economic malaise---potentially the new normal in the U.S.---and it's no surprise that the return on investment for colleges is being scrutinized.

Lehmann recalled a meeting with a family that made $50,000 a year and was told they need to spend $15,000 for a college education. That can't add up for the parents and Lehmann also questions why college is so unaffordable that massive grants and aid are needed just to get students. Should kids take on $100,000 in debt?

The gist of Lehmann's idea was that some online hybrid education could bring costs down. In theory, tuition could be lowered as classes scale virtually. Meanwhile, things like room and board wouldn't be needed.

It's an interesting concept and one that just might work. How would you bring college costs down?

Other thoughts from Lehmann:

  • The education system should focus on creating good citizens first. The education system today is focused on testing, but needs to push multiple disciplines. "I don't know what the world holds for these kids. Anybody want to guess what the curriculum needs to be in 2023? What will the content be?" asked Lehmann.
  • According to Lehmann, the major requirement should be to teach kids to harness every resource they have at their disposal.
  • The cult of efficiency that business obsesses about may not apply to the education system. "The goal of education isn't to be just like business," said Lehmann. Business can change that conversation by bringing ideas to the education system with some humility.
  • Teachers need to join the profession for something other than altruism. "Leave the save the world stuff at the door because it's not sustainable," he said. "We need to make the job sustainable and it's not just about paying more. We need to reform the profession."
  • Lehmann's school has a one laptop per student policy, but technology isn't everything. "Technology needs to be ubiquitous, necessary and invisible," he said.


Payscale's college ROI rankings

Paying for College: Is Your Education a Good Investment?

And a Lehmann talk at TED in June:

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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