In March of this year Shai Reshef, education entrepreneur and one of WIRED’s top 50 people predicted to change the world, came to Vancouver and spoke about a new model of education that will “enhance the collective intelligence of millions of creative and motivated individuals that otherwise would be left behind”. His solution—an ultra-low-cost college degree offered online.
The current model of higher education, whether we like it or not operates to support a very small segment of people—the affluent and the lucky. Despite the odds, there are countless examples of people who are born into soul crushing poverty and come out with exceptionally competitive applications but guess what; financial, cultural and scarcity barriers inhibit their advancement. Millions of people who qualify for higher education simply not get degrees due to these 3 barriers.
University is expensive and the costs are only rising, even faster than housing prices. In the US alone the cost of higher education has risen by 500% since 1985. To put this in further perspective, according to The Economist, this is 4 times the rate of inflation growth. This means that even if you are born into average-earning families in developed parts of the world, it will be a struggle to make it through college or university.
In North America more women than men are completing higher education programs. According to Forbes, public universities educate 56.4% women and 43% men. This is surely not the reality for many other parts of the world. For example in some areas of Africa, women do not attend university because it is not a ‘decent place for women’.
There are simply not enough spots for qualified individuals who want to attend university. UNESCO estimates by 2025 100 million students will not gain acceptance into university simply because there will not be enough spots to meet rising demand. While these are forecasts for 2025, scarcity of university seats is currently a pressing issue. Take South America for example. In 2012, a mother was trampled to death in a stampede of desperate applicants trying to secure 1 of only 100 last minute spots.
Solution: An Ultra-Low-Cost Degree
With modern technology Shai Reshef realized he didn’t need to reinvent the wheel to create a solution for over-priced and over-demanded higher education. He recognized the high costs that go into providing traditional education: facility, books and professors; and created a model that for the most part, took them out of the equation so that cost-savings can be passed down to students. University of the People utilizes the benefits of online learning so that students receive virtually free education. Highly acclaimed Ivy League professors provide open education resources and instruction for free, and the online environment removes facility costs. University of the people predicts to have 5,000 students by 2016—with each paying $1000 a year for a full university course load making the model is financially sustainable.
With more and more organizations realizing the potential of the ultra-low-cost degree model, we at Lambda Solutions are excited for 2025 to roll around only to learn that more people are receiving access to hire education than predicted.