4 radical new business models in higher education

Is higher ed broken?

That's the question on a number of minds these days as colleges face a range of challenging financial and demographic trends. In response, there's been a flurry of innovation at "traditional" campuses—and less traditional ones.

Writing for EdSurge, Jeffrey Young reviews four new models of higher education.

Model A:

Minerva was founded three years ago by Ben Nelson, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and former CEO of Snapfish. The classes are taught via synchronous video by professors from all over the world. It has 158 students who live in the same city and participate in some activities face-to-face.

The school is a hybrid for-profit and nonprofit institution, Young writes, adding that it partnered with Keck Graduate Institute to achieve its initial accreditation more quickly.

Critics express concerns about how much value the school's degrees will eventually have on the job market. They also question whether all traditional college subjects can really be taught online, for example, arguing that online classes mean no hands-on lab experiments, no sports, and no theatre productions.

Model B:

Mission U was founded by Adam Braun, an entrepreneur, earlier in 2017. It's a one-year program that focuses on getting students into high-paying tech jobs without requiring them to attend a four-year college or incur student loan debt (it uses income-share agreements instead). The school partners with tech companies, which help build the curriculum and commit to considering graduates for employment.

Some critics express concerns the program will only work out for students in the short term and argue the curriculum resembles on-the-job training that employers should be offering themselves at no cost to students or employees.

Model C:

MIT 2.0, as it has been called, (since it has no official name yet) is an effort by Christine Ortiz, a former professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She plans for the institution to focus on interdisciplinary, experiential, and project-based research and learning.

The 100 most innovative universities in the world

The new research university would have no classrooms or lectures—instead it will have open spaces that facilitate group work. Ortiz is still raising funds and planning the initiative. Her goal is for the institution to reach the size and scale of MIT. Skeptics argue that the project is very—perhaps overly—ambitious and express concerns about accessibility for low-income students.

Model D:

Paul Quinn College, an institution in Dallas is transforming itself to become more career focused. Just a few of the changes that it plans to make:

  • No more textbooks—instead the college will use open-source materials provided online;
  • No more football team—instead, its field is now an urban farm; and
  • Lower tuition; all students work on campus.

The transformation is being led by Michael Sorrell, a lawyer who has advocated for better college access. The model is meant to keep tuition and fees low for students and get them ready for the workforce through on-campus jobs and internships (Young, EdSurge, 7/10).

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