I’ve become increasingly concerned about the state of U.S. public universities, especially as my younger kids approach college age, and my college-age son struggles with increasing tuition and we both struggle with student loans.
In Texas, government and university officials used to pretend that all residents whose kids had the mental capability could count on getting those kids a degree at a state-funded university, i.e. one funded in part through money we pay in taxes. That pretense has pretty much been exposed as a lie by now. For reasons that no doubt have a great deal to do with politics, the major Texas universities have not even tried to keep up, through campus building programs and the hiring of qualified professors, with the state’s population growth.
As a result, unless your child qualifies for an academic or athletic scholarship, you probably can’t afford to send him or her to, say, the University of Texas or Texas A&M unless your annual family income is above $50,000 – preferably well above that amount. In Texas, the new American caste system kicks into high gear at the college level. If your family doesn’t make enough money, you can’t get into a top state-run university, let alone an elite private school.
But I digress. This isn’t intended as a critique of the public university system in These Modern Times, although I could have a lot of acerbic fun with that.
Instead, I’d like to highlight a growing positive development in higher education, one that allows people to take university courses of their choosing online – for free – often from top instructors from some of the finest schools in the country, including the likes of Harvard, MIT and Houston’s Rice University.
We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.
Through this, we hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.”
I’m good with that concept. It’s a little like the concept on which public universities once were founded. The difference is that you can’t take a series of Coursera classes and then walk way with a university degree. But you have the ability to learn about that which is relevant to your current situation. You can gain knowledge that would help you obtain certain kinds of work. In many instances, if you pass the class you receive a signed certificate from the class professor.
I like this idea so much that I decided to go back to school.
In a week, I’ll begin a 10-week Introduction to Finance course taught by Gautam Kaul, a distinguished professor of finance at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. The course will be aimed at applying “the concepts of time value of money and risk” in order to determine the value of various assets. I’ve found myself increasingly interested in economics over the past couple of years, and as such I am excited to be embarking upon this educational adventure.