Will the Internet remove traditional higher ed's prestige factor?

Dive Brief:

  • Michael Kinsley writes for The Washington Post that the Internet may be higher education’s great disruptor, bringing down traditional institutions by taking away the power of prestige.
  • The prestige factor that enshrines the nation’s most elite institutions comes with the selective admissions process, but when anyone can access the course content offered to the privileged few, Kinsley posits the $200,000 education may not seem so worth it.
  • While online, for-profit universities have not yet posed much of a threat to the Harvards and Yales of the higher education sector, there is a chance that they'll get better 10 or 20 years down the line, or that MOOCs will get better, and information once reserved for the privileged few can be had by many more, for far less.

Dive Insight:

As new technology makes higher education theoretically available to anyone with an Internet connection and a device capable of accessing it, practically speaking, there are still barriers to access. Students who enroll in MOOCs disproportionately come from educated families and live in higher income neighborhoods, and the prestige factor at Yale or any other highly respected school still does a lot for students when they can put it at the top of their resume.

Nanodegrees and other types of targeted postsecondary training may give prospective employees the skills they need to get a job, but the benefits of prestige and the equity concerns that come with it, are likely more than a few decades away from obsolescence.

Recommended Reading

The Washington Post: How the Internet will disrupt higher education’s most valuable asset: Prestige


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