- Living in a building with a bunch of other 18-22 year olds
- Living in a town that is mostly populated by 18-22 year olds
- Having to figure out how to take care of the laundry and dishes while having time to study and go to parties with said 18-22 year olds.
That being said, I'm currently doing YCs startup school, which is run very similarly to the large lectures I had in college. There is a main weekly lecture or two that is viewable online, and then there is a small group discussion with 15 or so others, led by a "TA". The discussion happens online but is live at a scheduled time (conveniently for me at 7pm).
As a 41 year old with kids, this system has a lot of advantages for me. I can watch the lectures at night after they go to bed, I can watch them in double speed so that I can done quicker and my mind doesn't get bored and wander, and I can do the discussion section from pretty much anywhere with internet.
So I think overall this system is better for me now, but if I were 18, I don't think I'd prefer it.
That being said, everyone's situation is different, and not everyone values the social aspects of college the same way, and I think it is important to figure out from an employment perspective how people who choose to take an alternative route to education can get the same opportunities as those who choose the traditional route.
18-22 year olds often do not have the drive or study skills to stay focused and engaged with remote learning. My most educational experiences at college were studying with groups in-person. I don't know how well that can be replicated online, especially with youth.
I saw multiple students fail out of college because they skipped classes and didn't learn because they were faffing around. How much more common will that be when you're just sitting at home on a computer, without being in an environment that pushes you to participate in school?
If you don't apply right out of high school they silo you into the non-traditional student stack. Your ranking is lowered and you lose out on all sorts of financial aid scholarships. You have to take out students loans or fund it through the GI Bill (because you enlisted, right?).
Self-discovery and learning is something they'd rather you pay them for, not backpacking through the outback.
It's definitely a totally different experience going back with a wife, daughter and mortgage, than living in a student room with other people at 18.
And different classes for that matter. You learn a lot from just hanging out with people in different majors.
Granted it's not an apples to apples comparison here, but there are less expensive and more efficient ways (Peace Corp as well) of getting that experience. Universities are (should be) for those that enjoy learning or must have that 4 year certificate for the field there interested in working in.
Yep, universities can be rather petty ...
I can't imagine American universities are too too different. Maybe I'm wrong. But, it seems like there is a weird anti-higher education culture right now that I don't fully understand.
I really do respect my university a lot for the freedom they give me. The authority here is pretty lax. As long as you get the job done and don't smoke in the dorm, they don't care.
I regularly say things in public and in public spaces on the internet where my full name and details are attached (e.g., Facebook, VK, etc) that I think to myself "you know, maybe I am pushing this a bit too far". But, as a foreign student, that seems to be more of an irrational fear instilled in me based on the perception we have of Russia back home.
Realistically, unless you're siding with some sort of terrorist organisation, you're generally ok when it comes to the federal government. If you've very blatant about your anti-regime opinions, you might get some attention, but it isn't like you're ever going to get declined a visa renewal or deported or something like that; the most they'll do is watch you more closely.
And, don't get me wrong as well, it would have to be genuine terrorist ties to get you deported. For example, I regularly criticise Russia over their treatment of Oleg Sentsov who is, in my opinion, mislabeled as a terrorist and being treated, honestly, pretty abhorrently. My "terrorist" sympathies and criticism over human rights, however, is not enough to upset the federal migration services.
At the university level, though, I am also very proud of my institution and their commitment to their students. They and the regional government of Tomsk have regularly shown the fact that they're willing to stick up to the federal government in order to protect the students.
That's like saying the Air Force is full of pilots when in reality only 1% of those in the USAF are pilots.
That was a couple of centuries ago. Now universities are mostly for youth storage.
(And room at the DOD facilities is comparatively very limited.)
Personally, I went to Uni and majored physics specifically because of my love for the subject and a desire to learn more. I minored in CS so I could learn to program, and worked a few Web dev jobs after graduating. I also developed a real passion for topics like programming language theory, type theory, mathematical concept formation, etc. and have since managed to get a position as a research student to work in that field.
I would rather pay for my kids to travel the world for a year after high school, and then educate them separately (similar to the education you’re receiving now, internships, etc), so they can have a richer life experience and hopefully a better education.
Disclaimer: Started working at 17, did not attend college.
There are many paths to teaching young adults self-sufficiency, resilience, and how to adapt and overcome. I have a hunch the college track is a bit more expensive and inefficient vs other tracks; it's still a viable path, but suboptimal IMHO.
In terms of development and fulfillment, it's harder to say. But I don't think the social time I got was quality social time. Instead of just being around a bunch of 18-22 year olds, I think I would have gotten a lot more out of traveling the world and meeting people from diverse backgrounds and of diverse ages. College culture just modeled how to be stressed, procrastinate and abuse alcohol.
That being said, what I did study there (music), I would have had a very hard time pursuing to the degree I did without that environment, so depending on what one studies it may be worth it. All in all, I'm leery of the college experience and how heavily it is sold as a cure-all for a person's future. Kind of a sneaky debt-engine if you ask me.
Maybe college improves in the future. Maybe taxes go up a bit and college becomes free in the US (or we live somewhere developed like Europe where college costs are minimal). With that said, I have to plan for a future where college isn't the only path to success for my children.
Such an incredible time saver. I can't watch vids at normal speed anymore.
Also, the ability to pause and rewatch all or parts of the online lecture is another added bonus. Live lectures are horrible because if you don't understand one part, you might not understand the rest of the lecture. And it sucks having to stop the lecture and ask the prof/TA to go over something they already covered.
You wouldn't be part of the shared experience.
He seems to have jumped into the "online resources will cause the traditional university to fail" bandwagon a bit late. I haven't heard that much hype about MOOCs lately, presumably because the dire completion rates have cleared out the hype circa 2013.
It wouldn't surprise me if he's right, but not for the right reasons. Half of US colleges could go bankrupt in 10-15 years simply because they don't really provide a good education. They won't be replaced by a disruptor, they will just no longer be able to crank out mediocre educational product to people who now realize that a Bachelor of Something Or Other from Podunk U isn't actually a ticket to the middle class.
A lot of people say this, but a College Education has an excellent ROI when you look at median earnings of college graduates vs median earnings of high school graduates.
Some majors such as accounting and engineering offer even better ROIs. Some entire industries, such as Education, are almost entirely blocked to someone without a college degree. Lifelong earning numbers are correlation and not causation. We've all meet great engineers that did not complete college. Still, as long as college graduates are out earning high school graduates by significant amounts colleges will not have to worry about attracting new students.
The big question is, given a particular student, will they do better with a college education? I think the answer is probably 'yes' if they are able enough to go to a decent (not necessarily stellar) school. However, there is a vast educational hinterland offering terrible courses to weak students. These are propped up by subsidies and the idea that "any college education is better than none".
Maybe, it's really hard to measure. I suspect a good not great college is a very good way to improve a particular person's life, but not the absolute optimal use of four years and about $30,000.
While this question is really important for individuals to ask, I don't think this question is going to destroy institutions of higher learning. I think a lot of people will still take the relatively safe path of completing a four year degree.
Of course, some colleges don't really have a good placement rate or other connections with the business community. I wouldn't be surprised if you are right, and colleges of this sort, that provide poor quality, eventually do go bankrupt.
Heh. Indeed. Only an idiot would be born into a family without a strong professional network ;-)
Less sardonically, I did have this option after high school (although not through a family network). Fortunately, I took full advantage before finishing school and did a ton of freelancing plus an internship. I noticed, before it was too late, that the sort of software engineering work available without a degree was not going to keep me happy for 30+ years.
This is the advice I give bright young students (as opposed to those who merely have family connections): make certain that you're not going to become unbelievably bored by your late 20s.
If you can get a job doing web dev out of high school, you can land a job doing something super fun like self-driving after college and you can write your own job description with a phd.
Your advice is good for kinda dumb kids from well-networked families, but IMO terrible advice for actually really intelligent kids. They will become super bored with the sort of software development that's available without spending a few years getting a good university-level grounding in mathematics and natural sciences. You can do that without going to college but it's still a four-year full time job...
> I'd love to see data on Google employee's education levels over time.
I think you'd be disappointed; Google hires a ton of Ph.Ds and recruits heavily from tippy-top universities.
You don't need a "strong professional network" to have your family help you find work, and I take offense to the implication that only affluent people have the means to support each other. There's no one stopping "bright young students" from getting their shoes dirty and finding someone who needs real work done. God knows there are enough kids already pushed away from programming by the elitist attitude you're displaying here. Most people can't afford to worry about what's "boring", they're focused on making sure they can survive. A degree is an expense that can be delayed until it's necessary.
Isn't the point that kids (transitioning to adults) who can get the good jobs without college are going to be out of the "just trying to survive" category? They'll make enough money that they have time, and they are bright enough and motivated to learn enough that they are likely to get bored.
A better response would be that autodidacts are more likely to keep learning on their own, and therefore have less need of a college degree to develop the skills for self-driving car work or whatever else.
> You don't need a "strong professional network" to have your family help you find work
No, but it certainly helps. Especially software development work.
Regarding the rest, your original comment singles out "really intelligent kids". I was largely replying to that description.
In general, advising people who fit that model to prematurely optimize so early in life is doing them a huge disservice.
A "really intelligent kid" can get college mostly paid for through scholarships and have the world at their feet after graduating.
The urge to take that dev job after high school is strong (been there), but it's generally a huge net loss for someone who is actually "really intelligent".
> Most people can't afford to worry about what's "boring"
I'm very concerned by your attitude that folks from modest means aren't capable of boredom, aren't capable of burnout.
I'm also saddened by the fact that you seem to take offense toward encouraging "really intelligent kids" to actually use that raw intellect just because they happen to come from a modest background.
Another reason (probably several) is that at the moment school education in the US is pretty bad. Private and even average US universities are usually decent at filling those gaps. Even mediocre universities (as long as they are inexpensive), can provide some benefits because they have to compete and convince parents that their money is not going to be completely wasted.
Improve schools so most graduating kids have a decent general education and experience in 2-3 STEM technologies of choice (which I bet we could achieve during 13 years of school) and suddenly the number of people who want to spend another 4 years at Podunk U shrinks a lot more. My 2c.
This consulting firm advertisement is a very useful mental model, and I think MOOCs are probably on their way up and out of the trough of disappointment into the plateau of productivity: https://blogs.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/files/2017/08/E...
> They won't be replaced by a disruptor, they will just no longer be able to crank out mediocre educational product to people who now realize that a Bachelor of Something Or Other from Podunk U isn't actually a ticket to the middle class.
This seems likely. My model for predicting college bankruptcy has exactly one input, which is this dataset: https://ifap.ed.gov/DefaultManagement/DefaultManagement.html
This is a good dataset. It's important to remember that while the top 100 schools dominate the conversation around college, many many students go to smaller or non-selective schools that have a very different setup.
Online learning has made great strides, but it doesn't seem like it is at that level.
If you look at thriving universities in Europe, in thriving countries (like Finland, Sweden and Norway) you might see that they are basically run at loss: this is because education is an investment, not an expense.
Education is supposed to be an investment for nations, not individuals (or, more realistically, parents of individuals).
Does that surprise anyone? As an EU citizen I'm just dumbfounded that people have to pay so much money to get some minor that is totally worthless to the marketplace in order to get a more worthwhile major. Especially in liberal arts, like who in the world thinks getting a gender studies minor in order to enroll to some kind of teaching major is a sound idea, especially given the current wages of teachers? I understand the allure for lawyers though.
Moreover, the way students are taught and graded can be different, especially compared to say, a German university. An American education emphasizes the process and discipline of learning. Seminars or seminar-style classes are common, even in the first two years. Basic facts and formulas can be learned on your own. If you don't care much for the process travel to Germany, sign up for the exams, and get a degree in a semester.
It's a different, more traditional, approach. Whether its better or worse depends on your metrics and goals.
Also, I've never heard of a minor being required. According to Google it's a thing, but also appears to be an exception rather than the norm. Anyhow, once you get past the distinctions between liberal arts, science, and engineering programs, employers couldn't care less about majors and minors, precisely because the primary indicator of a degree is that you've persevered through the core curriculum. You may hate writing/arithmetic but if you've made it through 3 college-level writing/math classes that says something about your discipline and follow-through, regardless of whether the material is relevant to a particular job position. Esoteric majors and minors is mostly a way for colleges to distinguish themselves; it's a sales strategy.
I think the U.S. would do well to adopt European models of higher-education. But I don't think such schools would ever replace a traditional 4-year degree for the upper-middle class or wealthy, for both substantive and cultural reasons. I also don't think it will ever happen, period, because the European model of education goes hand-in-hand with government policy, corporate culture, and union structures. The U.S. is unlikely to mimic the latter three, so the more generalist educational model will dominate.
Why is the government involved in teaching children how to read, write, do arithmetic, and sit in a chair for 8 hours a day, then?
Absolute ideological opposition to government involvement in education - period - is a fringe opinion, that is at best, shared by ~5% of the country - not 50%. (Much of the 50% disagrees about the curriculum, but that's another story.)
For every example you give of a successful college dropout, I can give an example of a successful person who only forced themselves to slog through 12 years of schooling for the sake of social signaling, and not running afoul of truancy laws.
1. Space just to get away and think
2. meeting other people
3. meeting people to date
4. Physical scheduled deadlines to ensure that you complete the task
When the online system provides those, I think it'll be game over.
I can see a hybrid though: my underused hotel turns into a dorm with high bandwidth connection to Stanford's curriculum and the local professor will give coaching when necessary.
5. Luxury student dorms.
6. High-end gym facilities.
7. Junior professional sports (Bonus: pay and benefits for the athletes is peanuts.)
The things I don't like about universities are the hardest to replace.
Having slept in many of those dorms, I would not call them luxurious.
If potential students come to visit a college and the dorms notably look bad, they might get a bad impression of the school, even subconsciously and end up going somewhere else. And if too many students decide to live off campus, it messes with student activities and general sense of school pride (which also messes with future alumni donations) and with the school's bottom line.
While they don't get money, the athletes at top schools do get compensated in plenty of ways, including tuition, access to world class facilities, and individualized attention from coaches and staff.
Just a little bit of context as far as "luxury dorms" go since I see WashU at the top of almost every list. Maybe luxury means your plumbing doesn't break when it gets cold and you don't get athlete's foot from the showers in the shared bathroom.
But they are seeing some pushback, with $1000/month price tags. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-07/texas-a-m...
Your points made me curious, though - it'll be interesting to see if there's a shift to favor a certain type of individual who thrives in an online education system vs traditional, as well as what implications that has for workplace performance.
Would a 2-year, highly internship and industry focused program be able to offer the same social benefits while reducing cost?
I'm not in education atm but have a lot of experience working with students.
This is a real psychological effect even if it's maybe hard for tech types to understand. I think it has to do with the fact that social pressure is avoidable online (you don't have to show up and face the teacher whose work you didn't do). That perception has a strong effect on students; they feel shame for not doing their work even when teachers don't really give a damn about whether they did their homework/project.
Maybe not impossible to overcome, but a real problem. Education disruptors ignore these sorts of strong psychological effects around education at their own peril...
From my personal experience the difference is night and day. And not just for college courses vs online courses, but even for casual offline courses vs online courses.
The data apparently reflects my personal experience. I can't find any of the (numerous) studies I had seen before, but this link alludes to them:
1. Nature...have you tried it?
2. Meetups and other social gatherings around various interests and trades
3. OkCupid, Tinder, etc.
4. ...a job? Jira? One of a number of existing mechanisms for accountability?
There you go! I found game over for you!
As someone who didn't go to college until their late 20s, I would've foregone the whole thing if I could've done it online. I think people overvalue the "go to college after high school" thing just because it's become such an accepted practice, but it's a normality fallacy.
Here's what the latter looks like: http://cds.cern.ch/record/548966/files/0204295.pdf
Unfortunately, the great majority of young people only gets to experience the only former, and they are being cheated and don't even know it.
Even if he is directionally correct, he could be way off on the timing.
Grad schools are now offering online equivalents that are treated seriously (e.g. Georgia Tech especially) at affordable rates.
Even when I had courses in university, sometimes there was an online version of every class. Why spend the effort of going to class, getting ready, when you can just watch everything at 2x playback speed?
There are some classes that require hands on learning. But these are far and inbetween, and mostly are STEM related anyhow. You can't replace the collaborative experience, social connections of a college campus. And wisdom from an instructor, or those connections. But you don't need to go through that twice (grad school - unless for research) and tuition costs for online grad degrees are only lowering down for these
The risk is a mix of a decline in credentialism (eg, no longer wanting a college degree for babysitting or firefighting jobs) and a rise in an independent credentialing bodies (like what actuaries have).
So the credentials are there for Georgia tech, I do not know about the others though.
This is still my argument for in-person lectures. Online classes are okay, but the insights gained from the unexplainable passion presented through oration provides unparalleled value to one's motivation and internal framework.
There are other activities that simply can't be done alone, however: laboratory classes, recitations and interactions where the students engage at a personal level with professors, TA's and other students. This is how students develop relationships that they carry with them past their time in academia.
There is room, I think, for a hybrid approach. A combination of online learning with some kind of periodic on-site and in-person practicum. This drastically lowers the cost of the education, but still engages students on a personal level.
I think one or two days a week for 2 hours is the perfect amount of lab/in-person collaboration time. Combined with an online forum for questions and video lectures, that would be an ideal course of instruction for me.
They would need to think through the recording setup and cant just put a wide angle on the powerpoint and call it a day.
I could see dedicated lab facilities being provided to students taking a MOOC or some other class.
Multiple lab courses are required for a BS in mechanical engineering at UT.
Take electric cars, an example that Christensen has talked about in his books. He viewed electric cars as a disruptive innovation.
However, few of the predictions about the electric car market from this perspective have held up. Tesla, the upstart, attacked the market from the top end, not the bottom end with luxury cars. The company now has formidable competitors in major auto makers including Mercades, and GM. Electric cars are still pricy and appeal to an upmarket customer base willing to sacrifice range for other factors.
Christensen's blueprint for the electric car industry was attack from the bottom. Focus on markets where inexpensive, short range vehicles are an advantage. He offers parents buying a first car for their kids as an example.
But that's not how things have played out. It turns out that replacing a combustion-based powertrain with an electric one allows established players to continue using the same business model that got them where they are. Petroleum companies may be disrupted in the changeover to EVs, but that has little to do with automakers who at the end of the day make a bug hunk of metal and plastic for moving people around and sell it on credit.
It's tempting to think of online universities in much the same way as Christensen thought about electric cars: as a disruptive innovation.
What if online universities are instead sustaining innovations that will allow incumbents to preserve their existing business models (selling prestige and a credential to families with college-age children) while proving hostile to startups hoping to break in?
However, few of the predictions about the electric car market from this perspective have held up
His big solution at the end of the Innovator's Dilemma was GE-style conglomerates that spun off small ventures to test new ideas free from parent companies' economic calculus. But look at where GE and similar corporations mentioned in the book are now. That strategy does nothing to overcome the fundamental impediments to perpetual business success. Failure is inevitable, period. The only real "solution" is a financial market that can quickly reallocate capital to the manifest winners. The more efficient that capital and labor markets become, the less of an advantage large conglomerates will enjoy. But it all comes down to allocation of resources subsequent to the emergence of identifiable market trends.
I never bothered to read his other books because what was the point? He was right in the first-half of the Innovator's Dilemma; everything he wrote after that was a contradiction.
Just this year the University of London has launched a fully on-line BSc in CS, but the MOOC movement has started in 2011 that is seven or eight years ago.
So far, the MOOC movement has basically failed to truly deliver.
In the end Udacity is selling something called "micro-masters" which is a nicer term to indicate "industrial certifications".
If this is how it proceeds, my opinion is that in ten years most universities will still be where they now are, safe and sound.
Something like 30% of the colleges in the US have less than 1,000 students and those are the schools that are in trouble, a drop in enrollment for a school that size is a death knell:
Many of these schools haven't changed their curriculum in decades, in fact they can't even give a reasonable definition to the term "Liberal Arts" and with costs so high parents and students are expecting a little bit more to justify the investment.
Personally I think the way we handle higher education in the US is totally backwards; get the degree and then try to figure out what to do for the rest of your life? What the heck kind of plan is that? If someone came to you with a business plan written like some of these kid's plans for the future would you invest $200,000 in their business? And yet somehow we loan kids money to pursue this plan and/or parents spend the money to fund it. It is absolutely insane that this has gone on as long as it has. Imagine if these kids had to submit a 10-20 year plan before they could take a out a student loan?
Imagine if these kids had to submit a 10-20 year plan before they could take a out a student loan?
In a society like the United States where employees are expendable and life-time employment will involve numerous different companies and positions, there's something to be said for a generalist education. If the U.S. had an industrial policy like Germany than a German-style educational model would make much more sense. But the U.S. has consistently rejected those policies, despite decades of economists of all stripes advising politicians to do so. (The same is true to a lesser extent in the rest of the Anglosphere, which not coincidentally also have higher education models more similar to the U.S. than continental Europe and much of the rest of the world.) Therefore, employers will value the more generalist approach. In the U.S. a 4-year biology degree matters not because of what it says about your knowledge in biology, but largely because it shows you persevered through 2+ years of writing, history, etc. In other words, you had the discipline to take up other subjects you didn't explicitly choose; not only pass their exams but to go to the classes (i.e. show-up!) and do the coursework (obey orders). And, ideally, it would show that you can integrate and apply those disciplines and methodologies to various tasks. (This is more aspirational.)
Do you have a citation for the above increases? There have been big increases at state schools as state governments have reduced funding, but that's mostly over (there's much less state funding to cut now.) Nameplate cost at private institutions has gone up, but net cost to students (actual amounts paid by students after grants and financial aid) has not gone up that much.
>net cost to students (actual amounts paid by students after grants and financial aid) has not gone up that much.
I'm skeptical of that claim and would request a citation as well. College Board says the opposite (tuition and fees increasing faster than aid): https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/10/25/tuition-and-f...
And another important set of expenses to track are non-tuition related expenses; it costs more than ever to rent an apartment and pay for other such expenses today.
Here's the net cost data, showing that the net real cost is only up about 10% over 5 years. Some sub-numbers are even lower. Net tuition for private non-profit schools is _flat_ across the last 15 years ($14,560 in 02-03, $14,540 in 17-18):
My argument is that college prices are up, but largely because of disinvestment by state legislatures, pushing up the perceived cost of college, which allows the private schools to increase their nameplate costs significantly, while using financial aid to keep the actual increases to students in-line with the increases in actual costs for state students.
Another way of looking at it is this: If colleges have been raising tuition astronomically, what have they been doing with the additional money? Additional expenditures on students or facilities are not much changed over the past 10 years. Real expenses per-student are largely flat:
If colleges were jacking prices through the roof to spend way more on unnecessary luxuries or administrators (as the common wisdom would have it), that would show up in the expenditures data, and it's just not there.
I do agree that non-tuition related expenses are an issue, but that's not the university's fault, other than not building dorms fast enough (and dorms are usually pretty expensive, so it's just as likely that the issue is zoning and building restrictions by university town government, rather than university administrators).
But rising economies around the world will produce a lot more high quality students than their home countries' elite universities can absorb, and that will provide enough customers for good quality universities in the US. There will also be a market for children of wealthy families who can't make it into very selective schools. Probably for 30 years+. Beyond that, US schools will face more competition, but a global middle class will continue to grow.
In contrast, the US makes it easier to go back to school past a certain age. So a lot of foreigners go to school here because you basically need enough money to pull it off. There are a lot of fewer things that automatically slam the door shut in your face because you didn't do a thing at age 13 or whatever.
Disclaimer: I haven't read the article. I'm just replying to what is in this comment and agreeing that the US will likely continue to educate the world for the foreseeable future.
“There’s a lot wrong [with American universities]. I’d remove 3/4 of the faculty — everything but the hard sciences. But nobody’s going to do that, so we’ll have to live with the defects. It’s amazing how wrongheaded [the teaching is]. There is fatal disconnectedness. You have these squirrelly people in each department who don’t see the big picture.”
“I think liberal art faculties at major universities have views that are not very sound, at least on public policy issues — they may know a lot of French [however].”
"Teaching people formulas that don’t really work in real life is a disaster for the world.”
- The funnel of how we access learning has changed, and colleges are further down on the bottom of the funnel. Many are already losing money each year.
- Traditional education seems simply not able to keep up with the rate of change in society.
- How the majority of people today learn something, or acquire knowledge/skill/competency seems to be distinctly changing:
1) Find something on Google/Youtube. Failing that,
2) Find a small e-course. Failing that,
3) Find a larger e-course. Failing that,
4) If there's a lot of courses we discover we need, we look for perhaps a micro-credential or small course. Failing that,
5) If our need is beyond what a micro-course can provide, we may look at a program in a community college, polytechnic, etc.
- Academically speaking, the future of education is not solely online, or offline, or blended. These are dated academic concepts that don't cover the 70% of learning that is informal and occurs outside of the classroom. People just find a way to learn now, or share knowledge.
- We can't replace instructors, or instruction, we need to better support the instructors who are willing to learn digital skills. Many refuse. We have a lot of educators trying to use technology but not competent with it's capabilities or possibilities.
- The future of education is about creating better digital learning interactions that can evolve and update with the rate of change of best pracice in a domain. That domain will be digitally supported, whether it's digital classrooms, digital textbooks (of sorts), or digital learning, all powered through human connection.
- Education can't keep up with speed. Lots of topics are emerging and changing faster than ever before. A 2000 year old model of higher education will need to evolve, because knowledge and how to apply it is evolving quicker than traditional education can.
- Traditional colleges, while still very relevant, will have a diminished role in the most emergent or changing educational topics.
This isn't new, but I think the change will come not from the top or the bottom of the pyramid, but from the side at all levels. There are many good pockets of activity occurring, and while they don't make a suit quite yet...
It's important to note that the way university finances / endowments are structured, as well as the demands of alumni make it so that bankruptcy isn't really that simple in higher ed. 
> They're not supposed to be for-profit corporations
I suspect that you don't totally grasp the non-profit vs for-profit distinction. The essential difference between a for-profit and a non-profit is simply that non-profits re-invest their profits into the organization rather than distributing those profits to shareholders. The original intent of this structure was to facilitate philanthropic endeavors (which have pretty much always been self-serving in some subtle way), but just because a non-profit corporation isn't associated with some obvious social benefit doesn't make it any less of a non-profit if it doesn't have shareholders.
It's not always obvious, but Rolex and Ikea are both structured as non-profits (with some for-profit subsidiaries iirc).
They can't distribute to shareholders, but they aren't required to reinvest. What exactly they can do, with profits or more generally, depends on the specific class of nonprofit they are.
There are classes of nonprofits for which this is not true (the NFL, for instance, is one example of a nonprofit for which that is not true), sure, but most of the cases where this comes up about US nonprofits the focus is usually on specifically 501(c)3 charities for which this is specifically, by law, true, as they must be organized and operated for some combination of a specific enumerated list of purposes deemed socially desirable, which is the whole reason that not only are the organizations themselves tax exempt, but donations to them are tax deductible. Relevant to this conversation, that's absolutely the norm for nonprofit institutions of higher education.
That's a fairly non-controversial claim (even regarding specifically 501c3 orgs), but something being actually “beneficial to society” is not the same thing as it being “meant to promote some greater social cause.”
Suppose you are a CS professor at the sort of no-name university that this article is talking about.
Odds are, you're more than qualified for a lot of industry roles (and have former students who would hire you on without blinking). Also, those industry roles have much higher salaries than your teaching gig. However, you stay at No-Name U. because it's a pleasant life and you enjoy teaching.
Then admin comes along and chops half your tenured colleagues. Suddenly, No Name U. is a hellish place to work. Time to leave.
Now multiply that across all of the faculties that have private sector options.
Now notice that those are exactly the majors that are difficult to recruit faculty for in the first place  and, moreover, are exactly majors that students are interested in these days.
That's the risk. At universities, cutting back means firing people. And firing people means low morale. And low morale means losing exactly the people who were going to power your turn-around story.
Can you explain a bit about why you believe that? I could imagine different parties having different goals for the same institution.
He may well be right, but it would be foolish to think that these schools don't see the same data he does, and that they're not going to at least try to address it.
Colleges exist as physical institutions for largely obsolete reasons:
1. Libraries - pre-internet/digitization, a massive amount of human knowledge lived solely in university libraries. The size and contents of a given university's library was a very real driver of its value as an educational institution. That may be marginally true today, especially in the case of rare manuscripts and whatnot, but the competitive advantage of having an expansive library is basically gone.
2. Recruiting - Companies try to recruit new employees at universities for several reasons. First, they're outsourcing basic candidate diligence to admissions committees. Second, they see efficiency in putting the mouth of the candidate funnel where there are lots of smart motivated young people in one place. Third, alumni loyalty to alma mater is often very strong. However, technology (electronic background checks, being able to look at a candidate's repo, etc) has seriously degraded the AdCom's relative value in filtering for people who are smart, not criminals, and can get authority figures to say nice things about them. Similarly, technology has reduced to near-zero the necessity of having face-to-face interaction during the initial stages of the hiring process (employers will always want to do in-person final rounds, but the need for in-person funnel-mouth events like career fairs / company informational presentations / etc no longer exists as it did pre-internet). Alumni loyalty will be far more sticky, but its importance will diminish over time.
3. Professors - just as the competitive moat provided by libraries was largely destroyed by the internet, so too is professor access. You can talk shop with many big-name academics on Twitter; you can watch their lectures on Youtube; they will email you their papers if you email them to ask; etc. Is a Twitter argument the same as visiting someone during their office hours? No, but it's a big improvement on the previous status quo.
I think it's going to be a very, very hard landing for colleges over the next couple decades as young people start making different decisions based on the options available to them.
So far as I am aware, these deeper assets of universities are not under threat. In my experience, people with strong technical skills from non-elite educational routes end up working for people with weak technical skills from elite universities, for a broad variety of reasons (esp. access to capital, comfort in managerial positions). That said, I think we are at risk of seeing the higher education system become increasingly bifurcated: winner-takes-all dynamics gradually centralize power in a tiny number of elite universities (there's a lot of work on this, that 2nd and 3rd tier colleges are under the most financial stress) and a larger 'commodity' higher education system focused on imparting skills (basically extended job training).
This is a pretty good analysis. Here in California, we have the community college system, which I think fits the description of your 'commodity' system quite well. We also have the Cal state schools, which I think don't, as much, but CA does have a unique system compared to a lot of other states.
I spent a lot of time chatting with professors in college, to the point where they would recognize me and we could have long, multi-session discussions we could intermittently return to.
Having a smaller number of "big-name academics" (as judged by what, popularity among their students?) teaching over the internet can't reproduce that, purely because they will be stretched too thin. It can be a different experience, perhaps a better experience in terms of the lecture itself, but the student-professor relationship would definitely be harmed.
Data has shown that companies have continued to use degrees beyond their relation to actual tasks for the job they're hiring for. We've seen decades of evidence that degree inflation is on the rise, signalled by vacancies requiring a bachelor degree while the tasks are high school level. You can see this either by doing a qualitative analysis, e.g. running surveys among employees and categorising their job complexity and linking it to an educational level. Here you find e.g. many administrative jobs which an 18 year old with 2 weeks of on the job training can do, require one to finish a 3 year bachelor in just about anything, first. But the more common methodology is a quantitative one that's a little less accurate, but easier to perform. Survey existing employees at a large firm about their educational credentials, then survey vacancies for people in similar positions at such firms. You'll find various occupations where 60% of vacancies require a certain credential that only 20% of the employees have, indicating that many companies require credentials that are apparently not necessary. And this is on the rise.
Then you can wonder why, and the answer is because they can. If you can choose between a large pool of people who meet minimum qualifications, you have the luxury to select overqualified people.
And that tendency by human resource managers isn't going to change anytime soon, especially not when there's no significant salary premium companies have to pay to get a person with a college graduate to do highschool level work, over hiring a high school graduate. And I don't see that changing anytime soon with increasing competitive pressure from technological advancement and globalisation.
In the end, a college degree is moving more towards a signalling device that shows socioeconomic background and interpersonal aspects such as grit, stability, delayed gratification, and is less and less about signalling subject matter knowledge, academic competencies etc. HR focuses more and more on the former and not on the latter, when requiring a college degree.
As online education is more accessible and easier (i.e., less financially straining, less psychologically straining, less socially challenging, but rather at-your-own-pace learning behind your computer from anywhere), it's typically viewed as not signalling the former aspects I just mentioned (grit, delayed gratification) but mostly signalling the latter (knowledge etc).
That's why I don't necessarily think that online education is going to supplant colleges from the outside as fast as we think. Of course it'll take over eventually, but I think it'll be slow and will happen more from the inside, by existing colleges, not just through disruption of new startups which will bankrupt existing colleges.
Precisely because of a growing number of companies which have stopped using college-degree requirements to hire for knowledge, and have started to require college degrees to select for 'the type of person who has the background and personal traits to be able to survive and complete college', which online education doesn't signal as well.
First, "in his recent book" refers to his 2011 book . And Christensen has been prophesying this general bankruptcy "in the next decade" since that time. 
In any case it's interesting to think about the larger argument of the future of traditional higher education in general versus online education.
Bryan Caplan's thesis that (the state should cut funding for higher education because) higher education is mostly about signalling 3 things is a good tool. He argues that higher education signals a combination of intelligence, conscientiousness and conformity. The combination of the 3 is crucial for the model. 
Online education, and more generally self-education, fails on the conformity side. Companies do not want in general to risk such non-conformists, when they can hire from a stream of fresh graduates (smart, hard-working and relatively conformist).
Also, I think the socialization, friendships and networking that happen in the university are extremely valuable and not easily replaced by online education (where and with who can a smart, driven 18 year old hang out while studying and learning for 4 years on MOOCs and textbooks?)
And in addition, I hope, traditional universities are starting to improve their teaching methods (eg, flipped classroom, peer instruction) to multiply the pedagogical and motivational value they offer vs MOOCs.
For online education to replace traditional higher ed, it might require taking into account these factors. Could something like workspaces for freelancers or remote workers - but for studying - replace the traditional institution and the above benefits? Such that, for example, you would not be seen as an extreme non-conformist by not enrolling in a university?
Also, outside the US, tuition costs is often much lower. An online STEM degree, say a certified online masters in software engineering such as coursera or edx, could easily be more expensive than regular (or even the best) university.
(To be clear, he argues that from the individual's perspective, university is still net positive, if you have what it takes to finish the degree and don't get too much in debt. It's the state that should cut funding since it's inflating credentials.)
I'm reminded of some sci-fi stories I read in my youth about futuristic societies where nobody interacted in person and babies came from the lab. At the time the notion of people not having sex and babies anymore seemed far fetched. Now... maybe not so unlikely after all.