Welcome To The Brave New World Of Higher Education

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Introduction to Artificial Intelligence is being offered online this fall, free of charge, to “students” around the world. The introductory class is historically one of the largest at Stanford University, with about 200 students. In a YouTube overview of the online class, professor Sebastian Thrun explains that his goal is to have about 200,000 online students and make it “the largest online AI class ever taught.”

As of this writing, almost 90,000 people have signed up. The Stanford campus is home to about 15,000 students.

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For Profit Education

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I teach (primarily) in a non-subsidized graduate program; in other words, our tuition includes no state subsidy. I have doubts about whether or not we should continue to call the University of Washington a “public” institution, since less than 50 percent of undergraduate tuition is subsidized by public dollars, if I remember my faculty briefings correctly.

But we are not a private for-profit educational institution.

It turns out that private for-profit educational institutions — a growth industry — may not be the solution to higher education challenges (access to seats). In May, The Economist noted that a trader who sells short “warned investors that for-profit colleges could echo subprime mortgages.” Continue reading