Implications of Georgia Tech’s new $7,000-per-year Masters degree in computer science
The Wall Street Journal reports on something that is of interest to all Christians.
Anyone who cares about America’s shortage of computer-science experts should cheer the recent news out of Georgia Tech. The Atlanta university is making major waves in business and higher education with its May 14 announcement that the college will offer the first online master’s degree in computer science—and that the degree can be had for a quarter of the cost of a typical on-campus degree. Many other universities are experimenting with open online courses, or MOOCs, but Georgia Tech’s move raises the bar significantly by offering full credit in a graduate program.
It comes just in time. A shortfall of computer-science graduates is a constant refrain in Silicon Valley, and by 2020 some one million high-tech job openings will remain unfilled, according to the Commerce Department.
That’s why Georgia Tech’s online degree, powered by Udacity, is such a game-changer. For the same $7,000 a year that New York City spends per student on school buses, you can now get a master’s from one of the most well-respected programs in the country. Moore’s Law says these fees should drop to $1,000 by 2020—a boon for students and for the economy.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could fire the majority of college professors and just keep the ones who are actually good at teaching students? Online education puts the focus back on teaching students – not on doing research, which may not be very useful for finding a job in any case. I had to do a lot of research for my Masters degree in computer science, and I applied little of what I researched to real life. The course work was far more useful to me in my career, and that’s why I went to university.
MOOCs will inevitably come to K-12 education too. Everyone knows great public school teachers. But we also all know the tenured type who has been mailing it in for years. Parents spend sleepless nights trying to rearrange schedules to get out of Mr. Bleh’s fourth-period math class. Online education is about taking the “best in class” teachers and scaling them to thousands or millions of students rather than 25-30 at a time.
The union-dominated teaching corps can be expected to be just as hostile as college professors to moving K-12 to MOOCs. But a certain financial incentive will exist nonetheless. I noted this in a talk recently at an education conference where the audience was filled with people who create education software and services.
I began by pointing out that in 2011 only 7.9% of 11th graders in Chicago public schools tested “college ready.” That’s failure, and it’s worse when you realize how much money is wasted on these abysmal results. Chicago’s 23,290 teachers—who make an average salary of $74,839, triple U.S. per capita income and 50% more than median U.S. household income—cost Chicago taxpayers $1.75 billion out of the city’s $5.11 billion budget.
Why not forget the teachers and issue all 404,151 students an iPad or Android tablet? At a cost of $161 million, that’s less than 10% of the expense of paying teachers’ salaries. Add online software, tutors and a $2,000 graduation bonus, and you still don’t come close to the cost of teachers. You can’t possibly do worse than a 7.9% college readiness level.
When I made this proposal, only slightly facetiously, in a roomful of self-described education entrepreneurs, it was if I’d said that Dewey had plagiarized his decimal system. I was upbraided for not understanding the plight of teachers. The plight of students, as is too often the case in discussions of education, didn’t seem to rate the same concern.
Online education is one of the forces that gives me hope for the future. The faster we take money away from leftists in the academy, the better things will be. Right now, a whole lot of people are buying useless degrees for far too much money. It’s even worse when you consider university administrators and other educational bureaucrats, who have inflated salaries and contribute nothing to a student’s real capabilities. The humanities are dominated by secular leftists, and should be totally overthrown by online competitors who will be more responsive to customers than left-wing tenured radicals.