Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What If?

Last Wednesday, I gave a one-hour presentation for PricewaterhouseCoopers. The partner and I had talked about a topic and finally decided on “College Education Over the Next Ten Years” since I do a lot of thinking about how education as we know it will evolve.

I decided to end this program by making a few predictions. I thought that seemed appropriate. And, it would be fun. To generate discussion (or debate), I made a few of them rather far out. But, on the whole, I really did believe that most would come to pass in one form or another. So, I figured I could throw out my predictions to you today and let you ponder them a bit.

Because the first one is central to my overall view of the future, I decided to include just it today. In the next day or so, I’ll give you all of the rest of my predictions. Remember, though, that these are for the next ten years. And, as we all know, over 10 years a lot can happen given the fast pace of change in the world today.

Here is my first prediction. I do not really have an answer for the question that I raise but I think it is worth considering.

I predict that in the next 10 years, Google (or a company like Google) will announce that by 2020 at the latest, it will provide a Harvard-quality education to an infinite number of people around the world for a flat fee of (let’s say) $10,000 per year.

Why Google?
--The company is in the information conveyance business.
--The company likes to make money and there is an enormous amount of money to be made in college education.
--The company has the cash and other resources necessary to get the enterprise up and running.
--The company is innovative and likes challenges.
--The company has a great reputation so it would not have as much trouble selling its product.
--The company likes to change the world and this would really change the world

“an infinite number of people around the world”
“Harvard-quality education”
“$10,000 per year”

Sounds like science fiction. But is it that unbelievable?

But here is the question that I would throw out to you today for your consideration. If Google made this announcement tomorrow, how would the colleges and universities of the US react? Would it just be “no worry” for them or would they be “scared to death?” To my knowledge, they have never had that type of extreme competition and, in a capitalistic economy, don’t we all believe that organizations are made better by fierce competition? How would Harvard, Duke, the University of Illinois, etc. react to that announcement? Seems like a legitimate question to consider.

Okay – I will throw out the remainder of the predictions that I made in the next day or so.

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