Could this pop the education bubble?

I found myself in a interesting discussion about a month ago with another guy about my age and two current college students.  We talked about a wide array of topics but at some point along the way we got on to the subject of their experiences as current college students.  I made mention of the idea that the patterns last seen in the housing crisis of 2008 are repeating themselves in higher education, namely debt that is too easy to acquire driving prices higher and making it too easy to too many people to make poor decisions.  The question we couldn’t answer was: what happens when that bubble pops?  In the housing bubble, the underlying asset was devalued and the government pumped in massive amounts of money to those companies deemed too big to fail.  What is the asset to devalue in the case of college education?
I’m still not sure of the answer, but I do think we’ll all learn what it is sooner rather than later.  Colleges and Universities have been loosing their grip on two of the three things that make them unique over the last few decades: the chance to form a world class network (see LinkedIn) and access to knowledge (see Google).  The one thing that has kept them going is the credential, aka the diploma, degree or certificate.  College enrollment has continued to climb (and debt along with it) despite the growing sense that its not worth the time or money for the simple reason that the only way to get most good jobs is by having that piece of paper.  Employers would love to find a better system, since they know that at best the paper tells them what the applicant was interested in and at worst all it tells them that the applicant can at least “show up” for two to four years.
Well, the monopoly on the credential may be coming to an end with start-ups like Praxis.  I ran into them a few years ago at a home school convention, thought it was an interesting idea, but didn’t really give it much more thought.  They came into my awareness again yesterday when I listened to the interview that one of their founding team members, Zak Slayback, did on the School Sucks Project.  In some ways, to continue the housing bubble analogy, what Praxis is doing seems a little like the tiny house movement: don’t worry about brand names, focus on what you need and don’t get into debt doing it.  I think Praxis, or something like it, will be the pin that pops the education bubble.  Like all bubbles (aka pyramid schemes) it’s the most recent ones to buy in that will pay the biggest price.






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