Many will be driven by the internet, an area both existing higher education establishments and start-ups are starting to utilize. Some are modest—a webcast of an 8 a.m. class that students can watch from their apartments.
Others such as Stanford University have embraced free online courses. There were16 classes offered last fall.
California Gov. Jerry Brown jumped into the mix this week when he announced that San Jose State will offer three low-cost online courses that will cost just $150 per class. Books will not be required—a huge savings and classes will earn college credits.
The governor reached out to education entrepreneur Sebastian Thrun, the co-founder and CEO of Udacity, which offers free online classes. Thrun has agreed to partner with San Jose State and registration will open next week. Initial classes will be limited to 100 students and will include contact with San Jose State faculty.
The governor is to be commended for this pilot program. It offers the potential of providing remedial classes online to high school graduates who need help in English or math before starting college-level work. Getting those classes on a community college site can be very challenging because of the number of students who need them. Offering them online dramatically improves access for students as well as freeing up college resources (faculty and facilities) for college-level classes.
Thrun is an expert in artificial intelligence and holds a doctorate. At Google, he led the team that developed the driverless car and continues to lead Google X. He's been a professor and a research professor at Stanford. Bottom line: He is a heavy hitter in both cutting edge research and has worked in the multiple disciplines necessary to develop a driverless car or robots capable of helping elderly patients. To read more about Thrun, Google him and look for the Wall Street Journal piece on him last fall.
Here's hoping the pilot program works well and expands rapidly. To use a phrase popular in Washington D.C., the current trajectory of college costs is unsustainable.
Newly sworn-in Congressman Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, has hit the ground running in Washington D.C. He won appointment as an assistant whip in the House of Representatives, a slot that will be interesting during the various machinations that can be expected around spending and entitlements with Democrats controlling the Senate and the presidency while the Republicans are solid in the house.
More interestingly, he appeared on Fox News as a spokesperson for the further regulating guns and particularly so-called assault weapons. His status as a former Alameda County deputy district attorney undoubtedly helped. He held his own in the debate with Sean Hannity of Fox News. Swalwell described himself as the son of a gun-owning hunter and an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment.