Why FREE Community College is Costly Mistake?

When professor Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School published his bestselling book, “The Innovators Dilemma,” in 1997, he added the term “disruptive innovation” to the popular lexicon. Using case studies from multiple and diverse industries, Christensen showed with astonishing consistency what happens when disruptive innovations occur at the confluence of other societal or cultural trends and how these can push existing business models off a precipice.

We saw this 15 years ago with the advent of the MP3 and the ability to share digital music files. These were cool and accessible technologies, true. But what made them game-changers was the public’s unhappiness with the music industry’s business model. Consumers longed for a different way to buy and enjoy music. Musicians loathed the morass of manipulative contracts and impenetrable royalty accounting that made a misery out of their careers.

This was an opportunity waiting to be seized. Shawn Fanning, John Fanning and Sean Parker seized it with the creation of Napster, which gave music producers and consumers the power to bypass all of that with peer-to-peer file sharing. Notwithstanding the initial legal battles won by the recording industry, the old business model was defunct. (iTunes, anyone?)

Higher education stands today in much the same position as the recording industry did 20 years ago.

College tuition increases have been outpacing inflation now for almost four decades. Readily available student loans began in the late 1970s. Coincidence? No. Student loans were supposed to make college more affordable. (Sound familiar?) Instead, this “third-party payer” system gave colleges and universities carte blanche to start jacking up tuition, as students began borrowing rather than paying up front. Students, in turn, demanded more services, nicer dorms and better facilities. Departments insisted upon creating new programs and more faculty lines. And so the upward spiral began; once those costs are in place, they don’t go away.

But skyrocketing tuition is just one strike against the traditional college education model. Other trends are eroding public confidence in the system: the proliferation of meaningless degrees that hold little promise of gainful employment; the protracted adolescence that college has become, with endless partying and substance abuse; and the sexually irresponsible “hook-up” culture, just to name a few. Americans in ever-larger numbers have begun asking why this is worth saddling themselves with a five- or six-figure debt.

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