Start your own college

Posted on October 6, 2011 by

A recent Financial Times article says: Funding woes sap quality of US education.

In the aftermath of the recession and resulting high unemployment, many young people in the US have seen university as a refuge from a difficult job market. But learning marketable skills has become more expensive as the cost of attending public school has gone up…

Debt loads are also growing. Student loans jumped to $550bn in the second quarter of 2011 compared with $90bn in 1999, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York…

“One of our concerns is that college and universities are moving more into a market system rather than producing knowledge for benefit of society,” said John Curtis, director of public policy at the American Association of University Professors. “These things are pushing higher education in the direction of how much can someone earn rather than what they have a passion for.”

So why is there this dichotomy? If there were any true market in college degrees, the more economically-valuable ones would cost more than the others. Why should I pay the same for a dirt-cheap classics degrees as for a business management degree? If it costs more to run one program, shouldn’t you charge more to students to enroll in that program?

In fact, things are moving in that direction. From the NYT:

Should an undergraduate studying business pay more than one studying psychology? Should a journalism degree cost more than one in literature? More and more public universities, confronting rising costs and lagging state support, have decided that the answers may be yes and yes.

Critics say that this move changes higher education from a public good to a professional service. This is a change? Has it not long been the case that professional training has infiltrated and even overrun the liberal arts and humanities? That higher education is now seen primarily as part of a professional-generation scheme, in the same way that primary education is now seen as a worker-generation scheme?

For those of us who truly value the liberal arts, what is the solution? How can we avoid paying $25K/year for our children to read Dickens, study the Peloponnesian War and the Reformation, and parse Latin grammar? I think the solution is a simple one: start our own online college. Why not? It costs next-to-nothing if you limit the scope, utilize volunteers, and stick to public domain works. Think of it as a “college cooperative”.

Crazy talk? Hardly. People are already doing it, all over the USA. It would be aimed primarily at adults interested in expanding their knowledge and vocational students who want to “top up” their professional training with the classics.

What do you need to start your own college?

  • Professors to run the courses, all possessing a postgraduate degree. Please note that these people must run the courses for accreditation, but they do not have to design the courses.
  • An online forum, where daily coursework can be posted and students/faculty can interact.
  • A course of study as an Associates of Arts (AA), in a two-year plan. Where applicable, courses should take care to teach the material required to pass the CLEP for that subject, to make the credits more transferable to other colleges.
  • Money. Money to finance the forum, money to pay accreditation (after the first student has graduated) and licensing fees (at the start), etc. It wouldn’t be much, but it would have to be something.

What would the Course of Study be?

Year Semester Subject
1 Fall Composition


Latin I

Great Books I*

Spring Logic


Latin II

Great Books II

Summer Rhetoric



Great Books III

2 Fall Statistics


Art History I

Great Books IV

Spring Calculus


Art History II

Great Books V

Summer Machine Logic

Music History

Earth Science & Astronomy

Great Books VI

*Great Books is the study of classics of philosophy, history, literature, government, and economics.

Posted in: Education