In a previous post, I discussed how Uber, the online rideshare company, is disrupting the traditional taxi industry. As promised, here is my plan for how to truly disrupt the traditional higher education industry in the United States.

First, the entities that control the institutions must be neutralized. In the taxi industry, it was the local and state governance of the taxi drivers and companies. For education, that is the Department of Education and Accreditors. Sure, you might say, that is no easy task to make the DOE and Accreditors no longer relevant. I tell you, it is quite simple; and here is how.

The DOE controls the money through Title IV funding and the accreditors are a gateway to the money. Furthermore, accreditors provide some artificial seal of approval as to the quality of a program, thus allowing transferability among institutions and access to advanced degrees. So, take away the money and much of the power disappears.

Those of us in higher education know the reliance on Title IV funding is unhealthy and has caused the price of education to outpace most other industries several fold. But how do institutions drop their dependence on the new social welfare of Title IV funding? I don’t think most can. That is why we need new institutions. And those new institutions must initially come from corporate training programs.

Diploma from Hamburger University

Diploma from Hamburger University

Hold on! Here is where the conversation gets wild. Take Hamburger University, the McDonalds training program based outside of Chicago. Each year over 7,500 students attend Hamburger University and receive training that is ACE evaluated for transfer into traditional academic programs. It would not take much for McDonalds to offer enough general education requirements allowing students to earn a degree. But would the Higher Learning Commission allow McDonalds to become “an accredited institution” without jumping through years of costly self-study and bureaucratic BS?

Nope. But in my model, they would not need to.

Why? They are self-sustaining through funds from the corporation. They don’t need access to Title IV funds.

The last hurdle of non-regionally accredited universities is for their graduates to continue their education. Right now, several regionally accredited institutions will allow non-accredited and nationally accredited Bachelor degree graduates to enroll and pursue a Master’s degree. Pressure to compete will bring hundreds more willing to accept our graduates from this alternative model. While some might laugh and discredit the McDegree, I bet you a big Mac you won’t be laughing in the future.

This article was written by me and originally posted on The EvoLLLution

The Promise

Many young men and women signed up for the military with a promise of access to educational benefits during their active duty and when they became veterans.

The Challenge

Having served as a military liaison for several institutions, I understand the complexity and frustration of trying to navigate the multitude of benefits programs when it actually comes time to enroll. Compounding the problem is the inconsistency with which colleges and universities award credit for both military-specific training and prior college courses.

Finding a Solution

military educationThis month, more than 100 stakeholders gathered in Arlington, VA to discuss how to help servicemembers engage and navigate the college application and acceptance process. Giving veterans a jump-start on their college careers and a well-defined path will increase their recruitment, retention and graduation rates.

Much of the information talked about in the education circles, however, never makes it to the veterans who wish to attend college.

Having worked with the Coast Guard and National Guard, I was familiar with a software program many education officers used to capitalize on the SOC agreements and the college credit military members can receive for their professional training to shorten the time to and cost for the degree. What makes this service different is it offers unbiased, institution-agnostic counseling that looks at any previous college credits, military and corporate training and prior learning to provide a list of options for the student based on the degree they seek. This can literally save the student years of college and thousands of dollars in tuition.

You can find out more about this program at www.

Want to know more? Read my complete article on this subject at The EvoLLLution.

Photo by Roy Cox/Courtesy of University of Maryland University College

My parents live in the mountains of West Virginia; it is where I grew up. Recently, there was a chemical leak into the public water system that shut down nine counties in southern West Virginia. The event has been shrouded in controversy about how and why Freedom Industries allowed 7,500 gallons of 4-methlcyclohezane methanol (MCHM) to leak into the Elk River that supplies water to over 300,000 people.

Poisoned Water in West Virginia

Poisoned Water in West Virginia

Matt Stroud (@ssttrroouudd), who lives in the area, wrote an interesting article that gives both the factual account of what happened along with his personal account of how this impacted his family. Although there is enough blame to go around, this accident highlights is just how fragile some of the very basic infrastructure systems actually are.

This got me wondering whether there are any areas of higher education that could be this vulnerable. Any institution that has a significant online presence knows two minutes of unplanned downtime creates a panic and results in hundreds of frantic calls to the help desk. I have seen institutions switching learning management systems have to shut down for two weeks, locking students out from their work. Consider the potential for state authorization to wreak havoc. I am not sure many people truly know or understand the various implications of compliance for institutions of higher education.

Perhaps the biggest threat to hundreds, if not thousands of institutions, however, is Title IV funding. While there is a constant threat of reducing funding, Pell and other programs have weathered the storm. Currently, the government controls how, when, and to whom the funds are dispersed.  Can you imagine the fall out if the federal government decided to give the funds directly to the student instead of giving the funds to the institution for disbursement?  Or even worse, what if the feds instituted subjective criteria like quality as a means for allocating student aid?

Whitehouse College Score Card

White House College Score Card

If you think this could never happen, then you should check out the White House website on higher education, complete with an institutional scoreboard and a promise to shift federal funds to institutions that are the most cost effective at delivering degrees.

To keep tuition from spiraling too high and drive greater value, the President has proposed reforms to federal campus-based aid programs to shift aid away from colleges that fail to keep net tuition down, and toward those colleges and universities that do their fair share to keep tuition affordable, provide good value, and serve needy students well. These changes in federal aid to campuses will leverage $10 billion annually to help keep tuition down.

While the intent behind this change is good, inevitably there are some unintended yet significant implications for-profit institutions and private not-for-profit liberal arts institutions that rely so heavily on federal student loans because their tuition costs are well beyond community colleges and most state institutions.

West Virginians could not dream of the impact a leak from one plant would have on the most basic elements of their daily life – water. While I have speculated what might be higher education’s 4-methlcyclohezane methanol in the water, no one really knows what will happen. But I have a feeling it could be big.

Average College tuition

When I recently read the August 26, 2013 edition of The New Yorker, I was enthralled with James Surowiechi’s article titled “Clawback” in which he describes the current contention over lobster prices and the impact the price has on the consumer, restaurants and lobstermen. I use the word enthralled because as I was reading, the connections between the price of lobster and innovating education became so evident to me.  Here’s how:

Glut of Lobsters Bring Prices Down

Glut of Lobsters Bring Prices Down (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

Although several factors influence the wholesale price, in 2005, the price for lobsters off the boat was over $6 per pound. In 2009, however, it was less than half of that and this month lobsters were selling for as low as $2.20 per pound. As I am not a lobster fan, I have not been following lobster prices, but notice that the price of lobster on restaurant menus remains outrageously high, in spite of the low wholesale prices. Why? Pricing psychology. Lobster is perceived and priced as a luxury item and lowering its cost could diminish its status as the reining king of elegant entrees.

There are a multitude of new initiatives aimed at making college more affordable, yet tuition continues to rise. Although most institutions spend a large portion of their budget and their administrator’s time strategizing about ways to increase efficiencies and reduce costs, and some have been successful by replacing full-time faculty with adjuncts and implementing online programs, they continue to charge exorbitant prices to the students.

Maybe higher education is like the lobster industry: if we make it affordable, people will not see perceive it as quality. So our students, like the customers in a restaurant, will continue to over-pay for perceived quality, and the institutions, like restaurant owners, are banking on it.

Rising Cost of Tuition

Rising Cost of Tuition

Given the inability of higher education to change in general, if we want to make education more affordable, then we need to stop buying overpriced lobster and let the market drive the prices down.

There are alternatives emerging that challenge the very core of higher education; MOOCs, mandated transferability of courses and the emergence of para-educators, to just name a few. I think it is time for us to rethink the value of choosing the lobster and consider ordering the tilapia, coconut-encrusted, of course.

Tell me what you think about the rising cost of tuition and what you think could be done?