The current woes of higher education have been ascribed to declines in endowment and a much more competitive market for intellectual capital. People just aren’t willing to pay huge amounts of money for a credential that doesn’t give them real marketable skills any more.
Those are serious factors, but there’s a bigger threat. The process of knowledge exchange and mentoring is rapidly going online, not only through posted documents but over collaborative platforms. People are learning skills for which no degree granting course exists and without going to universities. I’ve seen projects formed, software built, meetings held and mentoring proceed apace without the participants ever meeting each other once in person. Sooner or later this process will reach a critical mass and begin to rival the formal schooling system, at least in certain spheres. How much longer before students begin wondering whether the Ivy League model will be ripped apart by the digital revolution?
I teach more economics on-line than I do in the classroom.