The higher education bubble is bursting one awesome idea at a time.
Enter MissionU, a one-year vocational program that turns the traditional college model on its head. It was recently featured in National Review by Cornell University history Professor Barry Stuart Strauss, who summed up the program:
Discovering MissionU the other day made me both sad and glad. MissionU is a one-year vocational-training program that serves as an alternative to college. It’s just one example of a larger trend of job-focused programs in place of university degrees. It makes me sad because students who opt for vocational training are denied the benefits of a liberal education; glad because students who complete their higher education in a year dodge a big debt bullet while also training for a job; sad because the goal of higher education for all works better in theory than in practice; sad also because liberal education isn’t what it used to be.
More about all that in a moment, but first, let’s talk about MissionU, where the focus is on data analysis and business intelligence. That suits its location in San Francisco, gateway to Silicon Valley. Most of MissionU’s courses are online, but students are required to live in the Bay Area in order to take part in regular live-group experiences. And they pay no tuition until they land a job with a salary of $50,000 a year. Then a student pays 15 percent of before-tax income in monthly installments for three years, for a minimum total of $22,500. That’s not nothing, but it’s less than four years of tuition and fees at most institutions.
Neither MissionU nor other alternative-college programs can replace a quality college education. But they can serve a population that is ill-served by four-year college, while also offering a more job-focused experience than is found in most two-year colleges. …
MissionU surely offers a more focused vocational experience than does community college. I have no idea whether MissionU will succeed, and I’m sure that it’s not the only answer to the problems of higher education today. But I think it’s on the right path, and I’m confident that there will be other programs like it. In fact, there already are.