Education budgets have been subjected to substantial cuts during the recent economic crisis while tuition rates have climbed, making higher education less affordable and leading to widespread teacher layoffs at the Primary and Secondary level.
Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett recently cut the Pennsylvania school budget 900 million dollars and state University budget another 600 million. Similarly, according to the Jackson Clarion Ledger, Mississippi schools have been underfunded "by 230 to 250 million per year" under what the law requires. Student protests on California university campuses to protest California 750 million dollars in budget cuts have been raging in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, a quiet revolution in education is taking place through websites such as the www.khanacademy.org which make education tutorials available totally free in subjects such as math, art history and banking. Washington Monthly claims that new developments in online education could be 'great for students and catastrophic for universities.'
Online courses are becoming more widely available and accepted. According to the Babson Research Group's 2011 report on online education, 31% of US students are taking at least one online course. Read more here:
Stanford Professor Sebastian Thrun made history last fall when more than 160,000 students signed up for his class on Artificial Intelligence. Courses such as this are offered for free and some for a small fee at www.udemy.com and at www.udacity.com
So this brings up a couple of important questions: Why spend thousands of dollars and go heavily into debt for something that can be found for free or very cheaply online? Will the cutbacks in education funding combined with tuition hikes be the death knell of the traditional university system? Either way, students should carefully weigh the costs and benefits of traditional education platforms and decide carefully whether 15,000 dollars or more per year is really worth it.