Major changes may radically transform how people get higher education, and that may have significant changes on the unconstitutional policies many state universities impose to regulate and suppress unpopular student speech on campus. One author, Nathan Harden, recently predicted what these possible changes would look like:
In fifty years, if not much sooner, half of the roughly 4,500 colleges and universities now operating in the United States will have ceased to exist. The technology driving this change is already at work, and nothing can stop it. The future looks like this: Access to college-level education will be free for everyone; the residential college campus will become largely obsolete; tens of thousands of professors will lose their jobs; the bachelor’s degree will become increasingly irrelevant; and ten years from now Harvard will enroll ten million students.
Harden predicts these factors will drive the changes – huge, unsustainable student debt, the rise of MOOCs (massive open online courses), as well as a growing sense that many of the majors for bachelor’s degrees do not help students significantly in finding work. Right now, individual student debt is at an all time high, Harden said, at $23,000. For students completing graduate schools, like law school, the debt load can be far higher. This means that more and more students are questioning the wisdom and value of going deeply into debt in order to earn a bachelor’s degree that does not substantial increase one’s opportunity to get a job. Universities are confronting price resistance, making them think twice about raising tuition because students are less likely to borrow money to pay the increased costs.
Also, more and more universities are putting their courses online, for free. Universities are finding that some of the courses are very popular. Students could take Harvard courses without ever stepping on campus at Cambridge. But could students earn degrees this way, with no direct personal interaction with their professors? Is this the future of the university? We will see the answers to these questions worked out in the near future.
What this points to is that market forces, that is, the growing reluctance of students to pay increasing costs, will force change at universities, or many will not survive. Students could possibly use this market clout to pressure universities to abandon their unconstitutional speech codes, speech zones, mandatory student fees, etc. Those are the fruit of liberal ideologues controlling higher education. They have been able to assume for years that students would submit to the restrictions on their freedoms without question, and dutifully continue to pay the increased costs. That willingness by students is beginning to vanish as they ask why they should go into debt to be subjected to such unconstitutional policies. Students need to flex their financial muscles. At least some universities will modify or abandon these policies if it is the difference between continuing the university, or laying off professors, or even closing their doors.