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Roshan Khan, a product manager for Google and 2006 Georgia Tech grad, believes the move could revolutionize post-graduate education.
"I think higher education overall is fairly broken and exceedingly expensive, so I appreciate that they’re changing the business model," says Khan, who's now enrolled in the University of Washington's Professional Masters Program. "But also, this is only a masters degree. People still have to earn their undergrad degrees. What this will probably do is become a very competitive offering for people looking to obtain a masters from a respectable school."
He's probably right. Until now, the nation's top schools have taken a careful, if not detached, approach to the massive open online courses (MOOCs) movement. MIT, Harvard, Yale and Stanford put a bunch of classes online for free, but don't offer a legitimate degree for those who finish.
Education author Tony Bates recently noted that until elite colleges start rewarding MOOC students with a bona fide diploma, “we have to believe that they think that this is a second class form of education suitable only for the unwashed masses.”
Slate's Gabriel Khan says universities typically charge the same rate for online classes as those held on brick-and-mortar campuses in fear of devaluing their education offering.
"Drop the price of the online degree, the logic goes, and you could have a Napster-like moment sweeping college campuses," he writes. "Revenues spiral down as degree programs are forced to compete on tuition. That’s a terrifying prospect for universities, which have depended on steadily rising tuition — growing at more than twice the rate of inflation — to cover costs."
Roshan Khan says that's why it was smart of Georgia Tech to come out with a cheap, all-online masters degree as opposed to an undergrad offering.
"That means you still have to earn your bachelors, you still have to pay for school the traditional way," he says. "But who knows how much even that will change. I think in 10 years, higher education will look completely different than it looks today."
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