Super Cities №149 — The Moral Case for Disrupting College

Brendan Hart

One Big Thing

Between 1997 and 2017, American college tuition fees increased by a staggering 170%

As the product of a working-class upbringing, I was taught to view a college education as a way up and out.

Without a college degree, the thinking went, I’m only as professionally valuable as my manual labor. With a college degree, though, I could explore worlds that my uneducated forefathers could barely imagine.

This set of beliefs led to me to view a college education as a moral marker. It was my family duty — my civic responsibility — to get a college degree.

This thinking, while noble, fails to ask an essential question: at what price?

At what price is it my civic responsibility to get a college degree?

My fear is that, although subconscious for many of us, our collective answer has been any price.

We will pay any price for this all-important, rooted-in-societal-values credential.

But being price-blind is immoral. Everything of value must be measured against its cost.

Just because it is associated with advancement, we cannot treat the cost of education differently than, say, the costs of childcare or medical care.

By that standard, the idea that college tuition has gone up 170% — nearly twice the cost of healthcare — in 20 years is insane. It’s absurd. It’s wrong. It’s immoral.

So here’s a wild idea: instead of a single American college education system, whose costs go up and to the right faster than any other industry, we create competitive education systems (plural).

These systems encourage innovation and creativity; some will fail while others, like Lambda, will change lives.

The result is better, personalized education for more people at — wait for it — lower costs.

Call me crazy, but instead of poisonous blue birds, this sounds like capitalism working at its best.

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