Incentive Alignment in Education

I think one of the biggest problems in the education sector is the massive misalignment between independent stakeholders. This, of course, is an extremely complicated issue, divided amongst numerous parties including governments, teachers, private institutions, parents, employers and, of course, students.

I attended public elementary, middle and high school and now, as a Junior in college, attend a private University. I am privileged and lucky enough to have had the opportunity to live in a neighborhood with an above-average public schooling system and I realize that with that, I carry bias and hindsight bias. I am pro-education. I am pro-learning (I love learning).

But one question I find myself asking more and more, as I go through the ranks of college (and soon onto the “real world)…is when will the education bubble burst? Perhaps this is a bit trite of an expression, but I cannot imagine a world, 50 years from now, where students are expected to pay the ungodly sum of tuition as so many are forced into today.

According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017–2018 school year was$34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.
Do you think this will last?
And honestly…if we are being intellectually honest with ourselves, what is the real purpose of college?
Once again, we are faced with a challenging question to answer. A $160,000 question for many incoming college freshman. A question that likely has no right answer and one that is largely influenced by a student’s parents, friends, etc. A question society asks an 18 year old to answer.
It is a question that I think a lot of people screw up. I think it is a question a lot of people avoid.
And if we are really being honest with ourselves, it is question that I think no one really knows the answer to.
Is the purpose of college to learn? 
If so, what specifically?
Is the purpose of college to make money? 
Surely there must be a more direct route.
Is the purpose of college to have tons of fun? 
Let’s be honest with ourselves then?
Is the purpose of college something more abstract that we cannot really measure? 
These are the questions going through my head as I sit as a junior in college. Luckily, I (emphasize extremely luckily) earned a scholarship to where I go to school. I am forever grateful for that opportunity…but even now, as I sit 4 years in school…I ask myself these questions.
I wonder what the future of school will look like. Will everything be open-source such that education is free for everyone?
I think one interesting take on the future of education is Lambda – a computer science education that is free until you get a full-time job.
It works like this:

Lambda School invests in a small number of ambitious individuals by training them for the world’s most in-demand careers.

In exchange, Lambda School graduates pay back a small percentage of their salary after they are hired.

I think this is an interesting model as it aligns incentives between stakeholders and empowers anyone to find a more direct route to financial freedom via computer science.
I would imagine that over the next few years, we will see this type of model pop-up in each and every industry and perhaps provide more accessible education for everyone. I wonder, though, what will incumbents do as they sit on top of their profits? Do they see this shift coming? Will they join in and accelerate it?

Also published on Medium.