Coronavirus Killed College

Zach Clenaghan
March 30, 2020

It’s Monday, 30th March, 2020.

The world is being rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems the only way to limit the spread of the virus is to practice social distancing. To implement this measure, all schools and universities in America, and across the world, are closing. Everyone in the formal education system is now being educated 100% through the internet. 

This is the biggest study in online education that the world will ever see.  What will come of it?

Here’s our prediction:

1. Everything is going to be fine.

The institutions for which distance learning is entirely new will have issues initially, but the implementation of online education is not new, so they’ll be able to copy the models implemented by the early adopters of online learning.

Exam time will come around and students will do just fine. They may even perform better.

2. Students that hadn’t considered or been offered online classes before will start to consider them in the future.

The end result was the same (i.e. their GPA) as when they attend class in-person, and they didn’t have to drag themselves to class at 8am. Why then, would you not take more of them?

3. Some students might decide to shift their whole degree online.

This will potentially save a lot of money for students. Some online degrees cost significantly less than their in-person equivalents. And if you’re not required on campus, that means you don’t need to move across the country and rent overpriced student accommodation, saving even more.

Georgia Tech
has been at the forefront of this movement for some time. They have multiple online degree programs that result in the exact same certification, which cost 10% of the on-campus equivalent.

The obvious downside of going totally online is you miss out on “campus life”, but do you really have to pay all that money in tuition costs for the opportunity to play sports and get drunk? Can’t you do that anyway? Of course you can. One of the simplest and most enriching ways is by taking your online learning abroad.

4. Colleges will adapt.

Universities that previously weren’t open to online learning as a supplement to in-person classes will have been forced to accept it as a viable alternative.

They will probably make big changes themselves having experienced the benefits first hand. And if they don’t, they will be forced to by the students who will vote for more flexible classes with their tuition dollars. 

And it goes further. 

Let’s say I’m studying Communications or Marketing. I have a class in Digital Marketing required for my major. It costs $1,000+, and it’s delivered entirely online.

Because everyone is on lockdown and looking for ways to spend their time, you start seeing posts along the lines of 70+ free Digital Marketing Courses being shared. If I can take 70 classes for free, that are delivered in exactly the same way as my college classes, why is my college class $1,000? Does my college class really have some secret sauce that makes it worth $1,000 that all these classes don’t?

Maybe as a student, you have a job as a server. Which you’ve now lost as all the restaurants and bars are closed. So you start searching for alternative ways to earn money. Since you’re stuck at home you are limited to online income sources. You stumble upon, a website for freelancers to find projects. You look at marketing jobs on the platform, and you notice…

Nobody cares if you have a degree in marketing.

You dive a little deeper and decide to search the freelancers that are successful on the platform and you realize…

Almost none of them have a degree in marketing.

They all have experience working in digital marketing for many years, and a track record of high performance. But none of them even mention their degree, let alone where it’s from or what it’s in. 

So why am I getting a degree to go into a career that doesn’t require a degree? And why am I paying tens of thousands of dollars for it? 

Digital marketing is a perfect example of a career/skill set that absolutely does not require a college degree, but there are many others. Software development, graphic design, copywriting. It is clear as day that you don’t need a degree to learn the skills required to pursue these careers. There are hundreds of online education providers that teach these skills for a fraction of the cost.

Sure, there are still professions that do require a college degree. Doctors, lawyers, engineers. These will still require the intense and lengthy education that exists today. And the most prestigious universities will remain. But 80% of degree programs and 80% of colleges will fade away into obscurity, unless they adapt drastically to stay relevant. 

And so this is how college withers away. Maybe it doesn’t die altogether, but it will be a shadow of its former self. It was heading this way already, Coronavirus just added fuel to the fire.