We already know what the college of the future will look like, because the non-traditional students are creating it now. It’s a hybrid of online and in-person classes, centered on the student and not the institution, with credits accruing from multiple schools, and adding up to a degree in alternating periods of attendance and absence.
If you rank countries by rate of college enrollment, the U.S. is #1. If you rank countries by rate of college graduation, we’re not even in the top 10. This gap gives us the lowest graduation rate of any developed nation. We don’t have an admissions problem, we have a completion problem. Recognizing this means re-thinking who college is for. College is run by those of us who did well in college, so we tend to underestimate the harm we do to students whose lives aren’t like ours, harm created not out of malice but habit.
One common observation about online education is that it will mean ‘bricks for the rich and clicks for the poor.’ Something like this has indeed happened, though ‘…clicks for the poorly served’ would be more accurate. Students taking online classes aren’t looking for bargains; the majority don’t take classes from the lowest-cost provider available. They are looking for flexibility, because they can’t quit their job or stop caring for their children or their parents just to attend college, but the world is telling them they need a degree to go from $7 an hour bagging groceries to $13 an hour drawing blood.