Higher education will be on-demand

Transportation is moving to an on-demand model. This became crystal clear to me when my wife said “Let’s get the kids an Uber account instead of buying them a car.” No drunk driving, plenty of accountability, no monthly insurance payments, no 1am pickups at sketchy parties — sign me up.

Printer ink is now on-demand. It may be a small innovation, but running out of printer ink is annoying as hell, right? HP launched Instant Ink which automatically ships you new ink, right before you need it. Sweet.

Airbnb is making accommodation on-demand. Need an apartment for two months in a foreign city? Click, click, done.

So why are universities and colleges still charging $103,342 for a one-time 4-year learning experience? [1] Why aren’t they charging you per skill, when you need it?

Trade Skills vs Research

In the future, higher education will be broken into two foci, based on outcome:


At Treehouse we have quite a few job roles: Controller, Teacher, Video Editor, Audio Engineer, Developer, Designer, Administrator, Salesperson, Marketer, Product Manager, People Manager, Data Scientist, etc.

Some job roles take more time to learn than others, but they’re all trades — they’re based on a specific skill, not a wide set of general knowledge. None of them require knowledge like foreign language, history, literature, etc.

These trades are all constantly changing — you don’t learn trade skills once and then you’re done. To excel, you have to always be learning.

The one-time university bachelor’s degree does not fit this reality.

Poto credit: Ryan Brunsvold


The second type of higher education will prepare people for life-long careers in research. The Human Species relies on universities and other research bodies to make breakthrough discoveries. This type of work does not necessarily lend itself to a specific trade skill. We need to fund and encourage people to go into lifelong research careers — not just trades.

Photo credit: IDINTNU

How many researchers do you know?

Almost every adult I know is working as a tradesperson. I would venture to guess that you’re in the same boat.

Folks often have a bachelor’s degree but are almost never working in a job related to their field of study. Life happens. You take the job you can get. You need to pay your bills. You dreamed of getting your degree and getting amazing-job-X but it turns out trade-skill-Y actually pays your bills and feeds your family.

Did you know the average bachelor’s degree holder takes 21 years to pay off his or her loans? [2] Twenty one years.

There’s a better way

Every single job role at Treehouse could be learned online. Faster, more effectively and vastly cheaper than the $100,000 university bachelor’s degree.

And as soon as your skills need updating, you simply pay for another online course, learn over lunch or while your kids are sleeping, and then progress your career.

No debt and no basket-weaving classes required.


[1] Cost based on typical 4-year undergraduate in-state bachelor’s degree

[2] Study on Impact of Student Loan Debt on Homeownership Trends and Vehicle Purchasing