The $10K College Degree via Anya Kamenetz, and Implications for K-12

Could we create a valuable college BA degree for $10K?  And what might that mean for K-12 education?

Screen shot 2013-09-27 at 11.14.14 AM Anya Kamenetz has written an important article that argues we can create that vastly more affordable experience in college.  (Thanks Will Richardson for Tweeting it out.) I have skimmed it and now am going back to review in detail.  But even at the first pass, she makes the case that we can provide much of what is most valued in college education, at a dramatically reduced cost,  if we are willing to adapt some of what college “is and does”.  In the major areas she proposes for re-shaping, K-12 will find direct application.

Is this only relevant for private K-12?  No, not any more than the issue of college tuition is relevant only to private colleges.  When we fold in the total cost of public education, including capital improvements, the costs of public K-12 school range from (this is not authoritative, but I am not far off) $10,000-$20,000 per student per year.   K-12 institutions are already under challenge from alternatives that are less expensive, and therefore need to find ways to reduce the increase in costs over time.

I won’t try to summarize Anya’s extensive work here, but several of the areas she focuses on include:

  • Reducing and restructuring personnel.  Teachers will immediately read this as an attack on their workforce. It is not.  It recognizes that personnel are our largest cost in schools; that the way adults and students interact has changed; and that schools need to adjust to this new reality.  Opportunities for cost savings and better learning can go hand in hand.
  • End perk wars: Colleges offer vastly more perks for highly sought-after personnel.  Certainly this is also the case in independent school world as well. K-12 schools have also been engaged in an arms race of buildings and programs without paying attention to the value created.
  • Scale up blended learning.  Any school that is not already actively involved in, or seriously investigating how blended learning can curtail costs while enhancing outcomes, is just out of step with history.
  • Streamline offerings: public K-12’s have already done this, so may not have much left to streamline.  Independent schools are full of costly pet programs.  Do they provide real differentiated value, or is it just too uncomfortable to cut the fat?

Those are just a few. Thanks, Anya for this thoughtful provocation, and I urge others to dive in. If this does not generate a ton of “What if…?” questions in your mind you probably are not pushing yourself hard enough!

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