Jay Christensen covered college football, among other sports, for the Los Angeles Times and produces the popular college football blog TheWizofOdds.com.
Enjoy betting on college sports while you can because within 10 to 20 years, entities such as the Florida State Seminoles, Penn State Nittany Lions and Washington Huskies will have gone the way of newspapers.
Higher education as we know it is poised to undergo a transformation that will render the brick-and-mortar university a thing of the past. With it will go sports teams.
The force behind this change, of course, is the Internet.
Online universities such as the previously disregarded University of Phoenix are making the business of selling information more affordable. This is happening while universities appear to be as unaware and unprepared for this revolution as the music, travel and newspaper industries were before being crippled by the Internet age.
Over four million college students — one-fifth of the total nationwide — took at least one online course in 2008, yet within the past week, the Board of Regents for California system brazenly approved a 32 percent increase in undergraduate fees.
What fools these mortals be.
The non-traditional method of learning online is starting to soar in popularity. A decade ago, few sports fans had heard of the University of Phoenix. It didn’t have a football team, but it 2006, it bought the naming rights to the Arizona Cardinals’ new stadium in Glendale. The 20-year deal cost $154.5 million, mere pocket change to Apollo Group, Inc., the university’s parent company. Apollo, a publicly traded company, reported revenues of $2.7 billion in 2008.
They may not be the models of learning, but online universities are the models of efficiency. They don’t have a campus to maintain. Classes are often taught by adjuncts working from home. There are online videos and podcasts of lectures available 24-7 to students who can work fulltime while getting an education.
Invaluable professor mentoring, classroom debate, hands-on learning and campus-wide social networking may tragically become archaic. But need a tutor? You can find one day and night in places like India and the Philippines. They’re only a click away.
Students can collaborate via instant messaging. OK, it’s not the Saturday night keg party at Suzie’s off-campus apartment, but who’s complaining? A month of online classes can be had for as little as $99.
Compare it to today’s college graduate, who often enters the working world saddled with considerable debt. Nearly seven percent of those graduates default on payment of student loans — an amount that has almost doubled since 2006.
Granted, many employers remain skeptical of online degrees, but as they become more common — a certainty given the economic factors involved — that bias will erode.
There’s even more bad news for traditional universities. Aggregation of online classes is the newest advancement. Students may take courses from several online universities, leading to a degree from a blend of institutions.
All this, of course, increases the competition and helps drive down the price to inconceivable lows. Most traditional universities won’t stand a chance.
Meanwhile, universities continue to make all the wrong moves. Raising tuition in California is only one example. Cutting classes is another. I have a friend whose daughter simply cannot get the necessary classes for a degree from a California state university because so many have been cut. So instead of completing work on her degree in four years, she’s looking at six. That’s more debt and time out of the workforce, which leaves her behind in the rat race.
Not surprising, she’s looking into online classes.
If traditional universities are currently utilizing outdated business models, employing imprudent management of resources and are resistant to change, what is their future? Experts say Ivy League and other major schools should survive because of their prestige and all-important networking benefits. All others are at risk. They will scramble to specialize and trim tenured professors as they try to join the online rush. Some will make it, others will not.
Sports programs will simply become an unnecessary burden on universities fighting for survival.
Socrates said an unexamined life is not worth living. But that was before college football.