In most of the world demand for affordable employment-relevant post-secondary education greatly exceeds supply. While experts will quibble, this is arguably the case in the United States and Europe and obviously the situation in developing and emerging economies around the world.
This long-standing fact is, however, only one-half of an investment thesis. There is no doubt the demand exists but, historically, it has been difficult or impossible to supply affordable, employment-relevant post-secondary education. Now, we are seeing the emergence of a complete investment thesis for both public and private investment in employment-relevant higher education.
An article published in EDUCAUSE Review (Got Skills? Why Online Competency-Based Education Is the Disruptive Innovation for Higher Education by Michelle Weise) is a recent example of the new investment calculus. Ms. Weise focuses on how modularized, online, competency-based programs can and will change equality of access and higher education outcomes in the United States. In doing so, she completes the investment thesis for new public and private investment in employment-relevant post-secondary education:
The new wave of online competency-based pathways will be especially attractive to students seeking that direct link to the workforce. Online competency-based education can provide learning opportunities that drive down costs, accelerate degree completion, and produce a variety of convenient, customizable, and timely programs for the emergent needs of the labor market.
A company or not-for-profit educational enterprise can now develop and deliver affordable, high-quality post-secondary programs that provide direct pathways to employment. This creates tremendous new opportunities for private and public sector investors in post-secondary education. These opportunities are material in the United States (Ms. Weise identifies a number of them) but they are larger and even more evident in developing and emerging economies.