Fifty thousand reasons to root for new college models

  @FortuneMagazine February 10, 2014: 5:50 PM ET
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The New Math: Published tuition prices, in 2013 dollars, at private schools have tripled in the past 40 years.


You may not realize it yet, but the battle lines for future generations' college education are being drawn right now. On the one side, the old school is defending the traditional college experience -- and all the costs associated with it. The new school is convinced that technology will transform learning: increasing productivity and making higher ed more accessible, all while maintaining, or even improving, the quality of the educational experience.

The universities' Achilles' heel? Ever-increasing costs. Tuition, fees, room, and board exceed $55,000 a year at Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale, and top $20,000 annually even at state schools like Indiana and Ohio State. That pricey cost of admission puts a traditional college degree -- and the access it gives to the American dream -- nearly out of reach for all but the privileged few. Enter the disrupters, like Udacity and Coursera. These for-profit startups offer online courses taught by some of the top professors in the world for free or at low cost, but for now at least, these programs aren't designed as substitutes for an undergraduate degree. They simply complement a conventional undergrad experience or offer additional training for postgraduates.

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