Home News For-Profit Higher Ed’s Renaissance: The Case Of Coursera – Forbes

For-Profit Higher Ed’s Renaissance: The Case Of Coursera – Forbes


When I wrote my first book on American higher education in 2004 (Going Broke By Degree: Why College Costs Too Much), I spoke rather enthusiastically about the then-rapidly growing for-profit higher education sector, suggesting traditional higher education could learn much from it and its attention to efficiency. A few years later, however, Barack Obama became president and his administration declared war on for-profit education, led by administrative zealots like Robert Shireman and legislative leaders like Senators Tom Harkin and Dick Durbin. New rules disadvantaging the sector were implemented and even accreditation became more difficult. Many large schools went bankrupt or converted to not-for-profit status to reduce the regulatory attacks, which eased somewhat during the Trump years. One large operator, Kaplan University, sold its college business for $1 to Purdue University (now Purdue Global). Market leader Apollo Corporation (University of Phoenix) lost lots of enrollment and delisted its stock in 2017 (although it is still in business).

But now there are signs that for-profit higher education is growing again, even flourishing, albeit in a somewhat different form. Consider Coursera, a company started by Stanford professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller in 2012, an early innovator of MOOCs, massive open online courses, which many thought would be a new source of low cost higher education but which did not seem to meet its initial hype.

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