I think the bottom is starting to rot out of the education racket. Elite education today is essentially two different things:
The prestige of having gotten into that school, and
The education you receive there.
These two things are separating from each other, and I think that separation is about to accelerate.
Better education elsewhere (or at least as good)
A number of studies have shown that the level of content at regular universities is often very similar to that of elite institutions, yet people who graduate from the top schools still make more money over their lifetimes.
I think what’s going to happen is that more and more professors are going to become disillusioned with the drama and friction and politics, and will start teaching classes themselves or via loose collectives online.
A high-quality video series—with some interaction for paying students—could reach tens of millions online, as opposed to a few thousand inside an elite college. And there are already efforts to get this type of thing going.
We’re also seeing this from regular institutions doing the free online courses, but imagine a deeper level of that—just like a regular course—for a reasonable price. And importantly, this would be a direct relationship between the people paying and the experts teaching the classes. So they wouldn’t have to watch everything they say for fear of angering a university.
If the education itself became available for less money, and to more people, through a system like the one above, that would raise the question of how companies and society could tell the elites from the normals (you know, because that seems to matter), and I think the answer might come in the form of various clubs and associations.
The more tech we use the easier it gets to validate certain types of activities. People might form clubs based on their salaries, or their net worths, or their amount of social media influence. Or the number of people who read their content on websites they write for.
The point is that evolution makes us want to give ourselves elite labels, and form small and selective groups. So if elite colleges stop being an avenue for doing that, due to come combination of cost and unremarkable education, then people will find other ways to draw those distinctions.
China has a social credit system. We have credit scores. Black Mirror had some ideas as well.
I think we’ll see many iterations of such ranking and reputation scoring platforms grow in popularity, even if they’re only popular in certain small or elite crowds because they’re gross to talk about in public.
Education is becoming too expensive, and the quality of the education isn’t growing at the same pace.
Education from other sources is improving in quality, and technology might enable decentralized options of extraordinary quality very soon.
Once the education component is separated from the status of going to an elite school, we’ll find new ways to get a validated indicator of status assigned to people at various stages of their lives.