What if someone started a non-profit college. One that was highly accredited. Something to compete with all the ITT’s and Art Institutes of the world and the state and private universities. Schools like ITT and private universities charge a fortune. ITT type schools don’t provide the reputation for education that a university does. Sure, you can learn a skill, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it seems that these are schools for those who can’t get into a really good university. But does it make sense to pay a fortune to go to a private school when you can learn the same things at a state university?

With college coursework going online for free, like MIT’s OpenCourseWare, the future of college education is wide open. But you cannot earn a degree right now using these open courseware programs. And there is no real course of action. It’s DIY education with the only payoff being a learned skill that you can’t put on a resume. But what if there was a full-on non-profit on-campus and online education system where you can earn an associates degree, BS, MS/MA and PhD?

The Federal grant system could help fund some of it as could non-profit donations. Professors from near-by universities could donate their time by teaching a class. And anyone who earns a BS has to dedicate x amount of time to teach those with an associates, those with Masters degrees would have to dedicate x amount of time to teach BS while PhDs would have the largest commitment. PhDs would have to become full professors for x amount of time. If you earn a free PhD then you’d be required to give back the most. The school could build its own army of professors–those who have a true affinity for the school.

This non-profit school wouldn’t be a proprietary school. It would compete with other major universities. It could offer open courseware but you could sit home or in a classroom for free and learn. You could earn degrees or certificates, not just a random skill here or there. The goal would be simple: educate everyone. There certainly is the possibility of watering down degrees if anyone can get into the Could this degree ever be as prestigious as one from Harvard? Sure, why wouldn’t it be possible to have an honors program? Or varying levels of degrees within a degree. Students could earn their way up or down a variable ladder. You could allow people to take the course, but not earn credits (or they must take a less difficult course based on a very similar subject). However, you must always allow a student to have the right to move up or down the variable levels. You could have prestigious guest professors teach certain courses and students who want to sit in could watch live and learn–but not participate. Perhaps some unknown geniuses would come out of the woodwork.

This isn’t about recreating high school in the form of a university. The university couldn’t and should never be run by the government. In fact the school would have to compete for accredidation and certainly would want to maintain levels for their variable degrees. Its not impossible to imagine a Harvard or Oxford professor lending their time to highly sophisticated students for the honors program. Students of all walks of lives would be judged on one singular thing–intelligence.