Over the last three months, Straighterline has made quite a splash. First, Kevin Carey wrote a feature article for the Washington Monthly showing how Straighterline’s approach to course delivery can save students thousands of dollars. Then, Business Week said the same thing. Not to be outdone, Forbes and the Christian Science Monitor mentioned Straighterline. Finally, even the New York Times linked to Straighterline.
Why all the attention? For years, nay decades, people have lamented the rising cost of college. Despite the lamentations, tuition continues to rise and rise. Further, with federal stimulus money leaving higher education at the end of the ‘10 - ‘11 school year, expect double digit tuition increases across all public higher education. Further, the return to a college degree seems to be decreasing as well. As the recession lingers and college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, the value of a degree as currently constructed must be questioned. Lastly, students’ and families’ ability and willingness to take on student debt has diminished. These three trends create an environment where a service like Straighterline –- affordable, online college courses that are as good or better than those delivered by traditional colleges – is a ray of light in an otherwise dismal industry.
Straighterline’s courses cost as little as $99 per month plus $39 per course – dramatically less than even the community college option. Further, these prices are completely unsubsidized! At a public college, the college receives state funding, federal grant money and subsidized loans in addition to the tuition and fees that they charge. If Straighterline can offer better courses at a fraction of the cost without government subsidies, where is all that money going?