Part one of four

There is a story that most of us know. It’s the story of college and the American dream.  

As the story goes, U.S. colleges are engines of economic mobility and cornerstones of the American dream. To go to college, students have been told, is to get on a path to a good job and a better life. 

That story is increasingly hard to believe. It deserves scrutiny. In many cases, it is plainly false.

American colleges are now jaw-droppingly expensive, and they are marred by shockingly low graduation rates and erratic employment outcomes. Despite these shortcomings, America’s approximately 4000 colleges operate like some kind of self-satisfied and highly organized cartel –one that by operation of law is protected from competition, shielded from accountability, and loaded up with public funding.  

Caught in the machinery of the cartel-like world of U.S. colleges are America’s 19 million college students and their families.

U.S. colleges must improve – profoundly and quickly – and for that to happen, the public policy that enables the college cartel needs upending.  Specifically:

  • Clearing a Path for Startup Colleges.  We need new public policy that invites entrepreneurs into the sector to start innovative colleges that cost less, deliver more, and report openly on their outcomes.  We need new teams, new ideas, and new organizations in the college space.
  • Making Financial Aid Portable.  We also need new public policy that gives students material leeway to shop with their federal financial aid outside of the college cartel. The situation is dire. Students should be allowed some freedom to leave higher education with their loans and grants to search elsewhere for the training they urgently need.

The college cartel will only change if it comes under pressure from clever college startups and if it senses a threat to its iron grip on public funding.

This is the story we want to tell at College101. It’s a new story – a more complete, more honest, and more productive story – about the problems in our college system, how they arose, and what it will take to really fix them.   

The College101 story has three parts, which we breakdown as a doctor would diagnosing a sick patient: 


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