Economics & Education: Technology will lower higher ed costs? In your dreams

Submitted by Skanda Amarnath on Thu, 07/07/2011 - 5:36pm.
Skanda Amarnath's picture

Professor Ken Rogoff is a very smart man and I will always listen whenever he has anything to say. However, his latest essay on the cyclical nature of income inequality had one element to it on higher education that I feel confident in disagreeing with him on:

"The next generation of technological advances could also promote greater income equality by leveling the playing field in education. Currently, educational resources – particularly tertiary educational resources (university) – in many poorer countries are severely limited relative to wealthy countries, and, so far, the Internet and computers have exacerbated the differences.

But it does not have to be that way. Surely, higher education will eventually be hit by the same kind of sweeping wave of technology that has flattened the automobile and media industries, among others. If the commoditization of education eventually extends to at least lower-level college courses, the impact on income inequality could be profound."

Clearly Rogoff has missed out on the debate between Caplan, Kling, and Cowen, or else he would have realized that education will never be fully commoditized as long as we embrace an education system that largely signals and credentials but does little to teach and instill concrete and valuable knowledge in students. Higher Ed is in need of so many reforms that technology is going to be at its most innovative if it is to break the backs of the higher ed goliaths.