As President Biden said in his recent State of the Union address, “Any nation that out-educates us will out-compete us.” Yet in the past two decades, the U.S. has fallen from second to 16th compared to other countries in the percentage of adults ages 25 to 34 who’ve earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.
This shows the status quo is not a recipe for solving the near-term labor shortage or engineering the innovations needed to be competitive globally long-term.
As the world undergoes massive technological innovation, the traditional approach of relying solely on government-run institutions is no longer sufficient to meet the diverse needs and demands of the 21st century. We must not only allow — but insist — that our leading technology companies deliver innovation to education.
Companies like 2U are already leading the charge: For more than 15 years, we’ve been partnering with leading nonprofit universities and institutions to build, deliver and support online programs that expand access, affordability and innovation in education.
But on Jan. 31, Rep. Rosa DeLauro wrote an op-ed in Higher Ed Dive full of inaccurate and misleading statements about the effect that public-private partnerships, the online education industry at large, and 2U have on student outcomes and tuition prices.
This is precisely the type of antiquated thinking that has made higher education so inaccessible for so many people for so long.
It is time to stop villainizing public-private partnerships in higher education. It is time to ask why a member of Congress, who describes herself as an education advocate, opposes innovations that make high-quality education more accessible to more Americans.
Recently, 2U launched an online master’s program in artificial intelligence from the University of Texas at Austin, one of the first fully online AI master’s programs offered by a top-tier university. DeLauro argued that companies like ours drive up the cost of education, but this disruptively priced program has a tuition of $10,000, allowing students unprecedented access to education in one of the most sought-after fields in technology.
Are critics aware of this vital new degree — or the thousands of high-quality programs, from free courses to boot camps to online degrees, that our revenue sharing model makes possible?
How could colleges and universities around the world scale and meet the needs of learners without the partnership and support of private companies? Would they be able to find clinical placement sites for students in all 50 states so that someone living in Montana, who’s attending an online midwifery program from a top university, can get the hands-on experience delivering babies they need to graduate and get a job in their local community?
If 2U didn’t exist, who would’ve invested more than $1.9 billion over the last decade and a half to help these colleges and universities build, deliver and support high-quality digital education at scale, ultimately helping them further their missions and remain sustainable and competitive for centuries to come?
As a society, without the partnership and support of the private sector, how will we close the gap of trained healthcare professionals, counselors, educators, data scientists and tech talent at the rate we need to?
And maybe, most importantly, have policymakers and so-called student advocates explored the 230-plus thriving partnerships we’ve built with universities and institutions, the outcomes we produce, the access we drive, the affordability initiatives we spearhead and the high-quality, affordable degrees and free and low-cost courses we’ve launched together?
Let’s set the record straight.
Online programs backed by partners like 2U boast strong retention, graduation rates and outcomes. In fact, 97% of surveyed alumni from online graduate degree programs supported by 2U reported positive career outcomes.
And, contrary to popular belief, lower prices are better for our business. 2U actively incentivizes university partners to lower tuition, and tuition is set solely by partners, with no evidence of revenue-share arrangements driving up costs.
All of these important aspects of our partnership model are never raised by critics who continue to make baseless claims about our work, and who chronically and flagrantly conflate online program managers and companies like us with for-profit colleges.
We care about our mission, we care about our partners and we wake up each morning in service to the 48-plus million learners that come to our platform seeking life-changing educational opportunities.
It is time to embrace — not censor — the boundless potential of private sector innovation in education.