iCollege? Governor Pawlenty, We’re Already There

Barry Lenson

icollege proposed by Governor Pawlenty

“Do you really think that in 20 years, somebody is going to put on their backpack, drive a half hour to the University of Minnesota from the suburbs, haul their Keister across campus, and listen to some boring person drone on about Econ 101 or . . . is there another way to deliver the service other than a one-size-fits-all monopoly provider that says, `show up at 9:00 o’clock on Wednesday morning for Econ 101?’ Can’t I just pull that down on my iPhone of iPad whenever the heck I feel like it, from wherever I feel like? And instead of instead of paying thousands of dollars, can I pay $199 for iCollege instead of $.99 cents for iTunes?” 

-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty interviewed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, June 10, 2010. CLICK HERE to see the interview.

It’s surprising that Governor Tim Pawlenty caused a lot of controversy when he made that statement to Jon Stewart a few weeks ago.

First, The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus blog reported that its readers were uneasy about what Pawlenty had said. “iCollege . . . I don’t think so,” wrote blogger Marc Parry. “That's the online reaction to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's rant against traditional higher education this week on The Daily Show.”

And then newspapers challenged Pawlenty’s vision of future education. One article in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Star Tribune gave a nod to the importance of distance learning, but then went on to say, “. . .  [students will] keep coming, though perhaps not every day, by bus, rail, bicycle and on foot, as well as the occasional auto. That's because no matter how much learning they do online, they'll still want something today's college students tell us they crave more than ever -- personal relationships with their faculty and fellow students.”

Why did Pawlenty’s relatively tame comment rankle people?  It could be because people have a hard time accepting the idea that the definition of a college is about to change. Electric razors are fine. Electric cars are promising. But electric colleges – that sounds shady! Somehow, people have a hard time accepting the idea that they no longer need to go to college, because college can come to them.

We don’t mean to pile onto Governor Pawlenty too. But we do need to point out that he might have missed one important detail. It’s the fact that the future he envisioned is now - and even better than he dreamed. StraighterLine delivers courses that earn college credit for even less than the $199 price tag he cited. With our new and innovative online college course programs, a student can trim the cost of college to under $40 per credit hour.

Governor, you have seen the future. But the future is us.

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