Is StraighterLine the Craig's List of Colleges?

Barry Lenson

Is StraighterLine the Craig’s List of Colleges?

When you look at the most innovative and newsworthy companies today, you see that they have one thing in common . . .

They offer tons of value in comparison to other companies. Some of them even give stuff away.

That’s true of Facebook and Craigslist.  When was the last time you had to write a check to one of them? It’s also true of Google, which gives most everything away for free – from its Internet browser to Gmail to Google Maps, and lots of other wonderful stuff. And then we come to Skype, which offers free calls to anyplace, with video thrown in as an extra. Verizon, Comcast, Vonage and other phone companies must be spending megahours in meetings trying to figure out how they are going to compete with that one.

These companies aren’t adhering to the old business model, “Let’s see how little we can provide, and see how much we can charge for it.”

Come to think of it, that model sounds a lot like traditional American colleges that have done the following things over the last few years . . .

  • Raised tuition to the breaking point.
  • Packed hundreds more students into lecture halls to cut costs.
  • Cut scholarships and urged students to take loans instead.
  • Said disparaging things about computerized learning at the very time they were moving more classes into lower-cost computer labs.
  • Maintained an aura of quality and exclusivity while delivering less and less.

StraighterLine, like Google and Skype and others, is heading in a direction that is 180 degrees away from those practices. We are delivering a lot more for a lot less. Plus, we aren’t hiding behind tweedy false images and reputations like so many American colleges and universities are. We also don’t force people to take loans to pay for absurdly expensive college courses. Instead, we keep costs low. We don’t shoehorn students into lecture halls, because we don’t have any lecture halls.

So we could well be the Craigslist of Colleges. Could be. We don’t mind the title. Do you?

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