For-Profit Education and Entrepreneurship is Solving the Economic Mobility Problem

Commentary

For-Profit Education and Entrepreneurship is Solving the Economic Mobility Problem

It is widely know at this point that promise of a college education has mostly failed, leaving many underemployed, in debt, and looking for a better life. Government has also blocked the way up the mobility ladder in the form of occupational licensing, making the “independent” lifestyle ever more costly and unachievable. Starting and making a career in America is arguably as hard as it ever has been.

Pundits argue this career frustration was manifested in the populist support for Bernie Sanders, offering free education to all, and in Donald Trump, promising to rescue back blue collar work from China and free trade by getting good deals? (Whatever that means) Sadly, both are government solutions and neither will work.

Myself and many other have written about how the old school blue collar jobs that Trump and his following idolize are not coming back. No serious economist considers Bernie’s free universal education to be a realistic or desirable goal. People are left desperate for new and innovative ways to get training and skills that will employ them at good wages.

Entrepreneur and visionary Sebtastian Thrun founded Udacity in 2011 to compete in the MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) space, but quickly realized the platform had greater potential.

Today, Udactiy’s innovative business model charges a flat rate of $199/month for users to enroll in a litany of futuristic vocational training such as VR development, computer programming, and robotics, although they offer 100’s of courses on a variety of tech topics.

Udacity, with zero government funding and operating for a profit (Take that, Bernie) delivers on many of the failed promises of politicians. For a cheap price and your mental effort, you can acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to get yourself a good job and live a respectable economic life.

Public education systems are too slow in responding to the incredibly rapidly changing labor marketplace, and many workers and young people have been stuck with that “left behind” feeling. As they always do, entrepreneurs like Thrun are coming into the space to meet the demand that public systems have long monopolized and severely mishandled.

It is for-profit entrepreneurs, not government deals or free education, that is stepping up to help people get educated in things that matter to the workplace, and their wallets. Udacity represents a way for people get the training they need move up the income ladder.

Government would do well by the people to stop enticing them into colleges with extravagant campuses costing tens of millions that don’t deliver modern workplace skills but rather mountains of debt. They would do well to allow private organizations like Udacity, that are more connected to the modern workplace, to train and certify workers, rather than force them into an outrageous state occupational licensing scheme.

Entrepreneurship is already helping to solve the large problems of education and mobility, government is only in the way.

Spence Purnell is a policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, where he works on pension reform, Florida policy issues and economic development.