In a curious response to my post, Ravikiran Rao points to an earlier post that draws an analogy between blogs and educational institutions. In particular, it should be easy for people to start educational institutions — just as it is easy for people to start blogs. You have heard about the death of set-up costs, haven’t you?
Students will be able to discover for themselves where the good institutions are, and they will flock to them — just like readers discover good blogs now. Death of transaction costs, too!
Ravikiran Rao seems very confident that he has found a clever solution to our higher ed problems.
Just imagine the possibilities of this wonderfully costless world: our students will be able to sample a whole bunch of colleges / courses for two minutes each. Or, they’ll just need to discover one or two good colleges, which will point them to many other similarly good colleges. (nanopolitan)
I did not intend to claim that I knew the solution to all the problems of higher education. I was merely pointing out that regulation is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Regulations impose barriers to entry and they tend to penalize the honest the most. Being snarky does not free you from addressing the point.
His second point is of course, quite valid. If it weren’t for the government certifying the quality of schools, the only way to find out their quality is by enrolling in them and studying in those schools for two minutes. It is because of the regime of school inspection that has freed us from the burden of selecting schools for our children. It is a proven fact that middle-class parents who have to choose schools do so by draw of lots. It is also a fact that there is a social taboo against speaking about how good or bad your school is, which makes it impossible for parents to gain any information about the quality of schools.