Freddie deBoer and Matthew Yglesias offer contrasting viewpoints on the business model of universities. DeBoer states that:
“[T]he purpose of the university has never been solely, or even primarily, or even largely to deliver information, that this is not why they are funded, and that this is not why students attend them.”
Well, I think he’s right. But given that, what is their purpose? As best I can tell, it is to offer people a way to prove they have information. The degree which a university sells you is a certificate that verifies the nature and extent of the information you possess. (Yes, this is a way of looking at it which ignores sentimental and intangible effects, but I’m just thinking about the business model here.)
So what this makes me wonder is:
- Is there anything that competes against them already?
- Is there any alternative way of providing the same service more cheaply?
- Are there other “goods” like academic degrees?