March 26, 2012
Forget college degrees. What the world needs is Designer Degrees. A Designer Degree is a certification that a student has completed a series of classes specified by a particular designer. Let’s say the designers are successful and respected people, such as Warren Buffett. The idea is that a designer would publish a set of classes that he or she considers most useful for any newcomer to the field in which the designer is an expert.
The designer would not be limited to one college for specifying classes. For example, if Warrant Buffett designed the Warren Buffett Business Degree, he would specify the general type of classes that need to be completed, and the student would be free to find those classes across any number of institutions and sources, including online classes or work experience. A graduate who earns the Warren Buffett Business Degree might take a few classes at the local community college, spend a year in China learning Chinese, work for an Internet startup for a year, join Toastmasters International to practice public speaking, read a number of specific business books, and so on.
The power of this idea is that it allows students whose grades are not in the top 1% to get degrees that are both relevant to their chosen fields and respected by potential employers. In most cases, Designer Degrees would cost a fraction of what a traditional college degree might cost.
In our current system, a college student usually ends up taking unwanted classes because the preferred classes get filled early. When you’re a captive of a college degree program, you’re limited to the college’s class schedule options, high prices, and location. With a Designer Degree, you’re free to compile your classes from whatever sources you can. In the long run, competition should drive down the cost of a degree.
The Designer Degree approach would need a system to verify that students complete the specified classes, and that the classes were of sufficient quality. Perhaps the system needs auditors to approve classes in advance, and examine and certify the claims of students. There would be cheating in the system I described, but I think it could be limited.
I don’t think a Designer Degree system would have been possible in pre-Internet days. And it wouldn’t be practical for people in rural areas. But where I live, in the San Francisco Bay Area, almost every type of learning experience is available within a one hour drive. That would be true of most metro areas.
You may now commence ripping this idea to shreds.