The price of higher education is skyrocketing while the value of a degree is plummeting.
Educational content is becoming abundantly available at little or no costs, but people still go to college because alternative forms of education are still not being seen as viable in the eyes of employers. And employment, after all, is why most people go to college.
After graduating from college and entering the workforce, education is needed to improve skills or make career changes. Many people also like learning about new topics for fun.
Education is obviously incredibly important part of a functioning society and economy…but the price and associated debt (totaling over $1 trillion!) is getting to be a major problem. Some believe higher education may be in an economic bubble.
Imagine if you could somehow skip out on the life crippling debt that comes with higher education? Imagine if you could not only learn for free…but actually get paid to learn!
Well…that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m getting paid to learn. Here’s how I’m doing it…
1. Productizing Knowledge
Students can repackage what they learn in college into books and video courses. For example, I’m pre-selling an ebook on the topic of the higher education bubble while I complete the research and writing. Check it out here.
2. Accepting Pre-orders
By accepting pre-orders, students can earn money before they graduate, and therefore offset the need for debt.
I’ve used a product called Celery to accept pre-orders. It makes it extremely easy for me create check out page, accept payments, and manage pre-orders. There are no upfront costs and they only take a small percentage of each payment I receive.
3. Promoting with Blogging
It’s probably not going to be enough to just have a page up accepting pre-orders unless you have an existing audience. If no one knows about the product they won’t buy it.
The blog posts are/will be mostly condensed summaries of key concepts of the book and small parts of the book. I’m basically releasing the book in parts, for free, as I write it to promote the book.
Promotion could also be done through content marketing, social media marketing, YouTube, Quora, Podcasts, Slideshare, public speaking/press, and about a million other ways. To learn more about marketing, check out my traffic blog.
4. Publishing and Distribution
Once the product(s) is complete it can be published on different publishing networks. For example, books can be self-published on Amazon. Video courses can be published on Udemy. These platforms have large networks of users that are actively purchasing content.
Further marketing and promotion (as described above) can be done to drive traffic to it and increase revenue. The content could also be self-hosted on a blog or website if it was marketed well enough.
Getting paid to learn could help students, the education industry, and the economy. Here’s how
1. Less student debt
Financing education with debt is hard because…well because it’s debt. There are many recent graduates who are paying large amounts of money to pay of their student loans. In addition students must pay interest on the debt resulting in even more costs. Having debt prevents ability to take risk and increases the need to work.
Financing with revenue is superior because interest doesn’t need to be paid on it and because it can offset debt. Less debt could mean more entrepreneurship and less dependence on finding or staying in a less than desirable job.
2. Lower prices
Creating educational products increases the overall supply of education. All else equal, an increase in supply of education products should lower prices. The rising price of education (far greater than average inflation) is one of the reasons education is becoming a less desirable investment. Reducing price and holding value equal, makes education a more attractive investment opportunity and decreases the need for student loans.
Challenges and Solutions
Challenge: It’s not easy
Not everyone can teach. Not everyone can market. Not everyone has the technical skills
Solution: Products and services
It’s actually not that hard – if I can do it anyone can do it – but if it was hard enough for people there are many potential solutions:
Someone could create a product or service that teaches people how to teach. Someone could do all the marketing and take a cut (like a publisher). People could create products that automate the production process. Like WordPress did for blogging.
If there was a lot of demand for pre-ordering educational products, someone could create a marketplace for them like Kickstarter or Udemy. This would help students get exposure for their products.
Challenge: Low quality content
Given it’s hard to teach, people might sell low quality content.
Solution: Free markets
People won’t buy products they perceive as being low quality. If customers have suspect about quality, students will need to prove they can teach before they can make sales. This could be done through blogging, videos, etc. The bad ones will get weeded out by the market because they won’t make any money. If quality was a big enough problem, someone could for-profit or non-profit regulating entity.
Challenge: Doesn’t “scale”
“Mike, you’re selling an ebook for $5.99. It’s probably not costing you much to learn and produce and it’s just a side project for you. How is that going to solve the education bubble?”
Solution: Doesn’t have to
My ebook is just an example. I’m not taking out loans to study higher education…I’m also only charging the price of a beer at most bars for the book. However, someone could create a comprehensive course on, say, economics before going to undergraduate school and probably sell it for a few hundred dollars.
This may not be a large scale solution to the higher education bubble. I also know this a pretty “far fetched” idea for most people. But it can help people in small or large ways if done right. I’ve been a student and instructor on Udemy for some time and I’ve seen how high the demand for independent education content is. Education is a huge industry and there are huge problems. Helping a little is better than not helping at all.
- You can get paid to learn by pre-selling educational products that teach what you learn
- This could help students, the education industry, and the economy, by reducing debt and decreasing the price of education by increasing supply.
- I’m taking pre-orders for my ebook on the higher education bubble here.