The University of Michigan‘s Ross School of Business has launched a scholarship program that allows alumni to take certain classes at no cost—forever.
The scholarship waives tuition fees for the Ross Executive Education, a collection of 42 courses in leadership, marketing, HR, and finances. Students have to pay for food, lodging, and administrative fees.
“What is now true for a Michigan Ross student is your tuition is an upfront subscription, and that subscription happens to be for life,” Scott DeRue, the school’s dean, told Danielle Paquette for the Washington Post. “We see our relationship with students not as a transaction but as a lifetime partnership.”
When the scholarship launched in 2015, 40 alumni returned to campus. In 2017, 200 came back.
Lifetime subscription is a relatively new idea to higher ed. Stanford University first introduced the concept of an “open loop” education (in which students don’t follow the traditional four-year path to a degree) in 2014, writes Paquette. Researchers at Stanford imagined that by 2025, students would pay to take six years of classes whenever they want, she reports. Students may take a chunk of classes after high school, then return after a couple of decades in the workplace.
Rafael Bras, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Georgia Institute of Technology, offered similar thoughts in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education in May. Bras predicted that the future student’s college journey will include numerous entry and exit points. Graduation may no longer be a student’s final goal—especially for student entrepreneurs.
Technological advances will displace roughly 1.4 million people by 2026, according to the World Economic Forum. And the predictions from Stanford and Georgia Tech point to the same conclusion: graduates need to become lifelong learners to stay competitive in the future job market.
Adult education programs will be critical to help workers transition to new jobs and maintain job security. But graduates will need more than technical skills; they’ll need to cultivate the skills robots haven’t mastered yet, writes Paquette. “Employers will want to see social and emotional skills,” says Susan Lund, an economist at McKinsey & Company. “Creativity, decision-making, real-time problem-solving skills.”
The professions that are least likely to be automated are ones that rely on empathy or creativity, says Jason Hong, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. For example, writers and caretakers can expect to maintain job security in the coming decade. Similarly, positions that involve managing others face less risk of automation (Paquette, Washington Post, 6/13).