The cost of private universities has risen 28% over the decade from 2002 to 2012, while student debt in America now clocks in at around $1.2 trillion with seven million people in default, according to The Economist. Gene Wade, founder and CEO of University Now believes he has a solution to some of these issues through his online education model.
Interestingly, Wade tells us he is "not trying to disrupt the model" of traditional brick-and-mortar universities, which he believes are worth it for some segments of students.
With two, for-profit online-based schools, Patten University and New Charter University, Wade says he is trying to address a "real problem in higher education where jobs are being created ... that require a college education but we don't have workforce to fill [them]," while millions are unemployed. The problem he's trying to solve is "how do we make college more affordable, more accessible and available to the masses."
According to Wade, the "fastest growing segment of higher education is working adults primarily going to school online," who need flexibility and have busy lives. They "can't go to a campus and swing a frisby around and hope that they graduate in four years" in order to move up in their careers.
But how does he know his alternative model will pay off? Wade says his business spends a lot of time going out and talking to employers, and working with them to design the programs to ensure the curriculum teaches the skills employers want and demand. Macy's (M) is one example of a company that has partnered with Wade's schools and will reimburse employees who attend. They also have partnerships with company's that provide workers for AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ).
In similar news, earlier this summer, Starbucks announced a partnership with Arizona State University to offer subsidized online college instruction to the coffee company's employees.
And while the for-profit college industry has received flack and increased regulatory scrutiny for issues including relying on federal grants and loans for their revenue, Wade says what takes his schools out of this pool is that they do not accept federal financial aid programs.