How to fix America’s broken higher education system | Lumina Prize winner Greater Commons

I have a plan for building a better education
system, but I need your help. For 20 years, I’ve served as a tenured professor
in California. I’ve watched generations of students come
to campus with hope in their eyes. They want better jobs. They want a brighter future. Yet half of them will not graduate. That’s right. Half of those who begin higher education drop
out. There is even more bad news, unfortunately,
about the state of higher education. If you want to understand how bad higher education
is in America, you need to know three numbers — 50, 68, 73. We already talked about how 50% of those who
begin higher education — half of students who begin higher education — drop out. This is a massive fail. But it gets worse. 68% of Americans never achieve a higher ed
degree. The current system fails more than 2/3rds
of Americans. This is another massive fail. Yet it still gets worse. Of those that do earn a degree, 73% go into
a career different than their field of study. Students come to higher ed for better jobs. Yet 73% of the time they do not directly use
what they learned. This is another massive fail. Higher education is failing Americans, and
this leads to all kinds of breakdowns in our society and in the lives of young adults — loneliness,
pessimism, despair, debt, depression, opioids, suicide, lack of innovation, unrealized human
potential, unrealized GDP, unrealized contributions to humanity. These are the true costs of our broken education
system. This is a deeply concerning issue and a very
important issue for us to solve. This is such an important issue, the United
States government has identified the breakdown in education as a national security issue. To put it plainly, ladies and gentlemen, education
has not kept pace with our rapidly changing world. And this is why we are creating Greater Commons. The first thing we’ve accomplished is that
we’ve created classes that have been delivered to 312,223 students in 192 different countries. In these classes, we’ve tested and refined
our theories on how education should be delivered in our digitally connected and rapidly changing
world. We call our approach agile learning. Our courses have met with significant success,
both in reviews from students and in the deliverable of getting students jobs. The second thing we’ve accomplished is that
we’ve built our own learning platform to deliver classes. We knew we wanted to create more than what’s
in the marketplace right now, so we went through our code debt learning curve on this step. Through this process, we focused on optimizing
for cost. For instance, the market currently charges
$0.04 for each minute of video encoded. But because we built our own video encoder,
we can do it for one-third of a cent. That’s a 12x reduction in cost. Step three — this third step, which we’re
just beginning, focuses upon marketing two niche courses generating revenue and growing
our user base. One course is a sexual harassment training
for California. A new law requires millions of people in California
to be trained in the next six months. To market this course, we hired Raymond Fong
and Chad Riddersen, who helped Dollar Shave Club realize its success. For the other niche course, we are working
with Let’s Go Learn to deliver a training by one of America’s leading experts in special
education administration. This will help K through 12 schools across
the country provide better special ed services and avoid legal liability. Step four in this 12-step process is to begin
— to begin this step, we need a financial cushion. This financial cushion may come from profits
generated in the previous step, or we can accelerate into this step with investment. In this step, we will do two things. First, we will hire a grant writer. Hiring a grant writer will allow us to go
after funds offered by the government that align with our efforts. There is a not widely known pipeline for the
development of new technology which has been beneficial to many Silicon Valley companies,
including Instagram Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook. This requires understanding broad agency announcements
and the desires of DARPA, IARPA, and the DOD. There are three key areas which are exact
matches between what we want to accomplish and what the government wants to accomplish. The second thing we will do in this step is
that we will offer most of our courses at a very low cost. Our objective is to grow our user base while
maintaining a break-even balance between marginal revenue and marginal cost. Step five — in this step, we will focus upon
automating or augmenting our platform. We’ll upgrade our assessment tools and reporting
metrics. We will also add a grade book and grading
tools, such as speed grading and AI-enabled automatic grading. Step six — in this step, we will white label
our platform. This opportunity allows us to further expand
the brand, further grow our user base, generate new revenue, and establish relationships with
companies and public institutions. Step seven — in this step, we break into
significantly new territory. I can’t talk about what we’re going to do
in this step because nobody is doing it. It is amazing and revolutionary. And we’re going to be the first ones to do
it. If you are interested in collaborating with
us, which we’ll explore soon, we can share this step with you in person. Step eight — in this step, we create training
pathways for specific positions guided by projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. One course pathway will be for developers,
and other pathways might include solar installers, wind turbine technicians, and home health
care aides. By having the developer pathway, it will also
allow us to source talent for new hires in our own organization. Step nine — in this step, we develop learning
tools to make the learning process more efficient and more effective. This will allow people to learn more quickly
and to remember longer. Step 10 — the goal in this step is to partner
with California’s community college system. The California college system is the largest
higher ed system in America, serving 2.1 million students per year. My roots in this system are deep, and we will
leverage the connections I’ve developed over 20 years to empower the most significant higher
ed system in America to more effectively help students. Step 11 — in this step, we’ll partner with
select companies to help them find better hires and to increase the productivity and
profitability of their current workforce. This is an important and significant step. In this step, we lay the foundation for our
ultimate revenue model, which is the sourcing of human capital. Step 12 — this is our final step. And in this step, we again forge into new
territory which I can’t discuss in a public forum. This is the magnum opus of what we’ve been
building. At this point, our vision is complete. From this point forward, we will adapt to
changing conditions in the marketplace and optimize what we have built, leveraging machine
learning, artificial intelligence, and any new developments in technology. We’ll have started a learning revolution,
aligned education with the dynamic realities of today’s economy, and fundamentally changed
our system of higher education. If you are an investor, we are a Delaware
C corp looking to relocate into an economic opportunity zone and would love to have a
conversation with you about collaborating together. If you are a philanthropist or in charge of
a foundation, we are in the process of establishing a 501(c)3 and would love to have a conversation
about how your money can help educate people and get them into jobs. If you manage a company, we would love to
help you build a more professional, productive, and profitable workforce. If you are in government, we would love any
insights that could help with this project. In addition, several of the developers we
want to hire — many of them my former students — live abroad. We would appreciate assistance with getting
visas that lead to citizenship for these individuals. For everyone, if you’re interested in donating
to support our efforts, you can do so by going to And if a million people watch this video and
each person donates $12, this will give us the funds needed to build better education
for everyone. So go to to donate any
amount. Ladies and gentlemen, the future prosperity
and peace of our country and of our species depends upon the quality of our education. I became an educator because I believe in
the power of education to improve lives and to improve society. Our intellect is the tool with which we build
our world. This issue is too important to not solve it. Our quickly changing economy demands an agile
education system, and we are ready to build it. We are honored to have won Lumina’s prize
as thought leaders in education. We have strong confidence in our vision and
strategy. Our challenge at this point is to take our
tested ideas and scale them first to our country and then to the world. To invest, to donate, to contribute in any
way, come to or email me at [email protected] That’s Todd — T-O-D-D —

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35 Responses

  1. Chase Tuttle says:


  2. Charcha with NK says:

    What is broken ? First we need to find the answer for this. I am sure not whole system is bad.

  3. suske wiske says:

    Not first!!!

  4. O'SSÉIN - Master Your Mind With Me says:

    Make it free from political influence

  5. Blaktimus PRhyme says:

    Big think with actual content I can get behind. More this less… literally anything else.

  6. A Imperial Guard says:

    1) Make public universities actually public aka free, there already successful countries that have free public universities that are running smooth and well, the whole "free universities are doom to fail" is conservative bullshit.

    2) Tell future students to stop seeking death ends garbage titles, a massive example being gender studies as a whole.

    3) Keep them politically neutral. You come to learn and make a future for yourself, not to virtue signal alongside other narcissistic SJWs that gets triggered when they see a orange or the color red.

  7. Augustus McGovern says:

    Fix dat shiz! Is been way too long overdue!!

  8. saksham dahiya says:

    not only for usa but also for india

  9. Augustus McGovern says:

    Didn't Trump say that the solution to this problem is just having your parents pay for your college education or am I wrong? I remember Mitt Romney saying something similarly vacuous but I'm pretty sure that our dear leader said that on the campaign trail last time around.

  10. Rand Huso says:

    The way you improve higher education? Drop the "women's studies" programs. Treat everyone based on merit instead of on association with a group. Emphasize STEM programs at the expense of all others. The future doesn't need a bunch of people who've learned how to say: "would you like fries with that?".

  11. Mikerphone says:

    They hide it to prevent anyone but them from profiting from it. That's enough to lose me right there. If your whole argument is based on the premise of equality of opportunity and the betterment of the earth and the civilization of man. From this moral perspective of, "this is what people have a right to" then there should be no profit motive. There should be no control of the idea. No secrecy. It should be open sourced to all for critique, implementation, and availability to as many as possible. If it smells like a scam, acts like a scam, then is it a scam? Free education for all, as a right and an investment into our species and our world. End of story.

  12. Fulgrim says:

    It's not just higher education that is broken. It's the education system in general. We should be looking at education system overhauls in countries like Finland and other countries who have implemented overhauls that have push their education system way past our in terms of effectiveness and over all quality. We also need to remove politics from out education system at all levels. Also, we need to push parents to step up and parent their children. Because its a parents job to ensure that their child will grow up to be a positive and contributing member of society.

  13. Gabe says:

    Yang 2020

  14. T_ C says:


  15. SpiDer -7006 says:

    Higher education is a joke. Total waste of money. Education is a business. People making money off others who provide no real value. Snake oil.

    If you want to learn something, find a mentor, work in the industry you want to and surround yourself with people that are financially successful… unless you want to be a doctor, then get a degree.

    Don’t waste half a decade and tens of thousands of dollars just to make someone else rich i.e. get a job. If you do what the crowd does, hopefully you will get what the rest of the crowd gets…

  16. Capitalist Bender says:

    Get rid of Social Justice courses like Gender Studies. Offer more science courses, things based in facts. problem solved

  17. KIVan1000X says:

    You want to change something in education, so that people don't drop out so much and the future is better? How about sharing all of your lectures and materials for them, books, tests with answers, 100% of it, online for free? This makes sense on so many levels – for people who want to try before comiting, for people who can master it on their own, for people who graduated 20 years ago and want to refresh… God, why is the professor repeating the same thing every semester to a new group of people??? We don't have cameras? I have 2 masters degrees from 10 years ago, and I really did not need to be physically present to learn 95% of what I learned. It is all in the books, and the books are now online. Outside of field of medicine – you can learn anything you want to learn, given the motivation.

  18. Francisco Chacon says:

    Easy get rid of the unnecessary filler generals, make math department adapt to the 21 century and realize not everyone cares for deriving formulas. And place a higher emphasis on practical trade school over some useless degrees like philosophy of engineering

  19. أدرس معي says:

    Upcoming arab Studytuber watching ??

  20. CommanderXED says:

    Somewhere around 10 percent of all jobs in America require skills that can only be acquired through completion of a College/University Degree Program (i.e. Professionals in Medicine, Engineering, Higher Education?, and some, but not all Scientific Research). In most cases employers simply add a Degree Requirement because it weeds out people who cannot follow through on a large scale goal. It also "usually" indicates a basic level of familiarity with a specific subject however, that can normally be obtained through a short period of personal research in the subject. Once hired employers then "train" the employee to fulfill a specific role within the company. The US would be much better served by spending its money on short/specific training programs that prepare someone for an actual job than Liberal Arts degrees for everyone, regardless of aptitude or ability.

  21. solomon dunston says:

    Online classes are more costly with a higher failure rate.

  22. M says:

    So about 2/3rds of Americans never get a degree, 1/2 of Americans that try never finish, 3/4ths of Americans that do finish a degree are employed in other fields, thus it seems like for the vast majority of Americans higher education does no good and actually does harm; debt. So it seems we do not need more college but less, fewer students; fewer people wasting their time and money doing something that will not do them any good and only do them harm.

  23. Noel Ebbert says:

    I love my uni. state ag school that has great people and is relatively inexpensive at 8 grand a year. Our universities need to be funded 100% by tax payers. It's a rough call, but i've been in the workforce, i'm currently a student that is not in debt at all or will be , and I would gladly pay more in taxes for education and healthcare for those who can't afford it.

    Next step would be to close the loop holes that wall street FUCKS everyday americans with .

  24. That-dude-with-a-really-long-ass-screen-name.Ha-you-actually-read-it. says:

    You want to fix college? Ok. Go back to making them trade schools again. The biggest lie I hear in education is "it makes students well rounded". The only rounding these BULLSHIT electives do is rounding the banks waist. Cut the BULLSHIT electives and slash these curriculums.

  25. Carrandas says:

    Why doesn't the government pay for your college like it does in Belgium and other European states? With a degree you'll find a higher paying job. This means more taxes for the government. In the long term, they easily win back their investment. Sure, 50% of students also fail in their first year but you get a second shot at a different degree.

  26. Bradley Noneofyourbizz says:

    Fire Betsy Devos, for starters. Or better, vote Dem.

  27. Brando Commando says:

    The last targeted workforce education paradigm was so successful we have to revamp the farming methods cuz the cows stopped producing milk for the farmer!
    Yes please train me for the new work u need done assisting the rich getting richer.

  28. Darth Tater says:

    Here’s an idea , get a degree that has a high paying career path

  29. Alexander Ro says:

    I learned algebra calculus and physics by watching YouTube videos. No need for Americas broken educational system.

  30. Darthenator says:

    Higher Ed looks like adult day care to me. The first college I went to tried to extort money from my family

  31. Vic Thor says:

    Just not give kid acess to social media before they get a degree, simplest solution ever.

  32. dcha9010 says:

    I really don't know where he's getting his numbers from. I'm not seeing the same numbers using google search. The percentages that are generally agreed on are around 40% and less if considering 6 years of studying. That's bad but I also feel there are some very problematic points in the argument that something even wrong with the system. For example in the current system, the percentage vary, but Asians have a extremely low percentage of dropping out compared to others. Also, the only reason why these numbers are so bad is because they factor in for-profit private universities and 2-year degrees. For profit schools are generally known for being giant rip offs that prey on the ignorant and two-year degree seekers… that's a whole different thing on its own.

  33. EdisonMedicine says:

    So is this accredited by the state or board of education? I take courses and then print out my degree if I pass?

  34. Ryan Fisher says:

    This is not just a breakdown in education it is a complete breakdown of capitalism as seen sense the failed recovery after the crash of 2008 and we have seen the signs that we are heading into another recession now. This is really just a failure to understand how the problem with education is that it is now a commodity rather than a human right and must be free at point of use as we do for K-12, we should do for pre-K and to any level of education or training needed to be productive at a job which we must also guarantee along with a livable minimum wage. all of these problems are intertwined and cannot just be solved with a market solution. This man should be ashamed of claiming to know how to solve a systemic issue by just maintaining the system. To fix a system you must do fundamental reform.

  35. creamsykle says:

    This idea that was pushed of everyone can go to college is a pretty big problem. Most people dont have the brain power, or the grit to push through college even at its lowest levels. Top that with most who graduate did so with sub-par grades (Bs,Cs, and Ds). Lets not leave out stupid Majors and Subs like gender studies. This makes college on a resume mostly useless. And it make a large portion of people go into a lifetime a debt for something that was never meant for them. College was meant to separate out and give extended training to the brightest of our race. Rich peoples children also got access to this education because it needed to be financially supported somehow. Now it is just a clown show, running purely on a business model to sucker people out of money. When you come to interview with me for a job that requires college education, you better bring transcripts that show a 3.7 or higher GPA or be ready to be offered 50k a year at best for your efforts.

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