I love this idea -- the federal government is already involved with accrediting colleges, so why not create a National University that accredits courses and offer degrees? There's a plethora of great online courses, but none of the universities who created them are willing to offer online degrees because they don't want to dilute their brands or lose out on tuition money.

That's where the federal government comes in. With some authorizing language from Congress and a small, one-time start-up budget, the U.S. Department of Education could create a nonprofit, bipartisan organization with only two missions: approving courses and granting degrees.

Don't worry, federal bureaucrats won't be in charge of academic matters. Instead, National U. would hire teams of leading scholars to evaluate and approve courses. Some of the decisions shouldn't be difficult. ...

National U. would also map out which courses students need to take to earn an associate or bachelor's degree. This won't be difficult, since existing colleges have already established a standard set of requirements: a certain number of approved lower- and upper-division courses, plus an approved sequence in an academic major, adding up to 60 or 120 credits. Once students complete the credits, National U. will grant them a degree.

While many of the courses will be free, students will bear small costs for taking exams through secure online channels or in-person testing facilities. (Textbooks will be free and open-source). Students will also pay a modest fee of a few hundred dollars for the degree itself, enough to defray the operating costs of National U.

When my six-year-old goes to college I bet it will look a lot different than it does now.

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