Game Changers 2020 Essay Series: Working Scholars Transforms Higher Education and Unlocks Better Futures

Working Scholars Transforms Higher Education and Unlocks Better Futures

Adrian Ridner, CEO and Co-founder,

A college degree is key to unlocking economic opportunity, but it is a dream that’s out of reach for millions of students. Our higher education system, largely untouched by the technological innovations that have happened in nearly every facet of modern life, has left over 31 million students stranded with some college credit, but no degree. From skyrocketing tuition costs and record $1.5 trillion student loan debt, to inflexible course schedules, the path to college is filled with obstacles for today’s students and for many, it just doesn’t work.

Online learning is not new, but what makes Working Scholars a game changer is the application of competency-based education and personalized learning to empower life-changing advancement. With a mobile platform designed for micro-learning on the go, students can take college courses on their phones, anytime, anywhere. Instead of a traditional classroom experience with rigid schedules, this new on-demand video learning environment offers the flexibility crucial for students juggling college and a full-time job or family.

Unlike traditional approaches that focus on providing more access to grants and loans, Working Scholars addresses the college affordability issue at the root by leveraging technology to dramatically reduce overall college costs by 75 percent.

By reducing tuition costs, and eliminating the burden of massive student debt, this online learning platform makes college economically accessible.

  • Students can earn college credit by taking courses from Study com
  • Transfer to accredited four-year universities
  • Complete their degree, at a discounted tuition rate

Reducing tuition costs also opens additional funding resources for many working adults by allowing them to cover the entire cost of their degree utilizing their employer’s existing tuition assistance program. These programs, while widely offered, were previously only able to cover a few courses a year, not an entire bachelor’s degree. Beyond individual students, whole communities like East Palo Alto and Perris, California have successfully launched Working Scholars in their cities.

By unbundling college, Working Scholars simplifies and accelerates learning while building up student confidence, one lesson at a time. It’s not just tech that transforms the learning experience. Working Scholars provides access to instructors to clarify concepts and high-touch, personalized coaching throughout the entire process as a support system – critical for educational success.

Several hundred students have already successfully graduated and earned their degree through this new pathway to college. By making education accessible, Working Scholars upskills the workforce of the future, and combats economic inequality.

A bachelor’s degree unlocks career mobility and has a multigenerational impact providing a better future for the student and their families, who earn over 50 percent more lifetime earnings than those without a degree.

As Working Scholars continues to transform higher education, it’s graduating students with the most critical skill for success in our rapidly evolving world: learning agility. The positive social and financial impact of this program will be felt immediately and will carry over to 2020 and beyond.

August 30, 2019