Corporate profits are at an all-time high. Student debt is at an all-time high. It’s time for Apple to help out.
By Scott Galloway of Wired.com
Apple’s ability to create low-cost products and sell them at premium luxury prices has landed them with a cash pile greater than the Russian stock market and the market capitalisation of Boeing and Nike combined. The big question is whether Apple has an obligation to spend this enormous pile of cash? And, if so, how?
My suggestion: Apple should launch the world’s largest tuition-free university.
The company has roots in academia and its brand foots really well with creative services and education. But, ultimately, I also think this idea is an enormous profit opportunity.
How can Apple make it tuition-free as well as profitable? It needs to “flip” the current funding model, by making it tuition-free for students and by charging companies to recruit there. At the moment, companies go to universities and think of them as their giant HR departments. The reasons are obvious. Universities are great at screening applicants, picking smart people, ensuring they can work in groups and that they are emotionally stable. Universities aren’t in the business of educating, as much as they are in the business of granting credentials to its students. Apple would be very good at attracting the best candidates. And in exchange for access to those students, corporates would be willing to pay a lot of money.
Corporate profits are at an all-time high. Student debt is at an all-time high. So we need to flip the model and put the costs of education on to the corporation. Apple could also deploy a bidding system, similar to what Google and Facebook do in advertising, where corporations bid to have first access to the very best students.
Apple is already 60 to 70 per cent there. It has the brand and it would attract incredible applicants. What makes a quality school? Sure, it’s the faculty, but mostly it’s the brand’s ability to attract the best and brightest. As long as the best and brightest apply to your programme, you’re going to have the best and brightest faculty.
As long as you have the best and brightest faculty, you will have the best recruiters showing up, who will pay the most. And as long as you have the recruiters who will pay the most showing up, you get the best and brightest applying.
Apple would immediately get several million applications. Or enough applications where they can have an outstanding faculty. And then, by offering free tuition, they can place competitive pressure on my colleagues to start offering tuition at a lower price.
This is desperately needed because currently we have this cartel that makes OPEC look cuddly and socially conscious.
I work with one of the best faculties in the world – and I think two-thirds could leave and not be missed. Now, does that mean they should be fired? No. But does it mean that they should be making as much money as they do, without the same competitive pressures that everyone faces in the marketplace? Of course not. This just translates into outrageous tuition fees which kids finance with debt. Which means they get houses later; which means they start families later; which means they take fewer risks – it’s a drain on the economy.
So, I think a healthy dose of this tech-inspired efficiency and competition would be a great thing for academia. Today, we currently have the wrong attitude. We turn away people and take pride in our exclusivity. It’s like a homeless shelter bragging about the people it doesn’t let through the door. The whole mentality is screwed up.
Apple Stores could be used as campuses for the Apple University. The stores are in highly dense, populated areas; they’re not used after hours and they’re already starting to give some classes.
Alternatively, what if Apple had taken their space ship and turned it into a university? What if they said it was a university from the hours of 6pm to 10pm? And what if they said that three per cent of its 150,000 employees that have credentials as being the best and brightest in the company become the adjunct professors in this university?
With Apple’s profits, I believe it could start the equivalent of the University of Texas, the University of California or the Michigan state system – but ultimately, I think it could start the largest free-tuition system in America. It would be good for society, it foots to their brand and I think it would be wildly profitable. What it would really come down to, to make all of this work, is execution.
As told to WIRED consulting head Tom Upchurch
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