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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