$7,000 Computer Science Master’s: Udacity and Georgia Tech Chop Tuition

Udacity x Georgia Tech

The MOOC evolution is happening faster and faster than we predicted. Here’s a story breaking about Georgia Tech – in partnership with Udacity and AT&T – offering an online computer science degree for less than $7,000!!! Looks like they will use a test batch of students initially but expand to more in 2014.

– This is, as far as we know, the first full-fledged degree offered by an institution via a MOOC provider. That’s big news and it’s going to be a shocking bit of news to all of Higher Ed. Competitor Computer Science programs now will look expensive and be forced to respond. It could also create a rival to companies such as 2U that partner with reputable graduate schools to provide infrastructure for online graduate school programs.

– The price of this degree is also both heartening (to people concerned about the rising costs of tuition) and shocking (to people worried about faculty interests and the future of universities as we know them). Georgia Tech says it has gained 3/4 approval from its faculty to offer this degree. We won’t be surprised if some kind of faculty or special interest opposition emerges, however, from inside or outside Georgia Tech.

– Udacity will receive 40% of revenues from the JV and Georgia Tech will receive 60%. AT&T is acting as a corporate sponsor.

The OSMCS – Online Masters in Computer Science program gives its rational this way: 

This collaboration brings together leaders in education, MOOCs and industry to apply the disruptive power of massively open online teaching to widen the pipeline of high-quality, educated talent needed in computer science fields. Not only will OMS CS serve as a catalyst for transformational change throughout higher education, it could serve as a blueprint to help the United States address the current shortage of workers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.


Sebastian Thrun, Udacity co-founder, writes on his blog: 

I grew up in Germany, a country that offers excellent education. Yet when I started my Master’s degree in computer science, I found myself among 1,200 other Master’s students with just five professors. Needless to say, I ended up mostly educating myself through books that were available at a nearby research institute.

Today is my opportunity to give back. Ever since Peter Norvig and I launched AI Class, I have been dreaming of putting an entire computer science degree online, and to make access to the material free of charge, so that everyone can become a proficient computer scientist. With Georgia Tech and AT&T, this is my dream come true. If, as a young student, I had the chance to learn from the best professors in the world, my life might have been different. I have been fortunate. Yet so many potential learners are still denied access. Education has become much more exclusive, and getting into a top-10 computer science department, like Georgia Tech’s, is still out of reach for all but a chosen few. I co-founded Udacity to bring the very best of higher education to everyone worldwide. With Georgia Tech, we have a partner whose computer science program is among the best in the world! And equally importantly, with AT&T, we partner with a Fortune-500 company which is relentlessly innovating in the space of digital access to information. This triumvirate of industry and academia is now teaming up to use 21st Century MOOC technology to level the playing field in computer science education. And while the degree rightfully comes with a tuition fee — after all, to achieve the very best in online education we will provide support services — the bare content will be available free of charge, available for anyone eager to learn. We are also launching non-credit certificates at a much reduced price point, to give a path to those who don’t care about Georgia Tech credit or degrees, but still want their learning results certified.

I wish I had been born in the 1990s. Back when I was a college student, the Web did not exist. How many young students are there in the world today as eager to learn as I was? Only time will tell how many young people we’ll be able to empower to reach for the stars. If you are a student in our program and come across this blog post, please drop me a line at sebastian@udacity.com. If only a single life can be touched with this program, it will be a success!

Inside Higher Ed reports: 

Georgia Tech expects to hire only eight or so new instructors even as it takes its master’s program from 300 students to as many as 10,000 within three years, said Zvi Galil, the dean of computing at Georgia Tech.

The university will rely instead on Udacity staffers, known as “mentors,” to field most questions from students who enroll in the new program. But company and university officials said the new degrees would be entirely comparable to the existing master’s degree in computer science from Georgia Tech, which costs about $40,000 a year for non-Georgia residents.

“You know there is a revolution going on, right?” Galil said in a telephone interview. “And we have been a part of this revolution, but I thought we could be leaders in this revolution by taking it to the next level, by doing the revolutionary step.” That step, he said, is using technology to radically increase the scale of a for-credit offering while sharply reducing the price.

Galil said three-fourths of his 80 or so faculty members signed off on the arrangement in a series of March votes. Benjamin Flowers, who chairs the graduate curriculum committee at Georgia Tech, told the Associated Press that despite Faculty Senate concerns, it had left the decision about what to do up to the computer science program.

Inside Higher Ed 

Tamar Lewin writes in The New York Times: 

Starting in the fall, the Georgia Institute of Technology, together with AT&T and Udacity, an online education venture, will offer a master’s degree in computer science that can be earned entirely through so-called massive open online courses, or MOOCs. While the courses would be available free online to the general public, students seeking the degree would have to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and pay tuition that is expected to be less than $7,000  Initially, the program will be limited to a few hundred students from AT&T and Georgia Tech corporate affiliates, but enrollment is then expected to expand in the fall of 2014. 

Rip Empson Writes in TechCrunch:

The other point of note here is that Georgia Tech ain’t no safety school. According to U.S. News’ rankings of the best engineering schools in the U.S., Georgia Tech is tied for fifth place with Carnegie Mellon. So, it looks like Coursera and EdX aren’t the only ones providing online educational experiences with content from elite universities.

Furthermore, tuition (full-time, out of state) for Georgia Tech is $26,860 — which makes Udacity’s online degree look more than a little appealing in comparison. However, while anyone will be able to sign up and take Udacity’s Computer Science courses for free, only those actually enrolled at Georgia Tech will be able to earn credits towards a degree. The companies plan to launch a pilot of the program in the fall of 2014, beginning with a couple hundred students.

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