While the entertainment industry has managed to use the courthouse to cling to traditional business models and avoid a complete transformation, the university has no such foothold and the vast majority that do not adapt will be forced to fall back into filling niches as social institutions rather than educational ones. (You could argue this has already happened to a large extent, only the costs have not yet caught up with those buying in.)
While I know I've benefited greatly from my time in Blacksburg, I've also paid an exorbitant amount of money to have such an opportunity and will continue to pay for it for years to come. I see institutions like Udacity as fundamentally more in line with my own morals as they support education being openly accessible to all.
Today's universities are in a difficult position: they themselves are the parties most likely to suffer if the systems of higher education are disrupted, but an eventual shake-up courtesy of technology is inevitable.
In many ways, the university's position is analogous to that of Kodak before digital cameras supplanted traditional film cameras. Kodak was well aware of the potential of digital cameras–they themselves were the ones who invented much of the technology that made them possible–but they also had a stranglehold over the market of film sales and were in no hurry to disrupt their own way of doing business. Digital cameras were created, however, and by the time Kodak threw itself at the digital camera market, they were unable to make a successful transition. The demand of Kodak's services declined as people stopped using traditional film cameras, and they've recently had to abandon the consumer camera market altogether.
Fortunately for us, others were happy to step in.
Many top-tier schools are beginning to charge out into this new frontier, but comprehensive, effective and freely-available alternatives to the traditional classroom are just now beginning to appear. Whether it means partnering with an existing website like Coursera or forging a path on its own, Virginia Tech should embrace the open and accessible future of higher education and help drive its development.
Why would Tech want to offer a service for free when it's still able to charge incredible amounts of money for it? Because others will step in and do so regardless of what path Tech's administration chooses to take, and for those who believe education is something that should be freely available to all, it will be a great day when they do.
senior, computer science