Free college will not solve America’s problems. There, I said it. Not because I don’t think the rich should pay for it, but because the standard 4-year university is going away entirely over the next century or two. The purpose of education is to get a good job, right? If that’s the case, then it’s worth looking at what the future of work looks like, in order to decide what the future of education will be.

What is the future of work?

If you Google “future of work,” you’ll get sources from McKinsey, Deloitte, and Forbes. They all pretty much say the same two things:

  1. The future is freelance.
  2. Most current jobs are already being automated, and new jobs will take their place (hopefully).

How does freelance fit in?

Millennials and Generation Z love freelancing, despite its challenges. It allows us to work remotely, maintain many clients, and have the flexibility to work when we want—and when we don’t. People build mini-agencies through freelance gigs. There are thousands of us doing this and the number is only going up every year. Yeah, those are freelancers. This is called the gig economy.

At PubLoft, we believe that the gig economy is built on the back of skill sets, not degrees. The only thing that matters is your ability to do a job. Can you program a website? Can you design a logo? Can you run a Facebook ad? Those are all things that can be learned on the internet. Either you can already do it, or you can learn.

In fact, most skills can be learned for free online. If you like having some structure, pay for a $10 course on Udemy. Want something even more structured? Spend $500-$1,000 and learn data science or digital marketing on Udacity. Want to code but can’t afford an education? Great, Lambda School is free up front and just takes a portion of your first two years of salary. This is just the beginning for new models pioneering the future, leaving behind the obscene tuition.

In other words, if you want to get skilled, the internet can often be a better teacher than a $50,000 degree that’s using a likely outdated curriculum.

Connecting the future of work to education today

When we talk about education and giving it away for free to all citizens, we should ask ourselves if we’re using the right tool for the job. Is higher education as we know it today the future of education? Is there a better way to offer knowledge to people, to help people become more educated and skilled? In making this massive change, are we potentially working against the “path of least resistance”?

Perhaps Hampshire College is just the beginning. It’s possible that colleges could start to crumble under the pressure of other options competing with their outdated two- and four-year models. If a new type of education were to start taking hold, it would be in everyone’s best interest to get people going in THAT direction, with the current—not against it.

To be clear, I’m proposing that instead of going to college for a math, liberal arts, engineering, or other degree, up-and-coming students ought to have their education intersect with the future of work in the most beneficial way possible. I’m saying we should look for skills-based education sources, learn 2–3 skills we can perform well, and put ourselves out there as freelancers competing with the big dogs.

There are dozens of new forms of education popping up that are 5 times more effective and cost 50 times less than college. We need only pick one that interests us.

I’m not against education

Note, I’m not against education. I am against offering college for free because college itself may not be the best solution for our children anymore! What got us here what won’t get us there. What will get us there is a push on innovation, entrepreneurship, and the act of creating jobs out of thin air. Why? Because the second point made about the future of work is job automation.

Actionable, in-demand skills are going to be more important than ever in a future where AI can handle many of the tasks that have been required from humans since the dawn of industry. Technical skills will be more important than ever for job stability, with AI nipping at our heels.

Now is not the time to look back on what worked. It’s the time to push forward and pioneer new models of education that work for the next 100 years and beyond. $50,000 in tuition, paid by ANYONE, is $50,000 wasted.

Buckle in, the future of work is coming. You ready?