In 2011, my co-blogger David and I bet on the future of higher education.  The terms:

I propose that we use the official numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Table 212
2009 is the latest available year of data.  29.6% of 18-24 year-olds
were enrolled in 4-year institutions.  I bet that in 2019, that percent
will be no more than 10% lower.  Rounding in your favor, I win if the
number is 26.7% or more.  If the number is lower, you win.  If the data
series is discontinued, the bet is canceled.  Stakes: $100 at even odds.

Three more years of data are now in.  Education bubble pundits notwithstanding, nothing much has happened.  In 2010, the enrollment rate fell to 28.2%.  In 2011, it rebounded to an all-time high of 30.0%. In 2012, the rate fell back to 28.3%. 

What if we’d bet on enrollment rates of recent high school completers rather 18-24 year-olds?  2009 was an all-time high of 70.1%.  This fell back to 68.1% in 2010, stayed at 68.2% in 2011, and sharply dropped to 66.2% in 2012.

If current trends continue, I will lose this bet.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I did; after all, I bet at even odds.  But the point of the bet was never to deny that college enrollments may modestly decline, or that today’s start-ups will find their niche.  The point, rather, was to scoff at the notion that any of today’s start-ups – our the industry as a whole – will be the Napster of education.  Not gonna happen.

“There are seven more years to go!,” you protest?  I’m still happy to bet on the original terms.