A California assemblyman named Scott Wilk has proposed a “New University of California” whose only purpose would be to provide certification tests — tests that show you have learned the material of this or that college class. Here is what his bill says:
(1) The New University of California shall provide no instruction, but shall issue college credit and baccalaureate and associate degrees to any person capable of passing examinations.
(2) The New University of California is authorized to contract with qualified entities for the formulation of peer-reviewed course examinations the passage of which would demonstrate that the student has the knowledge and skill necessary to receive college credit for that course.
This is not online education. You can learn the material however you want — for example, by reading a book.
An unsigned New York Times editorial called the idea “particularly ludicrous” but did not say why. I think it’s a good idea. It gives students much more power: They can choose the learning methods and materials and times that fit them best (listening to lectures at work, for example), in contrast to the one-class-fits-all approach at almost all colleges. The cost in time and money will be much less than attending a typical university. The proposal helps employers because passage of these tests reflects a skill useful in many jobs: ability to learn on one’s own.
Compared to an ordinary college degree (say, from Berkeley), a degree or certification from the New University of California fails to show that you did well enough in high school to get admitted to Berkeley. This could be remedied by showing your prospective employer a letter of admittance to Berkeley.