I became involved in college admissions 24 years ago. I worked in this area for less than a year before doing Christian ministry work and sales. I returned to admissions and college counseling almost 15 years ago. I think this alliance between Georgia Tech, Udacity, and AT&T has more potential to change the landscape of college admissions than anything else I have seen in almost 25 years.

The traditional college model is a residential model that relies on bodies in beds to justify the outrageous prices that in some cases exceed $60,000. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have generated a lot of buzz in the last few years, but this partnership between Georgia Tech and Udacity has people running scared and watching their backs. MOOCs were intriguing, but never before has any school, let alone a world-class computer science program, offered MOOCs as an accredited degree program. Here is the killer—instead of paying the $45,000 a year that Georgia Tech normally charges for their master’s in computer science, this online version will cost students only $7,000, less than 1/6th the cost of the residential program. OUCH!

In case you are wondering if this new offering is popular, let’s look at the data. Stanford yielded 79% of the students they admitted, and Harvard 82% of their accepted students. Very, very few schools yield more than 60% of the students they accepted. Georgia Tech’s computer science MOOC accepted 401 students and yielded 15 out of every 16 students they accepted, an astounding 94%!

Was there a demand for the “first and only” degree from an accredited university that operates entirely through a massive open online course format?  They received more than 2,400 applications in just three weeks—75% more applications in a three-week period than they normally receive for the entire year for their on-campus master’s in computer science course!

Colleges are always looking to develop pipelines to new students, so let’s take a look at how successful Ga Tech’s online master’s of science (OMS) in computer science has been according to this criteria. Ninety percent of Ga Tech’s on-campus MS in computer science students are international students, but the MOOC CS master’s degree program has drawn 88% of its students from the United States.

The average age of the on-campus master’s student in computer science is 24, but the average age of the online master’s student is closer to 35.

Colleges are always looking for alternative revenue sources, and AT&T has stepped up and provided more than $2 million toward Ga Tech’s program. They see this as a brilliant way to further train their workforce. Eighty percent of the 375 students enrolled in the first year are AT&T employees.

Colleges and universities take note every time one of their competitors tries something new and are successful. When they have resounding success like Ga Tech has had, is there any question that dozens more degree-offering MOOCs are going to spring up across the land?

The residential experience was too life altering for too many of us to completely disappear, but if the same degree can be obtained for 1/6th the price, expect more and more people to say, “Sign me up and count me in.”