Proponents of online education have long branded it as a way to bring free knowledge to the masses, but in a thought-provoking piece for The Awl, Maria Bustillos argues that the rise of so-called massively open online courses (MOOCs) may not bode well for the quality of higher education. As Bustillos points out, online programs are being rapidly adopted at colleges across the US, where tight budgets and overcrowding are forcing some lawmakers to look for alternatives, but profit-driven interests from startups like Udacity are threatening to dilute the "techno-utopian ideal" that MOOCs once promised with derivative facsimiles of a college education.

"[P]ublic money has been mercilessly hacked from California's education budget for decades," Bustillos writes, "so now we are to give public money, taxpayer money, to private, for-profit companies to take up the slack? Because that is exactly what is happening. Wouldn't it make more sense to just fund education to the levels we had back when it was working?"