So called ‘nano-degrees’, degrees that are quickly completed and highly specialized are being offered more frequently, but will they reshape higher education as we know it?

Forbes reports:

Nano-Degrees as a New Model to Integrate into Higher Education

Last year, AT&T and the online educational organization Udacity teamed up to offer a “nano-degree” that directly trains students for a job with AT&T. This move is in line with a new government report that suggests that more cooperation between universities and businesses is the key to economic success in the future. However, Michael Roth, the president of Wesleyan University, is skeptical of nano-degrees. The degrees, he claims, are no substitute for a liberal arts degree.

Roth believes that the critical thinking skills and breadth of a liberal arts degree vastly outweigh any benefits from a nano-degree. While I am certainly in favor of liberal arts degrees, the idea that they make nano-degrees pointless seems absurd. While it’s true that the liberal arts give students more skills than the nano-degrees, the difference in the costs of the two degrees more than makes up for it.

The tuition at Wesleyan University for one year could pay for the nano-degree Udacity and AT&T are offering more than 20 times over, and the nano-degree takes less than a year to complete, rather than the typical four-year degree – if the degree is even completed in four years. The low cost of nano-degrees makes it easier to earn them, so it’s feasible to get more than one: If an employee is unsatisfied with her current job, she can cheaply and quickly get the training for a new one through a nano-degree.