What If Universities Offered Subscriptions?

Reconsidering tuition in an era of lifelong learning

Keri Savoca
7 min readMar 26, 2019


Yale University, where I attended graduate school. I was allowed to take any courses I wanted, in any discipline, as long as they fit into my schedule.

While many businesses move toward subscription models, I can’t help but wonder what stops universities from doing the same.

Hear me out before you call me crazy.

Before we talk about how universities spend their money (because they’re usually not using it to pay their adjunct professors respectable salaries), let’s consider how a subscription model could benefit both students and educational institutions.

What’s the value of a college education?

In 1940, just 4.6% of adults over the age of 25 had a 4-year degree. Today, according to the Census Bureau, that number is hovering around 33%. The value of a college degree has changed over the past few decades. Jobs that once required a high school diploma now require a 4-year degree. Some jobs that once required a 4-year degree now require an advanced degree. Some jobs that once required an advanced degree now require no degree at all — many major tech companies, for example, no longer require software engineers to have Computer Science degrees.

Students who enroll in a university are sometimes taking an expensive risk. It’s not easy to change or supplement your course of study without increasing your debt. The rising cost of a college education is a deterrent for some students, and an absolute turn-off for others.

What if we do this differently?

A subscription model would help students get the most out of their investment, and would give universities leverage in making admissions offers.

Using a subscription model instead of a semester model could yield any combination of the following benefits, depending on how the university chooses to structure its subscription program:

  • Students could take as much time as they need to complete a degree program, increasing the university’s graduation rates, and, by extension, their funding.
  • Students could accelerate their degree programs, staying on campus for, say, 2 years instead of 4.
  • Students could only take courses that they actually want to take, whether…



Keri Savoca

Engineering Manager at Compass