American higher education is in crisis. Here’s a plan to revolutionize it.

Todd McLeod, the founder of Greater Commons, has a 12-step plan to transform higher education in the U.S., improve our lives, and improve society.

TODD MCLEOD: I have a plan for building a better education system, but I need your help. For 20 years, I've served as a tenured professor in California.

I've watched generations of students come to campus with hope in their eyes. They want better jobs. They want a brighter future. Yet half of them will not graduate. That's right. Half of those who begin higher education drop out.

There is even more bad news, unfortunately, about the state of higher education. If you want to understand how bad higher education is in America, you need to know three numbers -- 50, 68, 73.

We already talked about how 50% of those who begin higher education -- half of students who begin higher education -- drop out. This is a massive fail. But it gets worse.

68% of Americans never achieve a higher ed degree. The current system fails more than 2/3rds of Americans. This is another massive fail. Yet it still gets worse.

Of those that do earn a degree, 73% go into a career different than their field of study. Students come to higher ed for better jobs. Yet 73% of the time they do not directly use what they learned. This is another massive fail.

Higher education is failing Americans, and this leads to all kinds of breakdowns in our society and in the lives of young adults -- loneliness, pessimism, despair, debt, depression, opioids, suicide, lack of innovation, unrealized human potential, unrealized GDP, unrealized contributions to humanity. These are the true costs of our broken education system. This is a deeply concerning issue and a very important issue for us to solve.

This is such an important issue, the United States government has identified the breakdown in education as a national security issue. To put it plainly, ladies and gentlemen, education has not kept pace with our rapidly changing world. And this is why we are creating Greater Commons.

The first thing we've accomplished is that we've created classes that have been delivered to 312,223 students in 192 different countries. In these classes, we've tested and refined our theories on how education should be delivered in our digitally connected and rapidly changing world. We call our approach agile learning. Our courses have met with significant success, both in reviews from students and in the deliverable of getting students jobs.

The second thing we've accomplished is that we've built our own learning platform to deliver classes. We knew we wanted to create more than what's in the marketplace right now, so we went through our code debt learning curve on this step. Through this process, we focused on optimizing for cost. For instance, the market currently charges $0.04 for each minute of video encoded. But because we built our own video encoder, we can do it for one-third of a cent. That's a 12x reduction in cost.

Step three -- this third step, which we're just beginning, focuses upon marketing two niche courses generating revenue and growing our user base. One course is a sexual harassment training for California. A new law requires millions of people in California to be trained in the next six months. To market this course, we hired Raymond Fong and Chad Riddersen, who helped Dollar Shave Club realize its success.

For the other niche course, we are working with Let's Go Learn to deliver a training by one of America's leading experts in special education administration. This will help K through 12 schools across the country provide better special ed services and avoid legal liability.

Step four in this 12-step process is to begin -- to begin this step, we need a financial cushion. This financial cushion may come from profits generated in the previous step, or we can accelerate into this step with investment.

In this step, we will do two things. First, we will hire a grant writer. Hiring a grant writer will allow us to go after funds offered by the government that align with our efforts. There is a not widely known pipeline for the development of new technology which has been beneficial to many Silicon Valley companies, including Instagram Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook. This requires understanding broad agency announcements and the desires of DARPA, IARPA, and the DOD. There are three key areas which are exact matches between what we want to accomplish and what the government wants to accomplish.

The second thing we will do in this step is that we will offer most of our courses at a very low cost. Our objective is to grow our user base while maintaining a break-even balance between marginal revenue and marginal cost.

Step five -- in this step, we will focus upon automating or augmenting our platform. We'll upgrade our assessment tools and reporting metrics. We will also add a grade book and grading tools, such as speed grading and AI-enabled automatic grading.

Step six -- in this step, we will white label our platform. This opportunity allows us to further expand the brand, further grow our user base, generate new revenue, and establish relationships with companies and public institutions.

Step seven -- in this step, we break into significantly new territory. I can't talk about what we're going to do in this step because nobody is doing it. It is amazing and revolutionary. And we're going to be the first ones to do it. If you are interested in collaborating with us, which we'll explore soon, we can share this step with you in person.

Step eight -- in this step, we create training pathways for specific positions guided by projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. One course pathway will be for developers, and other pathways might include solar installers, wind turbine technicians, and home health care aides. By having the developer pathway, it will also allow us to source talent for new hires in our own organization.

Step nine -- in this step, we develop learning tools to make the learning process more efficient and more effective. This will allow people to learn more quickly and to remember longer.

Step 10 -- the goal in this step is to partner with California's community college system. The California college system is the largest higher ed system in America, serving 2.1 million students per year. My roots in this system are deep, and we will leverage the connections I've developed over 20 years to empower the most significant higher ed system in America to more effectively help students.

Step 11 -- in this step, we'll partner with select companies to help them find better hires and to increase the productivity and profitability of their current workforce. This is an important and significant step. In this step, we lay the foundation for our ultimate revenue model, which is the sourcing of human capital.

Step 12 -- this is our final step. And in this step, we again forge into new territory which I can't discuss in a public forum. This is the magnum opus of what we've been building. At this point, our vision is complete. From this point forward, we will adapt to changing conditions in the marketplace and optimize what we have built, leveraging machine learning, artificial intelligence, and any new developments in technology. We'll have started a learning revolution, aligned education with the dynamic realities of today's economy, and fundamentally changed our system of higher education.

If you are an investor, we are a Delaware C corp looking to relocate into an economic opportunity zone and would love to have a conversation with you about collaborating together. If you are a philanthropist or in charge of a foundation, we are in the process of establishing a 501(c)3 and would love to have a conversation about how your money can help educate people and get them into jobs. If you manage a company, we would love to help you build a more professional, productive, and profitable workforce.

If you are in government, we would love any insights that could help with this project. In addition, several of the developers we want to hire -- many of them my former students -- live abroad. We would appreciate assistance with getting visas that lead to citizenship for these individuals. For everyone, if you're interested in donating to support our efforts, you can do so by going to greatercommons.com. And if a million people watch this video and each person donates $12, this will give us the funds needed to build better education for everyone. So go to greatercommons.com to donate any amount.

Ladies and gentlemen, the future prosperity and peace of our country and of our species depends upon the quality of our education. I became an educator because I believe in the power of education to improve lives and to improve society. Our intellect is the tool with which we build our world. This issue is too important to not solve it. Our quickly changing economy demands an agile education system, and we are ready to build it.

We are honored to have won Lumina's prize as thought leaders in education. We have strong confidence in our vision and strategy. Our challenge at this point is to take our tested ideas and scale them first to our country and then to the world. To invest, to donate, to contribute in any way, come to greatercommons.com or email me at todd@greatercommons.com. That's Todd -- T-O-D-D -- @greatercommons.com.

  • Half of all students who begin their higher education journey drop out, 68 percent of Americans never attain a higher education degree, and 73 percent of Americans go into fields unrelated to their higher education degree.
  • Clearly, something is wrong with how we approach higher education. In turn, this approach contributes to societal ills, like unrealized contributions to humanity, unrealized potential, debt, despair, and pessimism.
  • Professor and founder of Greater Commons Todd McLeod has a 12-step plan designed to revolutionize higher education in the U.S. to ensure that the higher education system can keep pace with our rapidly changing world.
  • In 2019, Lumina Foundation and Big Think teamed up to create the Lumina Prize, a search to find the most innovative and scalable ideas in post-secondary education. Congratulations to Greater Commons, founded by Todd McLeod, the audience choice winner of the Lumina Prize!