However, the combination of rising tuition and rising unemployment/underemployment for recent college grads, has radically decreased the private rate of return on the investment in college.

The well-publicized trillion dollar student debt crisis has brought this economic fact to public awareness. Most families consider tuition costs as economic investments intended to increase future earnings.

As the rate of return on this investment declines (or goes into minus territory) families are reconsidering the value of college education.

According to a Moody’s Investment report on the credit-worthiness of colleges and universities released in November 2013, 40% faced stagnant or declining tuition revenues.

Anemic tuition revenue growth has spread to a larger share of the higher education industry, infecting public universities for the first time in decades. At this pace, tuition-dependent colleges and universities will be challenged to make necessary investments in personnel, programs, and facilities to remain competitive over the longer term,” said Karen Kedem, a Moody’s senior analyst and author of the report.

Moody’s key findings include net tuition revenue declines at a projected 28% of public and 19% of private universities, with net tuition revenue growth below inflation projected for 44% of public and 42% of private universities and total enrollment declines at nearly half of public and private universities.

In addition, federal budget negotiations, the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and performance-based funding may result in further stress on colleges if student aid and loan programs are curtailed to any degree, given that a rising share of students are dependent on these funding sources, says Moody’s.

While many colleges and universities will continue to demand that their matriculated students earn – and pay for – their credits internally, others will now be hungry for any and all tuition dollars they can get.

Some, faced with declining enrollments, will welcome students offering MOOC certificates – like other life experiences – for credit. Others will see the transfer of MOOC credits, paradoxically, as a profit opportunity.

Consider the recent decision by Ashford University to accept MOOC certificates for credit.

Add your opinion to the discussion.