How can AI be harnessed to make higher education not just a privilege for the few, but a right for all and overcome financial roadblocks?

Democratizing education: Harnessing AI to break down financial barriers in higher ed

How can AI be harnessed to make higher education not just a privilege for the few, but a right for all?

Key points:

Upon being offered admission to the post-graduate Education Futures – University of Edinburgh program, I was at a pivotal juncture in my academic and professional journey. Accepting this offer meant embarking on a two-year sabbatical from Capella University and delving deep into one of the most esteemed research environments globally. However, the exhilaration of such an opportunity was tinged with apprehension as I confronted the substantial financial implications of this advanced study. The realization that the prohibitive costs of higher education could deter many from pursuing their academic aspirations spurred a determination within me to seek innovative solutions.

My field of study at the University of Edinburgh and my forthcoming Ph.D. dissertation at Capella University is poised to revolve around a critical inquiry: How can the incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI), specifically platforms like ChatGPT, alleviate the financial burdens of higher education for students and institutions alike? This question is not merely academic; it is a quest for equitable access to education, a pursuit to democratize knowledge in the age of information.

The integration of AI in education offers a multi-faceted approach to reducing costs. Firstly, personalized learning experiences facilitated by AI can potentially shorten the duration of degree programs, allowing students to accelerate their studies based on competency rather than time. Studies like those conducted by Thomas Chiu and his associates at The Chinese University of Hong Kong illustrate the roles of AI in enhancing student learning through adaptive and personalized approaches, which, in turn, could lead to more efficient pathways to degree completion.

Secondly, AI can significantly reduce administrative and operational expenses. Solomon Ananyi and Loretta Nwosu’s study concluded that institutions can reallocate resources toward student support and academic development by automating routine tasks such as admissions processes, student inquiries, and course scheduling. This streamlines administrative efficiency and potentially lowers tuition fees, making higher education more accessible.

Furthermore, AI and ChatGPT can revolutionize the way educational content is delivered and accessed. The development of on-demand, AI-powered tutoring and resource platforms can diminish the need for traditional textbooks and supplementary materials–often a significant expense for students. Adopting AI in education, as highlighted by the systematic literature review by Barbara Means and her colleagues in a U.S. Department of Education study, demonstrates the technology’s capability to provide tailored educational content, thereby reducing costs associated with learning materials.

Moreover, the expansion of online and hybrid learning models, underpinned by AI, presents a promising avenue for cost reduction. These models offer flexibility and scalability, potentially reducing the need for physical infrastructure and the associated costs. They also provide an opportunity for students to save on accommodation and commuting expenses, further lowering the financial barrier to education.

As I embark on this academic venture at the University of Edinburgh, my objective extends beyond personal advancement. It is a mission to uncover how AI, particularly platforms like ChatGPT, can be harnessed to make higher education not just a privilege for the few but a right for all. The path ahead is fraught with challenges, from ethical considerations and technological limitations to resistance against change within traditional educational paradigms. Yet, the potential for AI to democratize education and make it accessible and affordable fuels my resolve.

Something must be done about the ever-increasing cost of higher education; the incorporation of AI into the education system holds the promise of transforming the landscape of higher education by reducing costs and making learning more accessible. As I delve into this research at the University of Edinburgh, my goal is to contribute to academic discourse and pave the way for practical solutions that bring us closer to the ideal of education for all.

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Dr. John Johnston