Apple has more than $205 billion in cash. What should they do with the money? Apple should buy a university and rebuild it from the ground up.
But consider Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University: It was only established in 1984 and yet today, with its online students, it’s the largest private, non-profit university in the United States. Liberty University doesn’t get accolades, but it is a technology leader, and it shows what is possible starting from a small budget.
Apple is a for-profit corporation, not a charity, but there are plenty of ways to make money from a non-profit university. Aside from the tax breaks and other deductions, Apple University would be a proving ground for educational technologies that would be sold to every other university in the world.
New textbooks built for the iPad and its successors would greatly increase the demand for iPads. Apple-designed courses built using online technologies, AI tutors, and virtual reality experimental worlds could become the leading form of education worldwide. Big data analytics from Apple University textbooks and courses would lead to new and better ways of teaching.
As a new university, Apple could experiment with new ways of organizing degrees and departments and certifying knowledge. Campuses in Delhi, Seoul, Shanghai, Berlin, and Sao Paulo could provide opportunities for studying abroad. Apple’s reputation would attract top students — especially, for example, if it started with a design and business school. Top students would lead Apple University to be highly ranked. The more prestigious Apple University became the greater would be the demand for Apple University educational products.
Apple already has the beginning of this model with iTunes U and its own internal Apple University for training in business and design. By buying a university, Apple would commit to a learning process to develop these technologies in entirely new ways.
More than a century ago Stanford, Carnegie, and Rockefeller used their industrial-age fortunes to build some of our best universities. Isn’t it time for another great university built for the information age?
A version of this post first appeared at Marginal Revolution.