If the education bubble collapses, will it be the end of "blue skies research"? Okay, I know that this topic can be very sensitive to some people, and I really do not want to offend anyone. But it is something that concerns me, as someone who's interested in astrophysics, and I would like to think about potential changes before they arise. The main assumption of this concern, however, is based on the assumption that professors earn a considerable portion of their income from undergraduate tuition - or from teaching salaries. While much of the university's income also comes from state funding, support for such state funding primarily comes from the assumption that the university educates the state's citizens. But when the university is no longer deemed necessary for educating the state's citizens, much of this state funding might dry up too. If this is not the case, then the collapse of the education bubble may not be so much of a concern. There are grants, of course, but grants are mostly supplementary income rather than primary income. So what I'm thinking is this - there is a distinct possibility that the university (the education bubble so to speak) might collapse in the future, because online learning (and knowledge testing) will become much cheaper and more readily available (U Phoenix is hugely overpriced, and there are already models coming up that are far cheaper than UPhoenix - in fact - many smart people can learn most of the required material for many classes [even if not all] by just reading the textbook and doing the exercises). This may also result in cheaper systems of certification (which are like AP tests, but applied to college subjects). Many people say that online learning/self-studying is "not as good" as regular instruction, but the vast majority of students who go to college won't pursue academic research in their major, in which case employers might not care as much about whether or not they got a "proper education". Grades are a means of signaling a combination of innate ability, knowledge, and conscientiousness - and some economists believe that this signaling is why employers demand college degrees as of now (even though many workers don't end up using the skills they learned in college). But when innate ability, knowledge, and conscientiousness can be signaled through means other than the university, then many people will pursue less costly alternatives and the very model of the university may collapse (the Ivies and top universities may still survive, but a lot of the state universities may collapse). It only takes a critical threshold of competent workers who didn't go to school to make a considerable number of employers stop demanding university degrees. And once this happens, many people will just end up not going to college (and pursue internships, online education, and some self-study instead). And if this happens, I'm concerned that it may be the end of a lot of "blue skies" research. Or research that comes largely without economic application. This is especially true for astrophysics. Of course, some people in certain subfields of astrophysics can easily find another field that uses their skills. But this is easier for some subfields (astrostatistics, computational astrophysics) than it is for other subfields.