In an opinion piece for The Tech titled OpenCourseWare and the Future of Education, Ryan Normandin lays out MIT OCW’s funding breakdown. It’s the first time I’ve seen the numbers shared publicly. He begins by stating that MIT OCW’s budget is $4.1 million per year (though he notes that OCW cut $500,000 in costs for 2009), and then analyzes revenue by source:
Since its creation, 22 percent of OCW’s expenditures have been covered by the Institute, 72 percent has been paid for through grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Andrew Mellon Foundation, and 6 percent has been covered by donations, revenue, and other sources.
(His article states that these numbers are “since it’s creation,” but they’re the best breakdown of numbers I know of. If you know of a similar breakdown for MIT OCW’s 2009 finances, please drop a link in the comments below.)
If we work these numbers out, each year that’s roughly:
– $2,952,000 for 72% covered by Hewlett and Mellon,
– $902,000 for 22% covered by MIT internally, and
– $246,000 for 6% covered by donations, corporate sponsors, Amazon.com affiliate revenue, and all other sources of revenue.
Ryan’s article is an extended argument for why MIT should continue to support OCW after its grant funding runs out in two years. I (and I expect most readers of this blog) agree with the importance he places on the project and the very important public good it has become. More importantly, MIT OCW is terribly important to the broader field of open education.
Because MIT OCW receives such a large percentage of the OCW world’s traffic and media attention, potential problems for MIT OCW are potential problems for all of us.
I keep asking myself how you support a project when 3/4 of its funding is pulled out from under it. Two years is not that far away. And it already feels like I’m getting a “Please remember to donate to MIT OCW” email once a month. On 25% annual budget, what would MIT OCW do? If MIT OCW were to go into stasis (like USU OCW recently did), how would that be viewed by the world?
More importantly, what is Plan B for the broader OER field? Imagine that two years from now MIT OCW announces drastic cutbacks (or temporary suspension) of its program. How do the rest of us argue for open sharing on our campuses then? Perhaps these arguments would revolve around the sharing model, or the way sharing happens – “we’ll do it differently in the following way…” Perhaps they would revolve around business models and using OCW to generate revenue (e.g., by using them to market for-credit online courses). How else do we make the argument for open sharing on our campuses in a post-MIT OCW world?
I’ve already heard “just because MIT can do it doesn’t mean we can” about a thousand times from faculty and administrators. What if that becomes “Not even MIT can do it for longer than a few years…”