This interesting article by Kevin Carey describes a new venture that offers online college courses for $99 a month.
As I have noted before, colleges depend financially on offering big lecture courses to freshmen and sophomores. Carey speculates that they are financially vulnerable to cheap online schools in the same way that newspapers were vulnerable to online classified ads. Newspapers depended on the big profits from classified ads to fund their money-losing news bureaus, and colleges depend on the profits from offering big lecture classes to freshmen to subsidize upper division courses; when online schools pick off many of those students, a lot of colleges are going to be in big financial trouble.
I am not sure that this is true, in the short term, except for certain marginal public universities and for profit schools like Strayer. What universities offer students is not just the content of their courses but a much broader experience.
In the long term, though, the existence of programs like this one will put pressure on universities to explain what it is they offer, beyond course credits and certifications.