Blake, this is a great use of technology to promote cheaper, more efficient alternatives to higher education. However, some "red tape" I could envision would be the credibility of internet learning against four year undergrad and graduate schools with large endowments and accreditations. Like it or not, these institutions have a lot of pull tied to their cost, which could inhibit the mainstream internet learning in the future, beyond just learning a few hobbies or skills.
Shane, thanks for bringing Grant Stouffer 's idea to my attention! Though the more specific functional practices for the ideas are different, it looks like we have similar goals and general designs for corporate sponsorship and funding of student education.
Izabela, very good questions! This would work like any job offer; a company would present standing offer, and the student could have a designated time to accept. Because this could happen over the course of a few years of undergraduate school, the company could schedule biannual meetings and short interviews to check in on the thoughts and progress of the student's aspirations.
As for times of crisis, companies will have to determine to prioritize these entry level programs. I have a few roommates who have accepted job offers with oil companies in a rough patch for the oil market. Though many of these companies have cut jobs, they have also decided to prioritize the entry level development programs to keep and maintain this young talent. Every company is different, but that will be up to the company's discretion and will have to weigh the benefits and consequences themselves.