Fixing College!

Dear Commons Community,

Jeff Selingo, editorial director at The Chronicle of Higher Education, has  an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times, calling on higher education to change its ways to make up for what he call the lost decade (1999-2009).  Selingo described this period as:

“Those years saw a surge in students pursuing higher education, driven partly by the colleges, which advertised heavily and created enticing new academic programs, services and fancy facilities. The almost insatiable demand for a college credential meant that schools could raise their prices and families would go to almost any end, including taking on huge amounts of debt, to pay the bill…

This heady period of growth occurred precisely when colleges had the financial flexibility to prepare for what was to come: “fewer government dollars, a wave of financially needy students, a drop-off in the number of well-prepared high-school graduates who could afford to pay, and, of course, technological advances in teaching and learning. Instead, colleges continued to focus on their unsustainable model, assuming little would change.”

What to do?

  • make greater use of technology especially online education;
  • establish more consortial arrangements to pool resources including the offering of courses;
  • reduce administrative expenses;
  • cut-back on low quality graduate programs that grew at a great cost to higher education’s core mission of educating undergraduates;
  • colleges should work to reduce the number of wasted credits (i.e, credits above 120, lost transfer credits)

My own opinion is that governing bodies, chancellors, and other administrators are ready to move in the directions that Selingo is proposing.  The difficult part and my concern is whether they are able to do so by working with faculty and other constituents to implement these changes carefully and gracefully.  Just as a reminder, today we wait for the decision of the University of Virginia’s governing board regarding the fate of the university’s ousted president, Teresa A. Sullivan.




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