Dear Commons Community,
The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article (subscription required) today entitled, Everyone Has a Solution for Higher Education. The title says it all and traces how various segments of our society (government, private industry, venture philanthropy, think tanks) are calling for “reform” and changes in higher education. The article identifies major issues such as tuition, degree completion, and job availability.
The article makes an important point as to why this state of affairs:
“…the Internet’s level playing field, information from any source, presented in any way, can travel far. A comprehensive, carefully conducted research study and a hastily written brief can wind up getting the same amount of buzz.
However think tanks and other groups go about it, they hope to set the parameters for debate. If the public keeps hearing about the same issues, the proposed solutions can start to feel inevitable. And if the message repeatedly reaches policy makers, those solutions might even become reality.”
Higher education like many of America’s institutions needs to evolve and adjust to new circumstances. However, educators need to take charge of their own futures. They need to respond strongly to calls for reform on what needs to be done. It would be easy simply to retaliate and criticize many of the agencies, pundits and other reformers such as those in the federal government, the profiteers in private enterprise, the pseudo think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute (a shill for right-wing interest groups), and the advocacy-first foundations such as Gates, Lumina, Walton and Koch. Tuition has risen without a doubt but not as much as we have been led to believe. A report by the College Board earlier this year showed that the net cost of tuition, fees, room and board has not changed that much over the past decade. The lack of jobs for college graduates is as much a fault of a stagnant economy that can be alleviated if our government and private industry truly invested in jobs creation solutions and not just focused on keeping interest rates low. Lastly, in terms of degree completion and quality, while any education ranking system has to be seen with a certain skepticism, American higher education is consistently ranked as the best in the world.
In response to the detractors, higher education needs to act like it is the best but it must also be willing to re-examine what it does, how it does it, and be willing to make changes if necessary.