Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of learning from Editor at Large ofThe Chronicle of Higher Education and Author of College (Un)Bound, Jeff Selingo. He has spent the past 15 years immersed in higher education reporting and has been a featured speaker before dozens of national higher-education groups and appears regularly on NPR, PBS, ABC, MSNBC, and CBS. His writing have been picked up appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. He writes a regular column for The Chronicle and The Huffington Post, exploring innovation in higher education.
Given what we’re doing through Cospace, making education accessible and experiential through collaborative work spaces, when he discusses the college of the future, I’m listening.
Improving Job Prospects for College Grads
Last week, Selingo explored in a piece on LinkedIn, that very question. With the changing workforce and increasingly tech oriented culture in which we live, there is no question that leaving college with an expectation in the ideal 9 to 5 job is rarely realistic anymore. His perspective though was incredibly refreshing and goes so far as to say, though these are my words, that a college education MUST change in order to:
- Encourage work through startups
- Help graduates create their own ventures
- Improve employment information for students so they know WHERE opportunities can be found
- Create co-operative (collaborative to use our parlance) and immersive (experience based) education
- Create more and better high school graduate opportunities
Let’s start with that last point because it’s arguably most notable and almost contradicts the point of the piece (improving prospects for college grads), America, and the world, continues to espouse that a college education is for everyone. ”We continue to cling to a single, iconic image of life after high school as a four-year college campus. In doing so, we exclude large portions of the American population from sharing in the nation’s economic successes.” Selingo shares, “What’s needed? More apprenticeships, public service, and other structured work environments.”
Generally, the path to improving prospects for grads is creating more opportunity and making that opportunity more accessible. The bottom line on the first two thoughts is that we, as a country, must continue to encourage, support, and reward those who create those opportunities. Collaborative spaces throughout the country are ideal for graduates hoping to connect with other entrepreneurs and start down those paths but more, such work environments are inherently co-operative and immersive; the classes and education that take place in such spaces is exactly that.
But if entrepreneurs are finding success without college, is it even worth it?
The Value of a College Education
From a Chronicle.com story [sorry, it’s a subscription based site] in September, Selingo explored that very question in more detail and yet, unfortunately, he concludes, “For as much as we spend on higher education, no bottom-line evaluation method exists for measuring what actually happens in the classroom and how that eventually translates into the value of the degree.”
Though not for a lack of effort, and progress! CollegeMeasures.org, which is working to improve the decision-making process for students, parents, and policy makers, has started reporting on the economic success measures of an education in each state. Through extensive research with the State, they’ve published detailed studies on Arkansas and Tennessee (with more on the way).
Ultimately, it seems the goal of everyone’s effort to value education is through standardized testing that will consistently and accurately measure performance and results. While not without it’s pitfalls (Elementary Education in Texas is near revolting over the standardized testing in place), the goal is worthwhile and sound – accountability, transparency, and standards to ensure the consumers (students and parents), know what they’re buying.
With Such Significant Changes Needed, is Higher Education Broken?
That’s the question on everyone’s mind and those of us in business, comfortable making such conclusive decisions, can easily jump to the serious question – if institutions can’t pivot, are the resources, real estate, and brands not more valuable being bought up and re-purposed anew?
What prompted me to put my thoughts about Jeff Selingo’s insight and experience over the past few weeks was a piece published today, Why is American Higher Education So Averse to Change?
But at the colleges and universities attended by most American students, costs are spiraling out of control and quality is declining just as increasing international competition demands higher education be more productive and less expensive,” shares Selingo. “Only slightly more than 50 percent of American students who enter college leave with a bachelor’s degree. Among wealthy countries, only Italy ranks lower.”
According to the Pew Research Center, one third of college Presidents believe that the higher-ed system is off track yet 94% of parents expect their children to attend college and nearly 60% of Americans say that the system fails to provide value for the money spent. Where is the disconnect here?? More importantly, where is the accountability to do something about it? Such percentages essentially say to me, a marketer, that a college education is an incredibly well marketed business with a service that neither parents nor the administrators think is worth the money. That’s akin to everyone wanted to buy a Humvee truck but both previous owners saying it isn’t worth it AND the company acknowledging the same!
But who’s at fault for that declining value? A majority of college presidents (58%), according to the study, say public high school students arrive at college less well prepared than their counterparts of a decade ago and 52% say college students today study less than their predecessors did a decade ago. The bottom line is that education in the United States is now fairly poorly ranked on the world stage and that rank is in free fall. Something needs to change.
What really got me excited about Selingo’s perspective is the way that he creates simple analogies to characterize our challenges. I spent a few years of my career building technology that capitalized on the emergence of the web and the ignorance of it’s potential on the part of traditional media. Whether we’re exploring how Yahoo! redefined how content and advertising are consumed or search technology redefines our affiliation with publishers, the fact is now clear, you can’t sit from a position of comfort expect to remain there.
In the late 1990s, newspaper executives didn’t take seriously the threat of the Web because they had a monopoly on information delivery in their markets. College leaders feel they’re the best in the world and have a corner on the credential market. But just because they believe they’re a public trust doesn’t mean that they are guaranteed to survive.”
Technology is changing the way in which we learn. We’re not talking about putting iPads in classrooms because kids should be exposed to technology. The shift is more fundamental and affects how we learn, where we learn, what we learn, and why. There are incredible entrepreneurs doing amazing work in education and as an business professional, entrepreneur, and from the nascent view of the education world we have at Cospace, it’s pretty apparent to me that traditional education needs to learn from the newspaper industry because the Yahoos are coming.