The Coming Revolution in Higher Education

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The Coming Revolution in Higher Education

One of the key principles of the free enterprise system is that "where there is customer dissatisfaction, there is opportunity for innovation."  In some cases, it's disruptive innovation — and that is precisely what's poised to happen in the realm of higher education.

Fueling this coming transformation is the widespread and rapidly growing dissatisfaction of college students, their parents, and their future employers.  It's no wonder, considering that the average cost to earn a bachelor's degree now tops $100,000, and nearly half of college graduates are still unemployed a year after graduation.1 

High tuition means most students are leaving campus with more than just a degree.  They take with them crippling debt as they attempt to launch careers and start families.  Many parents are also burdened with debt, and this debt burden affects the whole economy as the consumer spending of graduates and parents is reduced for many years as they pay off loans. 

The accumulation of this debt would not create such dissatisfaction if there were a greater sense that it was actually worth it.  According to a 2011 Pew Research Center survey of Americans,2 nearly 60 percent responded that institutions of higher learning were not delivering good value for the tuition that students and their families were spending. 

The general perception is that as cost has gone up, the quality of the education has gone down.  Too often, colleges are failing to provide what students need, as evidenced by high dropout rates, especially at public colleges. 

But even for those who graduate, there is little evidence that their critical-thinking skills improved while they attended college, or that they obtained the vocational skills necessary for the modern labor market. 

Part of the reason for these poor results is that the teaching model is largely stuck in the past.  For the most part, professors still present a monologue in front of large classes.  And while this may have been state-of-the-art in the 1930s, little has changed, despite the changing demands of a marketplace that requires skills that could be taught far more efficiently by newer methods. 

Adding to the dissatisfaction is the fact that the cost of textbooks is rising as well.  The average college student now spends around $1,200 for books and supplies each year.  That is more than the tuition at some community colleges. 

But the biggest frustration could very well be the reality that there is no truly viable alternative to the existing system of colleges and universities.  They essentially hold a monopoly on conferring credit for learning...

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