Wednesday, May 23, 2012
- The New York Times asked it today, and suggested that "full disclosure" is the answer. That is just crazy -- students are going to college or graduate school so they have the skills and knowledge to do complex things like conduct a reliable cost-benefit analysis.
- In the column in The New Yorker titled "The Cost of College," Nichlas Lehman, Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, wonders whether higher education is suffering from a pricing bubble. Then, remarkably, he goes on declare that "higher education is actually underpriced .... in the top-tier schools" because "price is determined by what people are willing to pay." [Yes, and the highest bid will be accepted right before the bubble bursts.] Regardless, Lehman is pleased that both Obama and Romney will try to keep interest rates low on undergraduate Stafford loans -- which just kicks the can down the road without imposing any pricing pressure on colleges or universities.
- In contrast to Lehman's conclusion that top-tier schools are a bargain, in the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin consults with two policy wonks from conservative think tanks who argue that institutions like Harvard are gouging students due to misguided federal subsidies and tax policies that shelter massive multi-billion dollar endowments. This analysis is long on blame but short on solutions.
- As noted in my prior post, entrepenuer Peter Thiel is offering $100K fellowships for students to "stop" their formal education to pursue ideas that may contribute to viable new businesses. Love the idea, but it is a tiny niche solution.
My own belief is that educational quality is the next great frontier. If we can put a man on the moon in the 1960s, surely with four years and $120K we can turn a reasonably able and motivated 22 year old into a critical thinker who can reliably communicate, collaborate, gather facts, assess data, lead, follow, and approach problems with both empathy and objectivity. Further, improving quality changes the debate from "how much does higher education cost?" to "how much is higher education worth?" And if the worth is sufficiently high, both public and private employers would be willing to subsidize it in exchange for preferred access to graduates.
The only barrier is institutional focus. To make this happen, a university has to take an "Apollo Project" approach that focuses purely on education. After figuring out the "how high" and "how fast" possibilities, an institution could then focus on controlling costs through process improvements and building modules. First quality (worth), then cost. This is not trade school education; this is about fully exploring human potential.
The first university to break into this space will have a profoundly disruptive effect the rest of higher education. The future of higher education is education.
[posted by Bill Henderson]