National Affairs on “The Coming Higher-Ed Revolution”

Yesterday I had the chance to talk to a recent high school graduate who was thinking about their future. Specifically, they had questions for me about education: Are you happy with your college degree? Was it worth it? Would you recommend getting a degree?

Everyone’s experience and perceived ‘return on investment’ from college is different, so those questions are tough to answer empirically for someone making a decision about where to go and what to study. Either way, it was clear that this individual was deeply affected by the challenges that older siblings faced as a result of student loan debt and less-than-desirable employment results after graduation.

A 2012 article from National Affairs1 provides an extensive analysis of similar circumstances for huge numbers of college graduates and college hopefuls in our country. The entire piece is worth a read, but the conclusion offers a concise summary of where we’ve been and where the author thinks we’re headed:

THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM NO MORE

For a growing number of Americans, a college degree is something obtained only through enormous sacrifice and indebtedness on their part or their parents’, or a dream that is entirely out of reach. Meanwhile, most college leaders live in a bubble in which the costs of ever more elaborate facilities, expanding administrative bureaucracies, and high-profile professors with light teaching loads can simply be passed on to customers in the form of higher tuition.

But those days are about to end. Underneath the surface, upstart institutions are perfecting radically new education technologies and business plans at the same time that young people and their parents are becoming more frustrated with the traditional higher-ed model, and more open-minded about alternatives. There is every reason to suspect that, quite soon, these new institutions will do to higher education what Sony did to radios and Apple did to computing. Afterward, our colleges and universities will never be the same. Few Americans, one suspects, will look back in regret.

Our country’s problems with education are both frightening and fascinating. Being able to work on a solution every day at The Iron Yard is a privilege.


1. You can read the full article, The Coming Higher-Ed Revolution, here.

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