A Look Into “Future” of Higher Education [in U.S.]

In case you’re interested, I’ve been writing book review for the NAFSA magazine, International Educator, for the past twenty years. But I’ve not written about a good book on my blog – so here is the first I’m touting as a good read: College [UN]Bound by Jeffrey Selingo, editor-at-large for the Chronicle of Higher Education [a good blog to follow]. He writes very clearly and succinctly and without jargon. Further, I pretty much agree with all that he says and the way that he dissects the issues facing U.S. colleges and universities (so much for objectivity).

In his intro, he makes a statement which no politician or senior campus administrator would acknowledge as true: that we do not, on many levels, have the “best” system of higher ed in the world.  As he says, if this were, in fact, true, how come we now rank 12th in the percentage of 25-34 year olds who have post secondary credentials among the 17 nations that comprise the OECD (as of 1995, we were #1).

In his chapter on “The Disruption,” he states that the decline began in 2008 at the time we entered our great recession. I recall then that there was commentary as to whether or not this huge event was “transformative” for our society or just another of the old-fashioned cyclical financial crises we go through in our capitalistic system…Clearly, on many scorecards, the recession has not been anything approaching a “normal” historical event.

And so we come to the issues he discusses and which I’ve tried to raise in my blog about increasing inequality of access to higher ed, to experiences such as studying abroad and to the expected  positive impact of a college degree in terms of “employability”, among several others.  On this last all important outcome, he says, “It is hard to exaggerate how big a role the value gap will play in the future of higher education. For decades, colleges have traded on the value of their degree in the employment markets and social circles to push up prices [i.e. tuition]. That financial strategy has come to a screeching halt (p. 72).”

He not only is a critic of higher education but has taken the time to visit dozens of colleges in order to talk with staff and students and see what goes on  – in real time – for students.  I like the innovative stories he shares about best practices in and out of the classroom at the end of the book.

Get this book and discuss it. Think about it. Tell a faculty colleague or administrator you know about it and maybe go over it in a book club or over drinks (better). And if you know a parent whose kid is in their Junior year of high school, tell them to read it as it might help them decide how to make good choices for their college bound son or daughter.



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