Jeff Selingo, editor-at-large of the Chronicle of Higher Education, has just come out with a new book, College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students. In a recent NPR interview, he discussed the rising costs entailed in enticing students; gourmet dining halls, luxury dorms with en-suite kitchens, and leisure-time attractions like climbing walls—everything short of a go-kart track and butler service.
But shouldn’t the actual education be driving the bulk of a college’s price tag? Selingo contends that by bending over backwards to offer these kinds of attractions, schools have compromised their economic future:
“…now suddenly those bills are coming due, and the problem is that the students are either not there or they’re unwilling to pay the money to fund those things.”
He notes that, “right now we measure learning by time spent in a seat,” and goes on to predict some profound changes in the future of education, from core practices to revised expectations:
“What will be different, however, is that you’re going to have many more players in the system. [For example] if you decide to take a MOOC [Massive Online Open Course] … and you want to transfer credit … MOOCs might provide a piece of a person’s education.
…What I think the disruption will be is that some students could finish in 2 1/2 years. There’s nothing really magic about 120 credits in four years. It’s just tradition.”
It’s a fascinating—and unsettling—perspective on the future of higher education, and it raises the question: Is it an all-or-nothing equation? Are we facing a polarized spectrum, with luxury-centric institutions on one end and a scattered, disparate mass of hermetic online learners on the other—or is there a middle ground that can incorporate the strengths of each side?
Of course, it’s easy to wish for the best of both worlds, but it doesn’t seem wildly optimistic to envision a future of higher education that attracts students without coddling or bribing them with distractions, and manages to be progressive in incorporating technological and practical change without undermining fundamental qualitative expectations.
Do you see higher ed heading more toward one of these ends of the spectrum? Or do you expect it to feature aspects of both? If so, what does your middle ground include—what do you think the future of higher education will look like?