“Rebooting” Higher Education

The fabulous Jan Poston Day invited me to an event at the American Enterprise Institution. The AEI is “a private, nonpartisan, not-for-profit institution dedicated to research and education on issues of government, politics, economics and social welfare.”

The panel was called “Rebooting Higher Education: Kaplan CEO Andrew Rosen’s “Change.edu” and the Future of Postsecondary Education in America” and, of course, featured Mr. Rosen. The panel was well moderated by Andrew Kelly, an AEI research fellow for higher education policy. Also on the panel were Diane Auer Jones from the Career Education Corporation; Jeff Selingo from The Chronicle of Higher Education; and Zakiya Smith, of the White House Domestic Policy Council.  Mr. Rosen’s book, “Change.edu: Rebooting for the new talent economy” was the impetus for the panel.

After a short introduction, Mr. Rosen opened by sharing a few quotes about higher education:

  • These colleges are resorting to all kinds of devices to get students.
  • These institutions are universities in aspiration rather than fact…they are pretenders to the title of university.
  • These schools are robbing the US Treasury.
  • These colleges compete unfairly with established colleges.
  • The students who attend these colleges are not college material.

In the first of a few surprises for me, these comments were NOT made about for-profit institutions like Kaplan. These were all directed at the “land grant” schools in the second half of the 19th century that wanted to teach the children of non-elites practical skills like agriculture, science and engineering instead of more classical liberal arts studies. Iowa State University, University of California and Rutgers were all land grant universities.

Really? Cause I don’t know about you, but I assumed these quotes were about for-profit universities. Don’t lie now. You did too 🙂

Mr. Rosen went on to talk about how higher education has a rich history of disruption. Oxford and Cambridge didn’t think much of Harvard at first. He asserts that today’s “pretenders” become tomorrow’s leaders. But history also says that higher education and government won’t reform themselves. It takes other factors to ‘shove’ them into action. And Mr. Rosen says that the shove is coming.

More to come! I wanted to share what I could write up in the wee small hours of the morning. In the meantime, check out some video clips from the panel here.

One response to ““Rebooting” Higher Education

  1. Kerry Jo, I really enjoyed the panel discussion too. I am looking forward to reading Rosen’s book to get into the details of how he wants to change the status quo in US Higher Education. Some of the points I noted:

    Rosen proposes a Learning Playbook where we reward Higher Education institutions for competing on Learning Outcomes, Access they provide to a diverse population of students, Affordability, and Accountability. He proposed some exciting concepts that are worth considering and discussing much more broadly. He argues that change is not going to come from within Higher Education because there isn’t any incentive or pressure to change things. Panelist Jeff Selingo from The Chronicle confirmed that when he remarked that as an industry Higher Education is incredibly self-absorbed and that belief in the canard that US Higher Education is the best in the world has lulled us into a sense of complacency and made the industry very resistant to change.

    Kudos to AEI for hosting the event and fostering this kind of stimulating discussion.

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