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Big Changes In Higher Ed

Universities are scrambling to get out front of the Internet and revolutionary change in higher education.

A Stanford University student walks though the halls of the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California. (AP)

A Stanford University student walks though the halls of the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California. (AP)

The old saw goes that things that can’t last don’t last.  Traditional American colleges and universities may be in that category right now.  They cost too much.  Young Americans are graduating with punishing debt.  And the Internet is offering a big alternative.

The superhot phrase of the academic season is MOOC:  Massive Open Online Course.  Top schools are racing to offer them.  Sign up, dive in, learn – from anywhere.  Goodbye campus and quad.  Maybe.  How will this really work?

This hour, On Point:  a college system at the breaking point meets the Internet revolution.

-Tom Ashbrook


Jeff Selingo, editor-at-large at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

John Mitchell, Stanford University’s vice provost.

Mark Taylor, chair of the religion department at Columbia University. You can read his provocative op-ed on the future of higher ed here.

From Tom’s Reading List

Newsweek “Mythomania about college has turned getting a degree into an American neurosis. It’s sending parents to the poorhouse and saddling students with a backpack full of debt that doesn’t even guarantee a good job in the end. With college debt making national headlines, Megan McArdle asks, is college a bum deal?”

New York Times “Widespread hiring freezes and layoffs have brought these problems into sharp relief now. But our graduate system has been in crisis for decades, and the seeds of this crisis go as far back as the formation of modern universities. Kant, in his 1798 work “The Conflict of the Faculties,” wrote that universities should “handle the entire content of learning by mass production, so to speak, by a division of labor, so that for every branch of the sciences there would be a public teacher or professor appointed as its trustee.””

Campus Technology “If you were to gather together a thousand academics, researchers, university IT and instructional technology leaders, institutional librarians, technology and media company executives, authors, journalists, futurists, association presidents, and other interested people and ask them to consider the possible impact of the Internet on higher education, the outlook you’d get would closely resemble the rich patchwork of perspective offered in a recent report from Elon University’s School of Communications, as part of its “Imagining the Internet” project. Most of them would say there’s a lot of change coming.”

TechCrunch “In the past 20 years, Stanford has only established two Vice Provost offices, for undergraduate and graduate education, both of which “fundamentally reshaped education at Stanford.” University   spokeswoman Lisa Lapin tells me the Vice Provost for Online Learning intends to do the same.”

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  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Change isn’t always good.  More and more schools are going to on-line classes, but my students tell me that they miss the classroom experience.  They’re also missing the hard work of critical thinking that comes from live interaction, rather than the passing of disembodied electrons–but they don’t often complain about giving up hard work.

    Two big errors today are the effort to bring the reductionist style of No Child Left Behind to college and the goal of making colleges customer-oriented businesses.

    • Ray in VT

      I very much agree with your first paragraph, Greg.  There is nothing quite like being physically in class and having that nice back and forth with the professor and the other students.  Some of the things that we did for my history classes, like our debates, would be difficult, if not impossible, to replicate in the online environment.

      • Jasoturner

        True, but let us not sacrifice the good at the altar of perfection.

    • Don_B1

      I would hope that some combination would be the ultimate result.

      This might be where the “normal” class materials are read and studied BEFORE attending class, perhaps enforced by a short quiz at the beginning of class, followed by participatory discussion of the material, rather than a straight “lecture” by the professor.

      The Kahn implementation of online introduction to the material (expanded to subjects beyond STEM) and then in-class discussion of that material and extra research by the students might be a good concrete example.Quizzes and exams should virtually never be multiple choice. But short frequent quizzes could well give the instructor a better feel for how well the subject is being absorbed by the students in a timely way.

  • AC

    or maybe it’s because it’s a good revenue source they’re trying to get in on; I have noticed ads for ‘training’ programs seriously increasing as the economy remains rocky and people are looking to boost their educational CVs or get into some type of ‘field’ that requires pre-job training……….

  • Jasoturner

    It is somewhat amazing that there are not inexpensive, high quality educational resources for all Americans.  Our future depends on an educated workforce, yet we allow the marketplace to determine who can access higher education, and how much must be paid for it.  Maybe Bill Gates could show us the way with a “Gates University” or something.

    • AC

      good point. but there needs to be transition support – don’t want to get into it until election cycle is over….

    • notafeminista

      Unfortunately maintaining a university is expensive.  Not just the faculty, but groundskeepers, administrative staff, food/housing staff, law enforcement/security and so on.  Universities are much like a self-contained small town.

      How much should a university experience (books,instructors, food/housing, supplies etc) cost?  Students and/or parents pay at the front end (time of enrollment) or its taken out through taxation over time from everyone.  How much should a college professor earn in relation to a high school instructor? Is his/her time worth more? Less?

      • Jasoturner

        Indeed, but eliminating many of those costs would be a major point in favor of an accessible, on-line system of learning for Americans.  The on-line offerings from MIT and others are a glimpse of the kind of access I am talking about, but there still needs to be a way to gauge the actual learning that is taking place.

        This is not to preclude the idea of low-cost physical institutions as well, but exploiting the internet should certainly take place.

    • Yar

      Look at http://www.berea.edu/
      Is it a model that will work for the entire nation?
      If you think education is expensive, look at the costs of ignorance.
      I advocate for two years of public service after high school, and tax supported higher education. See my other post this morning.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=686519255 Daniel Healy

    I certainly hope faculty are running scared. They might do something for the outrageous salaries they have here in Massachusetts. There should be an MCAS for community colleges because the watering down has to stop. The quality doesn’t reach the high school level now! We keep lowering standards but do we lower PAY? Scott Walker is needed here in Massachusetts.

    • Thinkin5

      Walker believes in paying his cronies and patron office staff higher wages. No budget cuts there!

  • Gregg Smith

    President Obama said in his speech unless the rich get a tax hike students will have to pay more for college. What did he mean? How is that so?

    • Don_B1

      President Obama made the obvious conclusion that if a Romney administration cut tax rates (lowering revenue or raising tax take from the middle class) and increased defense spending, then spending on discretionary items such as Pell grants and lower loan interest rates, among other items of federal support for college education, would suffer cuts; it IS basic arithmetic!

      • Coastghost

        But who says that Obama’s facile notion that the US needs to simply increase college enrollment strenuously over the next decade is sensible? Any goal of increasing college enrollment needs first to examine the readiness of secondary graduates to enter post-secondary schools. As is often the case, our President prefers ambitious prescription of solutions to accurate description of problems.  

        • Don_B1

          I have questions about some aspects of Obama’s reform of education but his moving states away from “dumbing-down” their student performance testing is necessary, but more needs to be done to keep teachers from “teaching to the test,” etc.

          Certainly colleges should not have to have the huge number of “remedial” courses for entering freshmen; that is one way to reduce the cost of a college education for all, by having better K-12 education. But that is not always the individual student’s fault when their parents have to live where a decent K-12 school does not exist.

          And certainly “vocational” schools have their place and need support also, as those ill-prepared students need many of the same skills as college-bound students in the days of high-tech manufacturing where more understanding of how the manufacturing equipment works is needed to control that equipment.

          NONE of that reduces the need for financial support for those who want to go to college.

        • Thinkin5

           Education and training beyond high school level is essential. Some kind of trade and higher learning is needed to compete in the world. Online, apprenticing, college courses, and adult ed, are all more necessary than before.

      • Gregg Smith

        GM is losing $49,000 on every Volt and it looks like they are going back to bankruptcy. They owe us $30 biliionish. We lost $500 million on Solyndra and that wasn’t the only one. Head Start, it turns out, has no advantage. Is there no where else to get the money or could Obama just be using fear tactics.

        • Don_B1

          I see you have joined the Republicans in making up false “news” stories? Desperate or what?

          • Gregg Smith

            I am looking at this issue through the lens of the politics currently in our face. President Obama is clearly putting up false choices based on false premises in an effort to give people a false impression.

            However, that tends to move away from the topic and I should avoid doing that. I’ll just say I stand by everything I wrote and if you can correct me then please do. Otherwise I’ll shut up and save it for another day.

  • modavations

    When I was in College,I was always high(er).My advice is don’t go,unless you want to be an MD,etc,.

  • Yar

    Time is our most valuable resource. Time is purchased through food, shelter, and sex. This is my reduction of the quotes below for today’s rant.
    Mark Taylor said ” And as departments fragment, research and publication become more and more about less and less. ” His statement sounds very much like a riff on the old quote “A physicist learns more and more about less and less, until he knows everything about nothing; whereas a philosopher learns less and less about more and more, until he knows nothing about everything.” http://todayinsci.com/QuotationsCategories/P_Cat/Philosophy-Quotations.htm

    Our modern society has responded to complexity with increasing levels complexity, as illustrated in a quote from “The Gods must be Crazy”:
    “Civilized man refused to adapt himself to his environment; instead, he adapted his environment to suit him. So he built cities, roads, vehicles, machinery, and he put up power lines to run his labour-saving devices. But somehow he didn’t know where to stop. The more he improved his surroundings to make life easier, the more complicated he made it. So now his children are sentenced to 10-15 years of school, just to learn how to survive in this complex and hazardous habitat they were born into.”

    Mark Taylor is calling for a review of professors every seven years,  I propose an all together different funding model for higher education.  President Obama wants to tie student loan repayments to a percentage of income.  What if we took his concept a step further and tied university funding as well as professor salary’s directly to their students’ future incomes.  All you need to go to school is a social security number and an acceptance letter.  A percentage of your tax return over the next ten years is paid to the school, which pays a negotiated percentage to your former professors. Think of the implications: which fields of study would grow, and what would shrink, and where would professors choose to spend their time? It is an economic feedback (capitalistic) model for higher education.
    Measure what you want to change: 
    Berea College, a liberal arts school in Kentucky, adopted this model, at least on a voluntarily basis.  They take bright, low income students, give them a virtually debt free education, and as a result they have built a strong endowment. They been in the business of education for over 150 years.  It works for them because of who they are choosy about who they invest in.  Berea College even requires students to prove they know how to swim before they graduate.  Think of it as ‘endowment insurance.’ I don’t know Berea’s ROI for the average student, but their model seems to work. Pell grants also play an important role. 
    Would this model work on a national scale?  
    Our futures are ultimately tied to the education and productivity of our youth.  This is how we trade work over time; it is what gives our money lasting value; it is how we buy time, which is our most valuable resource.

    • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

      Time is not our most valuable resource. People are our most valuable resource. 

    • Don_B1

      It is certainly true that as knowledge increases, it becomes more difficult to learn it all. In just the field of mathematics, which increasingly forms the basis for discerning the relevant portions of complexities of our understanding of how the world really works, from how energy is moved from one place to another and enables humans to do things more efficiently. But note that David Hilbert (1862-1943) is considered by many the last mathematician that understood all the math extant in his day. He left a list of 23 unsolved problems (many remaining) which influenced the development of mathematics to this day.

      But areas of mathematics, such as group theory, were initially derided as useless abstractions and not worth studying; group theory became the workhorse of the development of quantum mechanics and the understanding of nuclear theory.

      The funding of college level education does need public support; consider that prior to the end of WWII less than 5% of Americans had a college degree but the G.I. Bill raised that level to about 20% and realize how much that stimulated the economic growth from the early 1950s through the 1970s and on to today. I break the two periods because it was about 1980 when the cost of higher education began to grow beyond the reach of the lower half of the country and their wages have not grown with the economy and their increased productivity since.

      The one aspect of the tying of a professor’s salary to the incomes of the students over time is, as you might expect from my second paragraph above, that professors in disciplines that may appear not to be direct income enhancers will be short-changed, whereas their contributions may become crucial to some development later on. Thus some disciplines, such as literature, philosophy (which helps make good businessmen), etc. need to have a funding source that reflects some of those intangibles.

  • Coastghost

    A distinct pity that today’s panel does not include either Prof. Tyler Cowen or Prof. Alex Tabarrok, GMU economics professors about to launch (ff. success of their “Marginal Revolution” blog) “MRUniversity” for their cutting-edge insights.
    Another distinct pity: your background material seems not to address the salient fact that over 40% of today’s post-secondary freshman enroll in some kind of remediation program (English or math) on arrival. College/university remedial programs have become de rigueur over the past forty years, whereas data are notoriously hard to come by that justify college/university administration of such programs, and data are hard to find that identify the costs associated with such programs. The public’s failure to insist that primary and secondary schools perform the tasks nominally required of them pushes pedagogical failure through and out of public school systems and straight into post-secondary schools.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

    Soon we’ll never have to leave our houses. We can shop online, get our educations online, conduct what passes for our sex lives online, play fantasy sports online, interact with virtual people online, do our banking online, even hold religious services online (just email us the sermon and Fedex us the communion wafers). In doing so, we will, of course, finally kill off what is left of our fractured community, but at least we won’t have to talk to anyone in person (or even get out of our pajamas). Foolish, dangerous, and sad.

  • Jasoturner

    You know what I like about the public service idea?  It would eliminate all those kids who waste educational resources while they try and figure out who they are and what they actually want to do.

    • Don_B1

      Public service is an excellent way for some high school graduates to gather information to make a decision on what they want to do. But that was also the benefit of “liberal education” back 25 to 50 or more years ago.

      There are a lot of disciplines where pubic service does not introduce the student to. So many students have found what they want to be in an introductory course in a discipline that they might never even have heard of before taking the course.

  • Mike Marks

    The change of college funding from pay-as-you-go to borrow against the future enabled a massive increase in pay for Academics of all stripes and administrators in particular. Maybe some pay cuts are in order.

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    The curse of the internet:  just as texting is handicapping the social development of kids these days, the lack of live interaction denies the insight and perspective of others that come from interactive, face to face discussion.

    Extend this trend and nearly all of us may be replaced by software and robots.

  • Ellen Dibble

    In terms of the cost, what proportion goes to paying professors, versus maintaining the campus, tending to students’ needs, and so on.  Leaving aside laboratory courses.  Does it vary?  According to what?  

  • adks12020

    I’m currently finishing a masters degree in finance law online from an ABA accredited law school and it’s really working for me. I really think the efficacy of online programs depends on the field of study and the model of the classes.  Mine are all web conferences where everyone participates via webcamera and microphone. I don’t think, for example, a degrees in the sciences would be possible online because of the lab classes are absolutely essential. 

    I’m getting an awful lot out of my degree and it’s very rigorous but I think the undergraduate years I spent at a brick and mortar school were very important in my development academically and socially and I wouldn’t give that up for anything.

    Things are a little different when you’re 30 years old, need another degree to advance your career, and you can’t quit your job to go full time or move to another town as easily.  Plus, I don’t need the social experience anymore; I need the knowledge and skills and I’m getting that from this online program from the a very knowledgable faculty and group of students.

  • Yar

    The Harvard’s are secure, because its all about getting your kid in the right chicken house, Finding the right mate, separation of the classes is the point of selective private institutions.  How much education is in class and how much is learning to live with people who see the world differently than you?  We could do much of what colleges to with two years of public service.

    • TinaWrites

      I really like your idea of two years of public service!  I did want to say something about your initial sentence, tho.  I do not know about Harvard at all, but Brown, which is also in the Ivy League, has been a needs-blind institution for many decades.  In other words, an applicant’s need for scholarships or loans is not known to the committee that accepts students.  If you are accepted, they will then look at your financial circumstances and then find monies for you.  There may be some glitches in this, but this system was set up during the Student Revolt Days of the 1960′s, in large measure prompted by one particular radical student; and Brown responded.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1816544 Dan Trindade

    What I think it comes down to is that there is no longer just one single path (on campus) to high education. Just as k-12 is working to diversify options available to students, acknowledging that different students learn in different ways, high education must do the same.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Higher education is highly regulated as compared to newspapers?  To me, a lot of the promise of online learning would seem to be its flexibility.   If a student finds he or she can proceed independently without the online guidance, that can happen.  If a course seems incompatible to a student, the student hasn’t committed to it and the professor.  It seems much more likely a student could zero in on their passions and skills with the greater flexibility.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    The biggest danger to education is the view that there must be a direct line between what is taught in a class and money that the student will make immediately upon graduation.

  • M_CC

    Coursera.com, Udacity.com, and even duoLingo.com are great. Why pay to learn something you can learn for free? Universities have a place, but so do these new tools.

  • Ellen Dibble

    To me, the values being discovered of students meeting together to brainstorm this or that course, that can be recreated by having housing arrangements in various cities worldwide that are designed for students who in some cases are taking the same courses, maybe some are working at the same time.  An adult or so in the building would help provide the experience that goes into dorm living, how to provide for yourself and learn together, all the kinds of exposure a college can provide.

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    Why we are asking this question…

    The rising cost of education is mind boggling. Years ago I heard an administrator admit that the reason education costs had gone up by double digit percentages per year is because it represented what the market would bare…

    Well, educators didn’t see huge increases in salary, in fact many institutions have moved to using adjunct professors (doctors or doctoral candidates) being paid the equivalent of a UPS Truck driver, or less.

    Now look at the burgeoning in administrators who are not educators, but are being paid very, very, very well, some with C-level salaries. So what the heck?

  • http://twitter.com/coastalpolicy Steffen Schmidt

    It’s NOT the teaching that’s driving costs! It’s multiple million dollar diversions to more stadiums and sports facilities, elegant dorms that most upper middle class Americans can’t afford, and gourmet cuisine in food services! 

    • Ellen Dibble

      And those schools are competing for the students whose lineage is most likely to boost the endowment.  Wouldn’t a student choose the school with the very latest gym equipment, given a choice?  Given a family that could afford more?  It’s like housing; you build the most expensive units that people will pay for; it means more profit.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       Exactly so.  Add in the fact that “student” athletes often get invovled in cheating scandals and drag down the standards, and you’ve got a good argument for getting sports out of education.

  • Ellen Dibble

    I think a student can sign up for the more immediately needed skills, enough to get a job to sustain them while they move to maybe a higher skill, and then another, till they are focusing more on the kind of breadth that we associate with a liberal education.  This changes from place to place and decade to decade, but it wasn’t part of the equation in times past.

  • TomBSU

    I am a graduate student at a local university and I am taking two online courses. In one of my courses there is a student taking the course who is currently teaching in Bahrain. Its about access and availability. 

  • nprname

    A few unrelated, hurried points I have to make about your current show, as I run around doing my errands!  Sorry these points are disconnected and briefly stated!

    1)  My brother works for a start-up online University called Udacity, based in Palo Alto, CA and started by a couple of Stanford Professors.  He is an MIT graduate, brilliant, and a good person.  He BELIEVES in their mission, works hard, and creates innovative lesson plans that so far, students LOVE! 

    2)  SO MUCH of the rising costs of education, I believe, are to fund things that are attractive to parents sending their kids to college, but do little to improve the value of the education that they actually receive . . . New, shiny dormitories, top-notch fitness facilities, etc. . .

    3)  I taught middle and high school Spanish for a few years in Everett and Belmont, MA (I’m now a stay at home mother).   I graduated from undergrad with a 4.0 GPA, but when I started teaching I only had a bachelor’s degree.  I’m not sure how things have changed in the past 12 years, but at the time, I was hired with the requirement that I would obtain my master’s degree within 5 years.  However, what I found absurd, was that it didn’t matter what my MA specialty was!  So, as a Spanish teacher, in theory, I could have gotten my MA in Political Science — it didn’t matter?!?!  Seriously??  What, really, was the point?  I honestly believe that that these school systems just wanted to be able to say that “X” % of their teachers had master’s degrees . . .  It was crazy! 

    4)  Let’s talk business school…  My husband has been VERY successful in the business world as a market researcher, entrepreneur and investor.  He has a BA – nothing else.  He’s advanced on his merits, and has learned along the way.  He firmly believes that everything learned in business school (which is a VERY high-cost endeavor) can be learned on the job, and his success speaks to that belief.

    I have so much more to say, but I don’t have time.  I need to go to the grocery store and do a million other things today.  In short, I believe that the “NEED” for higher education — especially beyond a BA degree — is largely manufactured, and that education has become a business like any other, looking for ways to sustain itself. . . largely at the high cost to individuals who could likely be just as useful and successful in life without it in life, were it not for the belief that it’s necessary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1499868373 Stacey Sloan Blersch

    What about assessment? If you increase class sizes and teach online, who is going to grade all the exams? Do away with homework? Doesn’t seem like it would lead to better writing or critical thinking skills

    • Ellen Dibble

      And oh, the opportunities for cheating…

      • adks12020

        The key to avoid cheating it to change the way students are assessed.  In the program I’m in all of the exams are essays or term papers that require extensive research and writing.  All the papers need to be properly cited.  My degere is in finance law so most of the questions involve hypotheticals that require a ton of thought to do answer correctly. We also submit all of them through a plagiarism filter. People could try to cheat but it just woudn’t work in these classes because it would be so easy to tell if someone copied another person’s worok or ideas. 

        That said.  Cheating could be a problem with math and science since you can’t run that type of answer through a plagiarism filter and the teacher can’t assess the writing.

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

       Testing of any kind is being pushed into the multiple choice or true/false format.  Machines can do that.  You’re correct to suspect that it’s not education.

    • TomBSU

      on line assessments are graded instantly by the computer. The instructor sets up the platform with the correct answers. Once a student clicks submit he/she gets their grade instantly. Its really great! 

  • Tony Guy

    The problem of high cost of education and student debt has been encouraged if not sustained by the federal programs which underwrite and protect lenders of student loans who will not sustain a risk providing loans to marginal students attending marginal schools in marginal courses of study.  If lenders of student loans (like parents) were to be subject a real risk of loss, marginal schools would not exist, course content would strengthen, the likelihood of a students success would hold greater weight, and colleges (which are indirectly subsidized as a result) would find more ways to deliver the goods at less cost and in ways which would be more beneficial to successful career outcomes.

    Yes less might go to a four year degree, but more would find success in trade oriented occupations and foster a long overdue investment in trade schools.

  • manganbr

    As someone who went to an affordable small liberal arts college, (came out with 10,000 dollars debt) I just don’t see how any online model can replace the student-teacher relationship that I experienced. These open courses may help to let rock star professors get “their view of the discipline out there,” but how is that a substitute for attentive feedback on papers and office hour discussions. As the PBS documentary on Arizona State suggested, many students are not mature or or autonomous enough at 18 to make it in the depersonalized state school systems. How could an online program address that issue? Maybe you could pay some low level instructors (i.e. teaching assistants) to grade essays and lead Skype discussion sections with smaller groups. But that’s not a substitute for the regular access I had to tenured professors, and the opportunity to learn in the context of personal relationships with my teachers. Yes, there’s certainly a funding problem here; but another solution is to have state funding for smaller liberal arts mission institutions, like Mass College of Liberal Arts. As your guest suggests, the market will dictate terms for the future of liberal arts. But what if, as a democracy, we decide NOT to let the markets alone dictate how we educate our citizenry. 

  • Karena Paleologo

    I don’t like the idea of never stepping foot in a classroom in order to learn. I feel like you lose a lot without the face to face contact. We have already taught the current batch of students how to avoid personal contact by hiding behind a computer screen, and I don’t think that it’s going to be helpful in developing the kind of interpersonal skills they will need to function in the workforce by further enabling them to interact with people without ever being in the same room as them. This is just going to enhance the degree of disassociation from classmates and professors. 

  • Jasoturner


    Some thought on American education…

  • TinaWrites

    This proves it!  There is NO excuse for that part of joblessness that is due to potential employees not being trained enough to be hired!  The major corporations can put together courses that train people for the specific jobs they need to fill; out of work people take the courses; and voila!
    But for this to work, our so-called “job creators” would need to be a lot more creative and willing to dish out some money for training, not just for huge salaries and profits. 

    • BHA_in_Vermont

       ” not just for huge salaries and profits. ” For themselves, not the employees.

      • TinaWrites

        Yes!  Thanks!

  • David Daniel

    I understand the economic model and the preference by many students to do an asynchronous on-line course (convenience). But, what about learning impact? The literature is uneven on this, especially by discipline. There is also evidence that a good on-line course INCREASES instructor time, not decreases. Are we moving toward a world where higher income students get higher quality education and the rest of us simply check off classes without evidence of equivalency to in-person courses?

  • JP Lofgren

    How about a system that allows students to (1) read textbooks or watch courses from the Teaching Company or a free course from a university and then (2) pay an expert to test them one-on-one in the subject and give them a grade. Then the expert testers would be graded by future employers like ebay feedback.  For example, a person studies accounting. An expert tests them and gives the person an “A”. An employer hires the person and discovers they don’t know anything about accounting so gives expert tester negative feedback. Then other students would not hire the expert tester.

  • OnpointListener

     I just looked up the tuition for the law school I graduated from in the

    Tuition alone is a
    little over $ 44,000.

    Add living expenses, textbooks, and
    miscellaneous fees and the school estimates the total cost per year at
    about $ 65,000.

    That is $
    195,000 for a law school degree. Add to that the cost of a good
    undergraduate degree and 7 years out of the workforce or only partially in the

    Who can afford

    How can with
    families and students with middle class incomes continue to have access to
    advanced degrees? 

    Online education may be the only answer. 

    • Ellen Dibble

      And a spinoff effect:  legal services are out of reach of middle class Americans.  The poor qualify for public legal assistance, and the rich can pay, but I hear lawyers complain that the people in the middle are not in a position to pay the kind of fees the lawyers need, given their educational costs (for starters).

    • BHA_in_Vermont

       Must be why lawyers charge many hundreds of dollars per hour for work done by paralegals and secretaries.

    • J__o__h__n

      All but the first year, could easily be replaced with on line classes. 

  • MohawkHudson

    Remember when television was supposed to deliver higher education to the masses for free? The trade-off was free use of the public’s airwaves? Whatever happened to that? The same thing is going to happen with online education. The financial services sector dictates economy policy in this country. Online education will be a cheaper way of delivering education at the same or higher cost.

  • Joady

    Like health care, isn’t this a problem the rest of the first world has solved? People in other first world countries don’t die or go bankrupt due to lack of health insurance, and they attend college without incurring debt. Maybe US could take a look….probably we won’t.

  • Ellen Dibble

    The issue of certification, job readiness — on-campus internships might be able to determine this.  I’m not sure what virtual education can do.  Teacher education — people mention below about education that seems a waste of time; or business education; sometimes a city comes together and helps a person move ahead, advising and pushing.  Retirees can help.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

     There should be no multiple-choice topics in college.  College, properly understood, is something entirely different from multiple-choice teaching.

    • J__o__h__n

      Some multiple choice tests can be quite challenging.  The bar exam’s multiple choice section is harder than the essays. 

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

         Ah, but passing a multiple-choice test is more about being skillful in that kind of test than in the subject matter.

        • J__o__h__n

          If the test is designed well, it can measure subject matter.

  • TinaWrites

    The poor universities!  During the height of our economic success (whether real or not) when the cost of land and construction was high, the colleges were under pressure from demanding potential students who chose one college over others based on their campus:  multiple cafes in the refectory; Olympics-style pools and gyms; luxurious dorm rooms; and libraries so decked out that no one could call them “boring”.  At this same time, the digital revolution was getting stronger, so that within a few years, most colleges needed whole new buildings for the tables and tables of desktop computers.  

    Then the economic crash happened.  These college campuses and physical plants are beautiful, often, but they are also too expensive for students to now be able to afford!

    • BHA_in_Vermont

       It isn’t always pushed by the students. UVM went through a huge and very expensive building boom because the prior president pushed it.

      • TinaWrites

        Thanks!  I’m sure you are right.  In fact, I think I know a little about one situation that was pretty much kept “in house” as much as possible.  The push from potential students started the rush to acquire land and buildings and then do construction, but  once that got started, that one particular college’s  president got too enthusiastic about this new direction.  His faculty tried to get him to see that too many improvements would weaken the college’s ability to have a diverse group of students.  I think he frustrated and frightened faculty for while, but he finally resigned, with all this pretty much under the radar.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/ekatebi Ed Katebi

    Why not online provided by the big institutions and with the small colleges supporting the students locally to get the most out of the education?

  • mezure

     One of the major problems of education at all levels is that it is constantly being assessed by those who have a vested interest in its supposed viability as an important part of our cultural development.  But if we carefully look at the purpose of education beyond the classroom or internet screen, you’ll see the system in a more realistic light. The practical notions of systems of educating people to work instead of forcing them though enslavement took on a benevolent tone starting with the Sabbath schools.  It provided the farm worker and later the industrial workers the improved deportment that was necessary to promote work.  Education at a mass public level took on the apprentice system that had lasted for centuries, providing skilled artisans. You may ask how do all these changes relate to higher education?   First applied sciences and professional schools dominate the graduate level in the appointment of the faculty and the money received from outside sources.  Many of these departments work in collaborative ways. Think about business/law and medicine/pharmacy collaborations as working in ways that enhance themselves beyond the academy. Engineering is even more collaborative.  The need for undergraduate and graduate engineers is formidable.  In Sabbath schools, for instance, you find something more damning for our current circumstance at the graduate level.  Those who studied at those levels were part of the leisure class.  They indulged in contemplative subjects because they had the time and inclination.  They were not preparing for a job or a career.  If they did assume what we refer to as a job, they did not need it for survival.  Their practical skills and/or some other salable abilities gave them their income.  Now the academy’s purpose is meant to do just that.  The first question asked by parents enrolling their child in college is what type of job can my child get from this line of study? As you can see, there are no simple answers for this dilemma.

  • Markus6

    As one person asked, would love to know the breakdown of costs for a college education. And not from the colleges, but from an auditor. With two professors in the family and several friends who are profs, this small sample shows me teaching appears to be a great job to retire to. To be fair almost all teach in state schools. My guess is these 15 – 20 hour per week tenured political appointees are a minority. But I’m glad my kids don’t have to deal with them.

  • jefe68

    Education is a mess on this nation from K-12 and in higher education. Instead of trying to find ways of fixing the cost factor which is out of control. Adding this online component wont solve a thing. It will add to the alienation of students, especially students with ADD or other learning disabilities. 
    What I’m hearing here is quite frankly a bit much and while I think there is some room for this kind online thing, it seems to me it’s more about buzzwords.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jdowski Joseph Dowski

    I think if online education can turn out the caliber of folks that businesses want to hire at a lower price, than so be it. I’m tired of hearing businesses say they can’t find qualified engineers, programmers, etc. and must bring them in from overseas.  Tell me again why a college textbook for my daughter who goes to UCONN needs to cost $195 ?  If it’s colleges & universities vs. jobs, then I will not shed a tear to see a few schools go under.

    • James Sawhill

       Simple solution =
      leave America and go to Canada, Europe, Asia where education costs 25% of here and doesn’t require the idiotic 40 credits of General Education that should have been done in high school

      • http://www.facebook.com/jdowski Joseph Dowski

        If that were truly a viable option and gave an education that was applicable back here in the US. I’d be fine with that.  Why should I be responsible for paying for overpriced textbooks or the salaries of tenured professors who have teaching assistants teach half the class ?  The republicans talk about global competitiveness.  I think we need to see some of that applied to our post secondary education system.

  • Reverend Rhythms

    I’m a little troubled that so many conversations about education in America are framed within the economic/money context. The principle of a well educated public is the hinge upon which democracy swings. When I consider the uncivil character of our current political discourse, it demonstrates that the public now sees American education strictly in terms of achieving higher salaries and wages.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Generating revenue isn’t the job of a school.

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    What about  “research” universities where the faculty are chasing grants, working on their research and teaching few classes? The students pay a fortune but most of the classes are taught by low paid, non tenured, part time faculty. These schools value research and “cache” over teaching.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Students who have learned to be self-motivated and self-sufficient in grade school would probably be fine with online learning.  But I’m thinking of students who don’t understand the degree to which concentration is involved, and interactivity; they think of school as an exercise in avoiding disciplinary attention, something like that.  ADHD galore.  I can’t imagine them bringing the kind of focus and awareness necessary without the sort of babysitting that a campus offers.  I shouldn’t say babysitting.  Supervision?

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    ” why a college textbook for my daughter who goes to UCONN needs to cost $195″

    You have to wonder don’t you? The company I have worked for for over 30 years has basically stopped education. Everything I need to know I learn online and not from a university. Google is my friend.

    • Ray in VT

      One also has to wonder why a new edition must come out every 12-18 months, especially when very few changes are made between them.  The answer is pretty simple: the textbook companies are looking to squeeze the most money out of its customers.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jdowski Joseph Dowski

        I agree.  It’s a monopoly and the colleges are complicit ! 

      • BHA_in_Vermont

         You’ve never heard of “revisionist history” ;)

        I can’t agree more. How much has the math that MOST people need to learn changed in the last several hundred (or thousand) years? Econ 101? Greek history? etc.

        Put a decent book out as a PDF so the students can print none, some or all of it, as they like. It is a model current students understand, they already get most of their music online.  If they are going to print the whole thing, it might be cheaper to have it done with a “point of sale” printing/binding service. No need for printing and binding, no need to ship, stock and sell. No “left over books” that are paid for with the high price of those actually sold.

        • Ray in VT

          Textbooks are a really strange industry.  They have a somewhat captive audience, and the books are such relatively large volumes that it doesn’t look like many people want to get in on the business.  I don’t think that they’re cheap to produce, although they certainly do jack up the prices.  What amazes me is in areas like history, where from year to year there is relatively little change aside from current events, although there are some occasional significant discoveries that require substantial revisions.

          Have I recommended either Lies My Teacher Told Me or The Language Police to you before?  I can’t recall.  They are both quite good.  Texts try to cover so much that so many topics only get superficial coverage, the coverage ends up being dull and there are various errors that should be caught.  It’s quite irritating.

          There’s a lot of push for e-texts, but one of my friends who is a library director recently pointed me to an article from Library Journal (I think) that talked about how students still don’t like them.  At this point students still prefer a print text that they can mark up and resell (even if only for a few bucks).

          I do recall hearing about some efforts by a some respected academics to create a freely available, but still legitimate and authoritative, text that could be used as an alternative to the traditional print texts, but I don’t know how that’s going.  I wonder how much printing out a text on the Espresso Book Machine over/down at Northshire would cost?

          One problem when getting outside of the traditional publication model does concern authority.  I take your comment about revisionist history well, considering some of the highly non-fact based opinion that I see regarding areas where I have some pretty substantial knowledge, although, one can certainly buy some printed texts that are way out there.  For instance:


  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Another cause of the problem here is that too many businesses are demanding a college degree when no such thing is actually needed.  Many people could be much better prepared for a job by entering an apprenticeship program.

  • http://www.facebook.com/GrayShirt Robert Wilhite

    I’m horrified at the thought that my kids (ages 4 & 8) might not be “leaving home for college” ten years from now.  Sure, maybe it saves me half a million bucks, but… if classes are done online, what’s the new game plan for getting them out of the house??

    • jefe68

      You move and don’t tell them.

  • TomBSU

    Online courses does not work for technical or science based courses. You can not take advanced architectural design on line same with physics. 

  • imjust Sayin

    Everyone wants to go to a quality school, where teachers and administrators know what they are doing.

    If, most students of a university that has a business college, are deeply in debt – comparable to a mortgage – then what claim does that school have to competency?

    And if, they offer a “face time” degree instead of simply online, without leaving their students in debt – maybe less than a car loan? – then maybe THAT school can be called excellent.

    Please respond here if you know of such a school.


  • Leah MacVie

    I disagree with the caller about ‘online courses contributing to the fracturing of society’. I am in a hybrid program (1 residency per semester/the rest online) and I have made the closest friends with people all over the country and the world. We talk and support each other everyday, though virtually. I feel like I have gotten more out of this delivery than I ever did in previous f2f classes.

    • imjust Sayin

       I agree with Leah on this one.  Because of online communication, I am able to agree with her.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Consider how uncivil on-line discussions can end up being.

    • Ray in VT

      Having some sort of financial commitment to get into the discussion as well as some expectations of acceptable behavior and some actual negative outcomes for transgressors usually knocks that down a lot.

    • imjust Sayin

       Hey greg,

      you can take your comment and shove it up your…

      oh wait, I guess I’m doing it now too!!!  AUUGHH

  • seasidegirl2012

    I just heard the President of Williams College speak on this topic about the notion of non brick and mortar higher ed.  He wrote an op ed in the NYTimes or Wall Street Journal.  He lays out a very rational argument for on campus face-to-face learning with professors in the classroom.  My view, technology in classroom great, but replacement of human interaction will not produce the same knowledge/thinking required to educate our children and adults.

  • J__o__h__n

    I think about a third of my college classes could have been replaced with on line classes.  Classes that taught critical thinking, writing skills, and more specialized classes should be in person but many of the large lectures didn’t need an actual class.  I’d rather watch the world’s best professors on computer than someone less good in person.  I prefer to learn on my own through reading anyway and didn’t care for the classroom experience.  I especially hated classes that weren’t lectures and the instructor taught through uniformed students asking dumb questions or parroting what we had all just read before the class. 

    • BHA_in_Vermont

       I agree. If you are in a lecture class of 300+ students and can’t even see the person teaching the class, you would get as much from sitting at home watching it on your computer.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Students used to go to community college (cheap) for a couple of years, and then get an Ivy League degree from the last two years, having earned their way in during the first two years by being outstanding there.  It seems now combinations of gap years in possibly some form of public service, for exposure and maturity, and then maybe simultaneously online credits, up to the point a student can zero in on something, say figure out they really want to be a geologist, and so attend the university that has the best program in that for the equivalent of the last two years of college education.  There they could develop the interactive skill sets that go with learning and working together in your field with experts/teachers and your competitors (other students).  We’ll see.

    • jefe68

      Do you have any stats to back up this up?
      I know a lot of students will go to Community College and then go on to state schools, but the Ivy League?

      It is interesting to note that Adam Steltzner, one of the lead engineers for the recent Mars Curiosity landing went to the Marin County Community college. He did end up at CIT but seems to have mostly gone to state universities.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=552517210 Olga Swarthout

    What about the non-traditional student? When you are an on campus 18 – 22 year old, there’s usually a lot of time to saunter through the daily physical demands of achieving higher education. As a full time employee, the outdated logistics of class registration combined with the perpetual scrambling for a car parking space at commuter colleges is enough to deter you from enrolling. How much better it would be to interact in class via conference call.

  • Leah MacVie

    Also, I would like to point out that this is not a ‘one side vs. the other side issue’. We should respect the choices and options for those who are seeking/need to take up these choices and options because of physical disabilities, illnesses, family needs, work schedules, athletic schedules, mental needs, etc. I agree that there are challenges with younger ages possibly not having the time management skills or older generations not having the tech savvy skills, but this can be compensated by the school investing in the preparation and support. In a time where we are constantly asking people to do and be more, some also want to limit their access to knowledge just because ‘they don’t agree with it’. We need to consider the ‘other’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/btabenkin Boris Tabenkin

    I think that many of the colleges have become country clubs. I just completed my MBA at Bentley 2 years ago. While I was there (over the time span of 5 years), I 
    witnessed  ever improving facilities and features. I think colleges have fallen in love with construction and are financing it through tuition increases. In my completely uninformed opinion colleges should pour the money into people and not concrete.

  • susanekg7

    While the conversation focused mainly on small vs. large universities, a more important distinction is the one between public and private higher ed.  Certainly, the venture capitalists and endowment investors who are pushing MOOC’s are not being driven by an urge to provide education to all, but by the revenue streams that could accrue from getting tens of thousands of students to enroll in auto courses.  Whatever the PR might be, the goal is to profit on a more massive scale from the brand that ultra rich schools have developed.  Rather than talking about how “smaller” schools need to adjust to cutbacks, we really need to rethink whether endowment-driven universities should still be defined as  non-profits now that they operate as hedge funds, especially when their new business model is explicitly tailored to service downscale students who can’t take four years away from their low-wage jobs, and who increasingly can’t afford state school tuition due to decreasing public funding.

  • Sharlyne Woodbury

    Higher education is far too expensive. Quite frankly it’s akin to indentured servitude because of the debt post graduation. The altruistic motives of higher education are gone. It’s all about profit. Let’s face, the middle class can’t compete with those who are wealthy and can afford to pay the for the best and the brightest. I’m the same age as Ivanka Trump. There’s no way any public school would’ve provided even a close sliver of what her father can and did afford to pay for. 

    As a society we need to focus on jobs in demand, and quality training for those jobs. Also, if employers demand that qualified candidates have a degree in higher education, then they need to pay those recent grads. Starting salaries of $40,000 or less in this day and age will not allow a recent graduate to be financially independent. The average cost of student debt, per student per year is $25,000.  Multiply that by 3-5 years, and each kid is in excess of $75,000 in debt. No recent grad will survive on a salary less than half of what their total student debt is. 

  • http://singingstring.org/ asongbird

    For so-called “traditional” students, I believe going to a physical school–especially away from the parental home– and being exposed to ideas and people and  avenues and work and career paths one might not have otherwise have known about or considered is really essential. A hybrid between in-class and online seems optimal for this group–I think ESPECIALLY for those who have spent most of their lives texting and Facebooking for hours every day.

    For those of us who go to college later, or while working, online is the sensible, quality way to go. We need the flexibility …and in the online courses I have taken I found them to be MORE demanding quality-wise while at the same time more suited to a professional life. Not only is the schedule more appropriate, but you don’t need to be bothered by the very same social things a younger person would benefit from.

    But in all this I do add a caveat. We’re all assuming folks can afford the online capacities the evolving online educational world demands. I can…but many can’t, and I believe we overestimate the numbers of those who are online. This is a serious issue.

  • Linda B. Gray

    I have been teaching humanities online for more than ten years in two different universities.  Union Institute & University offers BA, BS, MA, MAP, Ph.D. and Psy. D. both in online settings and in hybrid form.  It can be done, and it can be done well.  Online learning even offers oppportunities not available in a classroom, for having a discussions with class of students from around the world.  Online education also offers the only option for some students, including working parents, adults in rural areas, and disabled people.  Many of soldiers and sailors take online university courses while deployed.  It is also a boon for students who must move frequently, or whose lives cannot safely continue in their homes due to violence or abuse. There are many other examples, but these few give an idea of the limitation of “classroom” teaching.

    In addition, online courses can better take advantage of the tremendous learning opportunities that reside and bubble on the Internet.  It can connect scholars and students with common interests who live in disparate places.

    The important aspects of learning — skill building, relationships with other students, mentoring from professors, transformation, critical thinking, reading and writing — can happen well online. The result for our students is that they own their own learning, frame their own interests and concentrations, learn about their topics in their own communities often through experiential learning and end up empowered and engaged in their communities and employment.

    • Brandstad

      how do you prevent cheating?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1550427523 Akilez Stamatelaky

        by not looking for the cheater.

        • Ray in VT

          That works too.

  • Abraham Murray

    Great show, great topic.  Ombudsman point: this is the 2nd or 3rd time I’ve heard a caller call in and disparage home schooling (the comment was that they are not appropriately socialized) to which Tom replied “great point” and kept going.  This is a topic which has been studied and debunked (or for those who don’t believe, is at least an open discussion as opposed to a solid point against homeschooling).  I am getting frustrated at hearing Tom buy in to this biased viewpoint against homeschooling.  Today would have been a great example to respond with an “actually, that is a debated point, what do our distinguished guests think” or something along those lines.

    • Steve_the_Repoman


      I know there are many avenues through which home schooled children learn socilization.

      But take OP crtiticism as a compliment.
      Home-schooled kids are independent thinkers and that is precisely what makes them so anathema to many.

      • J__o__h__n

        The ones who go on to Liberty University aren’t independent thinkers.

      • Ray in VT

        That is certainly not the experience that I have had with some home-schooled children, especially the ones that have been home-schooled for religious reasons.  I won’t make a generalization, but my experience with such students is that they were very good at reciting their Bible verses or what they were told in church, but they were utterly unprepared to deal with information and facts that countered their faith, and they were often rude about it to boot.  Again, not a generalization, but in line with my experience.

  • http://www.CayerComputing.com/ Melissa A. Cayer

    We need to start preparing now for virtual government. The representatives will not have to live in Washington DC because they can meet online.

    • Brandstad

      I would love your idea but it will never happen because that takes power away from Washington and closer to  the people. 

      Progressives love big government and there are progressives in all parties and positions.

      • jefe68

        And regressives as well.

      • http://www.CayerComputing.com/ Melissa A. Cayer

        sentiment seems to be that the younger generation likes online communication so
        they probably would prefer the online venue for government meetings.

    • Steve_the_Repoman

      Control ALT Delete?

      • http://www.CayerComputing.com/ Melissa A. Cayer

        task manager?

  • Call_Me_Missouri

    One of the callers made it out to sound like we have always college educated a large percentage of high school graduates and Tom… you let that stand.  That is NOT TRUE.  We used to only college educate around 10% of high school graduates and that was as recently as 1990.

    The reason prices have gone up is Supply / Demand.  Somewhere along the way, parents got the impression that every child or at least 90% of high school graduates MUST have a College Education in order to make real money in the work place…  That is also NOT TRUE.  The truth is, your kid needs to actually be smart, not have a piece of paper that gives the impression that they might be smart but is now so watered down in value that it doesn’t even mean that anymore.

    If we are serious about education we will focus on career based education for high school aged kids so they can come out of high school and get a job right away so they don’t have to end up in the overly burdensome college system.  And for jobs that require more training, we need to get back to Corporate Financed Content Focused Apprenticeship programs which should be much cheaper to sponsor now with all of this online education.

  • Brandstad

    Isn’t it amazing that Colleges and healthcare both have skyrocketing prices?  Both are industries that are highly regulated, controlled, or owned by the government but that can’t have anything to do with the gouging of Americans

    • Call_Me_Missouri

      The most expensive colleges in this college are in no way shape or form 
      highly regulated, controlled, or owned by the government.

      Not to mention that they don’t PAY ANY FRIGGING TAXES.

    • jefe68

      What colleges are owned by the Government? West Point?
      State universities and colleges use to be the best deal out there. Are you really this obtuse?

  • Brandstad

    We can’t even keep school vouchers in Washington DC…

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.l.campbell1 David L Campbell

    Canadian provinces added healthcare to their budgets
    with taxes to pay for healthcare(single payer). States added
    healthcare to their budget with no new taxes. This mean less money
    for Higher Education K-12 education,

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1550427523 Akilez Stamatelaky

      My friend lives in Toronto she has 2 nursing jobs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1550427523 Akilez Stamatelaky

    $150,000 school loan + $35,000 annual salary = Deby for Life

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1550427523 Akilez Stamatelaky

    My Filipino High school batch, they went to take their BSN or Nursing degree. After they graduated they don’t have any student loan debt.

    They make from $50,000 to $100.000 a year.

  • susybeck

    1. Online courses presume a level of motivation and organization that many students do not possess. Only a small percentage completed the course mentioned on your program. I imagine many of those that signed up weren’t disciplined enough to keep up with the coursework on a regular basis.
    2. Some courses require practice in real time, for example such areas as Counseling and Teacher Education. Content courses are better suited to online than skill based learning.
    3. Younger, less mature, less confident, and more gregarious students need/want the support of professors and fellow students to help bring them along. Chatting online isn’t the same as discussion in class.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1550427523 Akilez Stamatelaky

    Elementary and High school education should be free in America. that’s the only way we can compete with other countries like Japan and Germany in educational achievements.

    • J__o__h__n

      They are.

      • Ray in VT

        Free to attend, of course, although the whole community kicks in.  Sounds fishy to me.  Must be some sort of commie plot.

  • fiteclub

    This is all well and good, but the hard sciences and engineering degrees will never be able to be completed “online”.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/XKZSBWQBDUMR4OJ3ZMFBWHFNPA Marley

    My daughter is earning a nursing degree with online components. I believe that higher education at it’s best will offer both online and f2f learning to meet students needs and the realities of cost management. Done well, online learning is a plus. But I believe the interactive dimension of discussion between fellow students at minimum is necessary. I was not happy to find one of her courses had no interactivity at all. So parents beware; ask about the number of online courses in a degree program, if all of them contain interactive boards and for what purpose, and whether the professors have a requirement to reply to student within a certain time frame. Not all online curricula are equal.

  • hennorama

    There are multiple factors that challenge the established system of higher education in the US – cost, competition, online learning and other alternatives, etc.

    Part of what is being challenged is the cost/benefit calculation of higher education.  A college degree used to be a virtually automatic guarantee of employment and higher than average pay.  This is why parents so strongly encourage their kids to attend college, and why high schools have been increasingly emphasizing the path toward college.

    This remains true for college graduates OVER the age of 25.  They not only participate in the labor force at a much higher rate (about 75% vs. 60% of HS grads with no college), they also have a much lower unemployment rate (about 4% vs. about 9%).

    A great deal of attention has been paid recently to recent college graduates, with lots of numbers flying around.  The most common seems to be “53% are unemployed or underemployed.”  This is not an easy stat to come by, and it is out of date by at least 6 months.

    Here are some of the latest stats (Aug. 2012, from the BLS) for those aged 16 to 24:

    Bachelors degree and higher:

     75.2% employed full-time
     14.7% employed part-time
     10.1% unemployed

    I didn’t try to delve deeper into hourly wages, or those employed in jobs not requiring a degree, as this would have been very time-consuming.

    But 10.1% of college grads under 25 being unemployed doesn’t seem too bad to me, all things considered.

    Yes, recent college grads may not have found their ideal job.  Duh! And join the club!  The job market is far from ideal for EVERYONE.

    By the way, a good article (from May 2012) on the employment situation of recent grads can be found here:

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  • TomK_in_Boston

    There are a lot of things to think about here.

    The cost is absurd, and has 2 primary drivers: 1. Due to anti-tax ideology, the states have been cutting funding to our great state Universities for many years. Some “State U” now have less than 10% state funding! File that under killing the golden goose. It’s also class warfare, since the extra $ from the parents go directly to keep taxes low on the romney types. When the great state U were virtually free they held down costs for private U also. Now their costs are rising and that leads to all costs rising.

    2. The growth of the administrative component in academia is ridiculous. Armies of deans, provosts, academic vice presidents, and their associates and assistants make big $ and never see a student. Universities are becoming more and more corporate, and the current corporate model is for the executives to grab every $ they can. 

    Another thing is that a lot of the discussion assumes that a University is a trade school, where you prepare for a job, like going to welding school. When I went to college we were told the plan was to learn how to think, and then we could do anything (teach a man to fish vs give a man a fish…). I realize that the voodoo economics has made life a lot more competitive for the non-romneys, but I hate to see this evolution.

    Maybe it makes sense to go on-line for a job-focused education. However, the current online U are horrible scammers. The model where they keep the student loan even if the student, who they enrolled with promises and a hard sell, drops out, is truly evil, the sort of thing Bane capital might have com eup with.

    Tough times, but the big picture is the ongoing class warfare.

    • hennorama

      With more than 2 of every 3 high school graduates going directly to college, it’s obvious that they are more focused on it leading to a career rather than simply learning how to think, regardless if one believes this is a good thing.  They have been told over and over that this is the path to a better job and a better future.

      Fortunately, this is still true, regardless of the current hyperbolic alarm concerning recent college grads.

      And while it’s true that there is a correlation with an incoming student’s economic status and college attendance and graduation, it’s also true that students of all socioeconomic backgrounds are going to college.  After all, over 2 of every 3 HS grads go on to to attend college right away, even in this era of rising costs and questionable benefits.

      It would seem that there are many possible routes to lower student costs of higher education:

       - 3 years to get a degree by getting college credits in HS and a heavier course load in college
      - combining free/low cost online courses with on-campus study
      - private/public partnership with businesses and schools working together to tailor course work to skills needed by employers

      As things stand now, students must take an enormous share of the risks of time, money, and opportunity costs, with no guarantee of future employment, or of pay high enough to justify the time out of the work force and the costs of school.  The government gets involved, with grants, loans, tax credits, etc., but business doesn’t share much of the load.

      Business needs to be a better partner in this endeavor.  They are happy to get employees that they didn’t have to pay to train, and seem to act only when there is a lack of graduates who have the skills they need.

    • Joseph_Wisconsin

       I was so pleased that in the last couple of minutes someone managed to call in with the million dollar question.  That is will this supposed revolution in how a college education is going to be provided lead to yet another aspect of the increasing stratification, the increasing separation, between the top 10-20 percent economically and everyone else?  Those at the top able to continue to have the traditional college experience and others relegated to online courses?   I can see this happening even at public universities, though obviously even more so at the far more costly private universities.  One big factor in the sharp increase in costs for students even at public universities was mentioned several times is the sharp decline in state funding (taxes) with that being made up from student tuition increases. It makes economic sense for the top economic class to keep their taxes low and only worry about paying the cost of educating their own offspring, not contributing to broader opportunity for all.  

      College is more than just learning the course work, it is also about socialization and interacting with a broad range of people from a variety of backgrounds and economic backgrounds.   Even if online courses provide equivalent learning of course content the situation of the on campus population being made up entirely the upper class is just another means for the wealthy to further their goal to not have to associate with anyone but their own class. 

      • Scott Mabel

        I would really like to see a dean directly address why costs are sky-rocketing. 

        - Professors making six figures for teaching only one or two classes.   (And putting the hard work on the teaching-assistants and grad students, who get paid peanuts)

        - Abundant student aid, not matter the cost

        - I’m sure there are more reasons, but let’s lay all the cards on the table.

        • TomK_in_Boston

          If you want to look for big salaries and low contributions, the target is administrators. It’s exactly like corporations and the USA in general, all the $ flow to the top, regardless of productivity. That, and the massive cuts in state funding, are the two main reasons for the increasing cost of higher Ed. But don’t ask “a dean”, that would be like asking a CEO why his salary is so bloated.

          Universities are where basic research is done, in addition to undergraduate teaching. If you look you’ll find that professors who don’t teach much are often the ones who are most active in research, bringing in far more external funding than their salaries, starting companies, etc.

          I repeat: the big drivers are the massive cuts in state funding and the bloated administrations.

  • http://twitter.com/johnegood SpellingCityMayor

    One unmentioned point is how broken the existing system is.  I’m  not focusing on the small campuses but the big state schools which churn out graduates who are poorly educated. They complain that their incoming students are in a remedial state to start with and are not highly enough motivated to ever catch up.  Frankly, much of our existing college system has become an absurd exercise in handing out $200K credentials and employers are sick of college graduates that can’t write and aren’t educated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504067640 Nicholas Siebers

    One funding opportunity I wonder if colleges have explored is the “Pay what you want” model for online courses. This model could show a recommended price of the online course and what the average price for the course is going for with other purchasers. this still allows for a free option but as with the game and music industry there are always people willing to chip in something.

  • TinaWrites

    Students will have to have adequate computing power at home, I would think especially for high level technology and design courses.  That’s probably already true with regular campus courses.  I wonder, tho:  if students currently use printers on campus, how is the ink and paper paid for?  Probably thru a lab fee.  Once the student starts to take these classes at home, will they be able to afford as much ink and paper as they previously could access thru their lab fee?  That’s a long way of asking:  is the current lab fee to use the school’s computers, access their IT folks when there is trouble, use ink and paper whenever necessary… is the lab fee a real deal compared to what it might cost to purchase these goods and services for use at home?   I also wonder whether students will be forced to chose PCs rather than Macs, or vice versa, to take these classes.  Again, that may already be the case on campus, but on campus, there are probably computers that students can access.  (You can see that I haven’t taken non-studio classes in a long while.)

    • TinaWrites

      I forgot to add the cost of the software.  I wonder if high level technology software costs a fortune?  Will each student have to buy the right stuff, or how will that work?

  • Mike_Card

    This could have been a thought-provoking discussion, if you had invited panel members other than those whose only purpose is to protect the status quo:  education NEVER has enough money, and the only solution is to provide MORE money, so faculty members get rich by not adapting to the changes they preach.

  • angiealtanta

    I see one post asking how cheating in online coursework can be controlled, but no answer.  As an employer, I would care about that issue.

  • cgrant

    I have two degrees, university teaching experience, a business career and am taking a growing string of online courses (paid and free).  I’m convinced of the value of several years of learning in a residential college setting, during one’s Crazy Years (17-21 or so).  It’s irreplaceable.  That said, I’m also convinced that people will eventually be paying “tuition” for that life experience, in a bricks and mortar environment, where they can join groups that discuss and learn 24/7 if they want to because the core information will be online.  The professors will be more expendable than the peers and talented facilitators in that environment.  You may call it hybrid, but that sounds boring.  I call it exciting beyond words.  I’m 64 and I envy the kids who will have more choices than I ever had.

  • hennorama

    In honor of September 11th National Day of Service and Rememberance tomorrow, I’d like to encourage volunteerism.  You can find opportunities online at:



    or many other websites.

    And maybe thank a firefighter, police officer, other first responder or any military service member or veteran.

  • Pingback: Changing College Traditions Discussed On Point with Tom Ashbrook | Modular Designs' World | a blog about more than carpet

  • http://www.CayerComputing.com/ Melissa A. Cayer

    I participated in an online class sponsored by a local racetrack. It was interactive, sponsored by ads, informative and enjoyable.

    • http://www.CayerComputing.com/ Melissa A. Cayer

      As a 1985 computer science major, I was impressed with and jealous of the technological sophistication that it took to conduct the class.

  • http://twitter.com/domnogin domnogin

    http://domnogin.blogspot.com That’s the neoconservative way, to provide an answer to the wrong question.  Let’s declare a jubilee on all debt, such as consumer & education & health & single-home mortgage, as government reparations against the middle & working classes it betrayed for over a dozen years.  Consider it part of our equally ill-conceived war debt, enriching the already rich & powerful like Haliburton and Blackwater.  Restore the top marginal income tax rate to pre-Reagan 74% to pay these debts & encourage investment in American workers & equipment instead of offshoring to GE’s Jack Welch’s floating factory barge that travels to the world’s cheapest labor.  Corporations are people:  tax them at 74% also, on profits above the first billion dollars.  America can afford to fund education pre-school through graduate school; doesn’t a four-year degree pay for itself in ten years?  A well-educated debt-free adult at 25 will pay back its society for the next forty years better than his unprepared counterpart.  Watch out for the for-profit colleges with a 25% loan default rate, compare to only 10% for state and non-profit colleges.  Have a good Patriot Day; I call it Four Planes Day.

  • http://profiles.google.com/hdkellogg Howard Kellogg

    My first child due to be born next month and i’m thinking a lot about saving for college.

    My retirement or my kids education? this may be the question for my generation. I’m choosing retirement and banking on the bubble bursting. 

     Hopefully we’ll have plenty of time for the dust to settle. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GFF3NI3CKHDNCD52AOUWLIP3PE jim

    The Elephant in the room during this conversation was why there is much less funding for state and other colleges, which is forcing students to look for cheaper or more flexible alternatives. 
    America is still a very wealthy country, so where has the money gone? Answer, to the few and to war making. 
    The biggest change needed in higher education is a learning shift that gets Americans out on the street more frequently demanding serious changes to the money politics game that has corrupted your nation. 

  • Regular_Listener

    It is true that education has gotten too expensive and that this problem needs to be addressed.  This conversation seems to mostly focus on the expansion of online course offerings.  I work in education, have degrees from top schools, and have taken online classes.  I am convinced they are inferior to traditional education.  There is no substitute for going to a class and interacting with other students and teachers.  Online classes are good as a supplement to traditional classes, or for an area in which the student already has extensive experience.  Imho that is the best way to go.  These “universities” that offer mostly online classes are not offering first-rate educations.

  • Regular_Listener

    I think Tom nailed it with is question at 42 minutes – there is the very real possibility (danger, you might call it) of higher ed splitting into an elite group that offers the full campus experience, and a mediocre (or worse, perhaps even fraudulent) group that offers mostly online courses.  

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Sep 12, 2014
President Barack Obama meets with Congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, to discuss options for combating the Islamic State. (AP/Evan Vucci)

The President’s ISIS strategy. The Ray Rice video. Congress is back. Apple’s new watch. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

Sep 12, 2014
In this May 23, 2014, file photo, Janay Rice, left, looks on as her husband, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, speaks to the media during a news conference in Owings Mills, Md. (AP/Patrick Semansky)

#WhyIStayed. We’re looking at women in and out of relationships of domestic violence.

Sep 12, 2014
In this May 23, 2014, file photo, Janay Rice, left, looks on as her husband, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, speaks to the media during a news conference in Owings Mills, Md. (AP/Patrick Semansky)

#WhyIStayed. We’re looking at women in and out of relationships of domestic violence.

Sep 12, 2014
President Barack Obama meets with Congressional leaders in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, to discuss options for combating the Islamic State. (AP/Evan Vucci)

The President’s ISIS strategy. The Ray Rice video. Congress is back. Apple’s new watch. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

On Point Blog
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