College is a Place

Valuing College

Selection of recent links on the value of college.

  1. Illiberal Arts. Andrew Delbanco, author of College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be reviews Is College Worth It? and College (Un)bound. Delbanco concludes:

    In striving to “prove their worth,” America’s colleges risk losing their value as places young ­people enter as adventurous adolescents and from which they emerge as intellectually curious adults. Such a loss could never be compensated by any gain.

  2. 4 Questions for John Tamny. This rather strangely-titled post by Joshua Kim at Inside Higher-Ed could in many ways fit in with reflections on an Antifragile College Manifesto or Grounded Campus. From the Tamny interview:

    Put plainly, I think college education is overrated, but think college itself one of the greatest things a teen can do. A truly great experience. There’s an amazing, albeit intangible feel that comes with walking onto campus, and this is something that online quite simply cannot offer. Higher ed’s not in trouble because you can’t replace the wonders of walking through a university’s gates. Higher ed’s not in trouble mainly because it’s offering something much greater than education.

  3. The original John Tamny is Online Education Will Be the Next ‘Bubble’ To Pop, Not Traditional University Learning:

    When parents spend a fortune on their children’s schooling they’re not buying education; rather they’re buying the ‘right’ friends for them, the right contacts for the future, access to the right husbands and wives, not to mention buying their own (“Our son goes to Williams College”) status. The same is true for students taking out loans. With university education jaw-droppingly expensive, it’s often asked what in terms of instruction kids are getting in return for the huge cost. Of course that’s a false question. Parents and kids once again aren’t buying education despite their protests to the contrary. Going to college is a status thing, not a learning thing. Kids go to college for the experience, not for what’s taught.

  4. Although there’s a sense in which Tamny is correct–it’s all about the cultural capital–he overlooks some issues. First, there are the Financial Aid Programs. People are not just comparing sticker price to sticker price. Second, you can’t just buy into Williams College, you have to exhibit some academic strength. And this is related to a third issue: In part, the reason Williams has the cultural capital of the experience and status is because they decided to pursue a path emphasizing academics, abolishing fraternities in the early 1970s, and continuously emphasizing the teaching-learning experience. They were then able to mesh the look of the college with an emphasis on learning. So it can be more complicated than Tamny seems to suggest.
  5. In reference to the above, I’ve always had mixed feelings about three-year college programs, like the one Hartwick College offers. If college is about the experience–and that’s what people pay for–than why try to cram things into three years? However, it strikes me that this is itself a brand opportunity in the marketplace: although the Hartwick College name may not be as prominent as others, the badge of “I completed a Hartwick College liberal arts education in three years” may be a sell-point for positioning.
  6. 10 Dubious Claims About Higher Ed Decline by Arthur M. Hauptman:

    American higher education, to be sure, faces a number of serious challenges if it is to produce a work force for the future that is globally competitive. But the debate about what those challenges are should be based on an accurate recounting of the facts and not on the recitation of a persistent set of myths and mischaracterizations that bear little relation to reality and only serve to muddy the waters.

  7. Forget MOOCS–Let’s Use MOOA. I’ve been involved at the edges of various strategic planning exercises and this piece by Benjamin Ginsberg does ring true:

    Ginsberg pointed to the realm of strategic planning. He said that thanks to the best practices concept, hundreds of schools currently use virtually identical strategic plans. Despite the similarities, however, these plans cost each school hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to develop. The MOOA would formalize the already extant cooperation by developing one plan that could be used by all colleges. Ginsberg estimates that had the MOOA planning concept been in use over the past ten years, schools would have saved more than a half billion dollars. “One way to look at it,” he said, “Is that through their tuitions students paid about $500 million for strategic planning that might have been used for curricular development or other educational purposes.” The MOOA plan, he declared, would end such wasteful duplication.

  8. Is Summer Selling? The idea of a summer program as a money-maker is often tossed around, but this article suggests the need for research before jumping in.
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