Is it time to panic about the future of higher ed?

Yeah, that’s a slightly clickbait-y title, but these are scary times. Schools are cutting programs, scaling way back and in some extreme instances, closing altogether. It’s hard to go a full week without seeing an article in the news about the impending death of higher education.

Is higher ed dying? No, I don’t think so. Is it sick? Yes, I believe so.

I recently read this news story about big companies like Google, Apple and Netflix no longer requiring college degrees for its employees. This quote jumped out at me:

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said¬†that about half of Apple’s US employment last year included people who did not have four-year degrees. Cook reasoned that many colleges do not teach the skills business leaders need most in their workforce, such as coding.

That’s worrying, but not surprising. It’s challenging to quickly pivot at enterprises as large as a university. Apple can decide tomorrow to stop making X and instead make Y. That’s a much harder thing to do for us.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as we go through the college search process with our oldest child. I’ve been focusing like never before on outcomes and cost, and what kind of experience my son will have. I wonder what the experience will be like 5 years after that for my younger son. Expect a large number of posts in the coming months about my experiences of this search process. I know how the sausage is made, so I’ve been both surprised and downright shocked at what some schools are doing to reach potential students. That’s a (series of) post(s) for another day.

I watched this video last week, and while I disagree with some of what Patrick Bet-David is saying in it, some of makes a lot of sense, especially the parts about speed, memory and technology changing so fast that some programs are out of date before they even start. Have a watch and let me know what, if anything, jumps out at you and what parts you think are applicable.

1 thought on “Is it time to panic about the future of higher ed?”

  1. Nicholas Santilli

    One of the fundamental problems with the “higher education is dying or dead” crowd is they confuse majors with careers. This is only the case for a minority of career paths, such as, engineering, nursing, teaching, accounting, and other careers that require a license. In most cases major is less important while the competencies gained, such as, teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving, quantitative literacy, and communication fluency (spoken, written, and digital), may be gained regardless of major. These are the competencies found at institutions with a commitment to a strong liberal arts core coupled with major fields of study that provide a holistic learning experience for students inside and outside of the classroom. This can happen for any learner, regardless of age.

    Not surprised that someone from Apple is interested in coding skills. I would ask him what are they doing regarding social-emotional learning? You know, the competencies that help people get along with one another and create good managers.

    I know you understand this Mike. I remember hearing the same “College is Dead” rhetoric when TV became omnipresent. Taped lectures delivered over TV’s were going to replace the classroom experience.

    Finally, I have one more observation. Let’s remember that learning and development is a product of social interaction. Knowledge creation and validation happens in social environments. Sure, an individual may read, view video, or participate in an online learning experience but the proof of learning is in the doing in a social environment. Knowledge is best demonstrated in social contexts.

    Thanks, Mike

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