I love this topic! We beat some themes to death sometimes, but education policy is one of our few under-discussed issues. Like everything else in our society tat we discuss, there have been huge changes to higher education in the United States in recent years. Yet, our college system is increasingly criticized for being out-of-date and inadequate to the 21st century.
Is it? Moreover, is college still the gateway to a better life – and societal panacea – it was billed to be for six decades after WWII? Many people believe we should switch public resources away from university and towards alternatives to college, like vocational education. We could emulate the European system, reinvent our community colleges to better feed trained workers to local job markets, or let the private sector do it. Others experts say college is still the answer to American prosperity, if only we stopped gutting public funding for it and made a few other changes (some rather substantial). President Obama has proposed pretty large changes to higher education, including an 8-point plan to help every young person obtain another year of post-secondary college or vocational training.
I’m going to read a lot on this topic this weekend in preparation, and I hope you can do some, too. But, my opening remarks will be brief on Monday. I’ll just give some stats on who goes to college in this country and who doesn’t, and what happens to them when they get there. Then, I’ll explain some of the big changes roiling higher education in recent years and highlight the reasons some cite for why our old paradigm of college-for-all may be archaic. Then, we can discuss the many issues.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- Who goes to college in America and who does not? Why? Who graduates and who does not? Why?
- What are the benefits and costs of college today? Have they changed appreciably in recent years?
- What is your advice to the young people you meet? What are they experiencing that informs this topic?
- What are the arguments used to claim that our college system is a poor fit for the 21st century economy and society? What are the rebuttals?
- Should we beef up the alternatives to college, or try to change the colleges themselves? Who is planning to do what to change the system? What are Obama’s plans? California’s?
- College is now a lousy investment. (Newsweek cover story)
- She’s wrong: College is a great investment and getting better.
- She’s partially right: College’s value is falling unless you have financial aid.
- Do too many people go to college? A debate about it at WSJ.
- Changing things: Should we
- Obama’s ambitious, 8-point higher education agenda.
- [UPDATE: If you really want to learn about how hard it is to just improve the quality of college education – including why standard some liberal ideas may not work- read this report.]
Ack! Increasingly, our post-secondary education system, the one that once was a model of democracy and class mobility, merely reinforces economic privilege. How can we change that and still produce citizens with the job skills the 21st century economy needs?
I’m mainly going to read up on this, rather than lecture, this week. I hope you all can find time to read some of this, too.