“Why Is American Higher Education So Averse to Change?” By: Jeff Selingo

A great quality Linkedin discussion from knowledgeable industry professionals about higher education affordability and how it goes against the average college student & family in American society. Get Engaged! Here is the link to read further comments of responders:


American higher education is broken.

At the very top, the most elite and prestigious institutions remain the best—the world still clamors to get into Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Berkeley, Stanford, Amherst, Williams, and a few dozen other household brands.Image

But at the colleges and universities attended by most American students, costs are spiraling out of control and quality is declining just as increasing international competition demands higher education be more productive and less expensive. Only slightly more than 50 percent of American students who enter college leave with a bachelor’s degree. Among wealthy countries, only Italy ranks lower.

As a result, the United States is now ranked twelfth among developed nations in higher-education attainment by its young people. As the baby boomer generation leaves the work force, the country risks, for the first time, having successive generations less educated than the ones that proceeded them.

A change in course is needed. Even leaders in the industry agree. A third of college presidents think the higher-education system is on the wrong track.

Six years ago, a federal commission studying the future of higher education warned of the dangers of complacency. “What we have learned over the last year makes clear that American higher education has become what, in the business world, would be called a mature enterprise: increasingly risk-averse, at times self-satisfied, and unduly expensive,” the panel wrote in its final report.

In my 15 years of reporting on higher education—and especially in the last year as I have reported for my forthcoming book on the future of higher education—colleges and universities have come to remind me of other American content industries that have been disrupted in the last decade: newspapers and magazines, music, and book publishing. In many ways, colleges and universities are following the same playbook:


In the late 1990s, newspaper executives didn’t take seriously the threat of the Web because they had a monopoly on information delivery in their markets. College leaders feel they’re the best in the world and have a corner on the credential market. But just because they believe they’re a public trust doesn’t mean that they are guaranteed to survive.

Skepticism of anything new

Technology has allowed colleges to deliver learning in new and different ways, while at the same time maintaining the core of the residential experience and the rigor of the classroom. But like newspaper reporters and book publishers who thought print was the only way to deliver their products, some faculty members often think that face-to-face education is the only way to educate a new generation of digital learners (even if it’s in a lecture hall stuffed with hundreds of students).

Unwilling to hear opposing viewpoints

The bedrock of higher education is inquiry built on facts and then reviewed by peers in the field. Scholars are naturally skeptical people. But even when presented with evidence, for example, that hybrid courses (classes that are provided half online) offer similar experiences to face-to-face classes or that students aren’t required to write and read enough, they don’t want to believe it. Reminds me of publishers and music executives who scoffed at tablets and digital music players.

Responder Comments:

Graham D. I have spent the last 10 years of my life building, innovating and running universities in North America and Asia. Our innovations were recognized in the Spellings report that you cited, page 26, and even in the current economic downturn the outcomes have been overwhelming recognized and accepted by the employer community reflected by placement rates in excess of 95% and default rates on student loans of about 1%. MSNBC has done stories on these outcomes the last two years citing our outcomes against the national averages of closer to 50% placement. Through lots of hard work, constant resistance by some faculty and regulators, and incredibly dedicated and open minded faculty and thousands of students’ experiences we have proven much of what you assert to be correct. We have a lot to do, but we are committed to continue to find ways to innovate and impact the future of higher education globally. Good luck on the book, I am interested to see where you see things going and how they get there 🙂


About waukegan2college13

Waukegan to College (W2C) is a college readiness program that was founded by Lake County United (LCU), a broad-based citizen's organization composed of roughly 35 churches, synagogues, mosques, and nonprofit organizations that work to improve the quality of life of the residents in Lake County. In July 2012, W2C launched as an independent organization and now a member institution of LCU!

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