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Aug 17

Interesting Read: American Higher Education in Crisis?

Link to AmazonGoldie Blumenstyk has written an interesting book “American Higher Education in Crisis? What Everyone Needs to Know, (we’ll soon have copies in the Title III Lending Library). It’s a book filled with statistics, or as she puts it, “facts and figures” on students, costs, spending and debt, leadership from within and without, and some ideas about the future. The book was required reading for Chancellor Caulfield’s UAS Strategic Planning Retreat. Thank you Chancellor for choosing such an important and interesting text as our foundational reading.

Clearly the author feels that higher education is, indeed, in crisis, but she is also quick to point out that we’re at a pivotal point where social pressure, economic pressures, demographic pressures and technological changes are creating opportunities for those institutions to act quickly for the sake of their own survival.

With state money severely diminished, the University of Alaska is required to look at every aspect of our business model, prioritizing programs, personnel and all resources streams. Blumenstyk mentions many topics that we’ve looked at over the past few years at the FLC as potential disrupters to ‘business as usual’ but also lists these as potential opportunities for universities and students. These include distance education, badges and certificates, MOOCs, apprenticeships and partnerships.

Rosemary Walling shared a few thoughts after reading this book including:

  • Terms like distance education, online education MOOCs etc are simply containers with a diversity of examples inside.
  • Learning how to learn is one of the most important objectives from post high school education.
  • Competency-based education is not just placement tests. It requires active faculty mediation which works well with the UAS low student:faculty ratio.

To her comments I would add:

  • More than 50% of students at 2-year colleges and nearly 20% of those at 4-year colleges are placed in remedial classes. However, studies reflect that many students assigned to these courses would do just as well without them. Furthermore, studies show that remedial classes may not be an effective solution for struggling students often becoming ‘dead ends’ for students.
  • Our in-state statistics on distance students matches pretty closely with the national norm where about half of students enrolled in distance education reside in state, even in the same area as the campus offering the courses, they just prefer to take the class online.
  • Becoming accountable to the needs of our students is essential moving forward. “Cruise-control” leadership just won’t cut it….” We are lucky to have have thoughtful and proactive leadership at the helm of UAS.

The book is an essential read, one that we highly recommend. It may help you to better understand many of the changes inevitably in the future of higher education.