College (Un) Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students
by Jeffrey J. Selingo
Michael Birkner recommended that the Johnson Center add College (Un) Bound to its collection, a book that promises to be as provocative as Arum and Roksa's Academically Adrift and is a must read for any educator. Jeffrey J. Selingo, Editor at Large for The Chronicle of Higher Education, believes that the higher education system as it exists today is broken. Degree in hand, many students find themselves with overwhelming debt but without a job. Furthermore, he points out, the drop-out rate is considerable. Only somewhat more than 50% of students who enter college leave with a bachelor's degree, and added to that, American higher education no longer graduates students who are the best educated in the world. Indeed, the United States is currently ranked twelfth among developed nations in higher education attainment by young adults, and Selingo singles out the period from 1999 to 2009 as the "Lost Decade" when colleges "were consumed by the ego-driven desire of their leaders to keep up with competitors and rise in the rankings" and were "going deep into debt to build lavish residence halls, recreational facilities, and other amenities that contribute nothing to the actual learning of students." He devotes the first third of his book to an explanation of how the business model has overwhelmed institutions of higher learning, which are selling themselves as they would any other product in the marketplace. And in this model the customer is always right. He cites the alarming example of an LSU professor who was removed from his introductory biology course because 60% of his students were failing and another 20% had already dropped out. His replacement retroactively gave students a 25 point increase on their first exam. To his mind, the LSU case makes clear that "students expect convenience, ease and entertainment." But as he points out, all of this comes at a very steep price, and more and more students are graduating with heavy debt. The second third of the book examines five forces that are disrupting traditional higher education, and at the top of the list is the economic downturn that left many colleges and universities financially weakened. The second problem is that states are slashing education appropriations. Third, the number of full-paying students is growing smaller and smaller. In addition, alternatives to traditional higher education are improving by the day, and finally, there is a growing value gap. After investing thousands of dollars in their education, too many students are without a job or have jobs that don't match the career path they envisioned. Selingo devotes the third section to what we might expect in the future. Not surprisingly, Selingo predicts that technology will transform higher education for the better, promoting free massive online open courses (MOOCs), hybrid classes, adaptive learning software, lesson plans tailored to individual need, and the unbundling of traditional degree credits. In short, the class of 2020 will have an experience that is dramatically different from their parents' college experience.
Available in the JCCTL library.