Disruptions In Higher Education

In College Unbound Selingo voices many concerns he has regarding higher education. Of these, he discusses the functionality of the disruptions of higher education. However, I feel that he fails to EXPLICITLY highlight the contradictory nature of higher education in theory and in practice. Higher education is becoming an liminal black hole, sucking up monetary funds and student morale alike. I feel so strongly about this because I feel that Selingo should take a stance in his critique of higher education, because without he seems to present an argument that innately nullifies itself.

For example, in the novel he argues that one of the disruptions in education is that “the bundled alternatives are improving.” In short, this argues that the alternatives to college, such as free online classes/tutoring (Khan Academy, HippoCampus, etc.) are quickly rivaling the merit of higher education classes. With that being said, it seems much more feasible for the student to save themselves the money of higher education and just practice their studies for free online. Right?

Wrong, because almost immediately contradicts this with the idea following, stating that another disruption in high education is disastrous “value gap” present in the connection between higher education and practicing careers. At bottom, Selingo argues that the college degree is diminishing in value, especially regarding the undergraduate degree. Whereas a high school diploma or GED would be enough to fruitfully practice a career a few decades ago, now a masters degree or PhD is expected to fruitfully practice a career. Selingo argues that in this connection, a degree, something that costs people thousands of dollars, gets treated as a happy meal toy. A slight accomplishment, enough to boost your morale, but nothing that can produce anything for you in the future.

In presenting these two arguments consecutively, Selingo constructs an argument framing higher education that  could be interpreted such that higher education is not necessary, since one can obtain the same knowledge elsewhere. But immediately after argues that if they would like to practice a fruitful career and apply knowledge gainfully, they must not only attain a undergraduate degree, but aspire beyond that. Since Selingo does not explicitly say which trajectory is more valuable, it leaves the student in the liminal space that pulls them between the impending doom wasting thousands of dollars, and conversely saving thousands of dollars (that they didn’t have to spend in the first place) and having equal knowledge without the reputable name.

This is a problem that requires a solution on the institutional level that begins with a revaluing of the undergraduate education. There needs to be a valuing of the experience that one can materialize from experience higher education and a liberal arts college. The college experience is more than the concrete education and GPA.


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