The future of higher education is quickly escalating the ladder of controversy. At this point, it is relatively considered one of the more pressing problems in our nation, hence classes such as this one existing. The future of higher education is in jeopardy simply because higher education is becoming not about education. This may sound confusing, but with the influx of closing/diminishing of private liberal arts schools and the growth of community colleges/online schools, it is clear that “higher education” is taking a step away from academic knowledge. I believe that higher education should be about learning, without bounds. Interpreting thought, critiquing thought, adding new thought. However, the growth of community colleges and vocational programs is making education more about interpreting thought, internalizing thought, and practicing thought.
I am not saying that vocational, applied, or small-scope study are wrong, but that they should not be the only exposure to higher education one receives. Selingo relays this same messages as he writes, “We need an expanded notion of what constitutes an education after high school. The definition should include on-the-job training and apprenticeships, coupled with learning across a range of subjects, as well as experiences before college that improve the often difficult transition from highly structured high schools to freewheeling college campuses” (162).
This disconnect between status quo higher education and gain learning and production of knowledge is only worsened by the demands of the employment world. The employment world, for the most part, adds pressure on the account of the student to be able to have expertise in whatever it is that they plan on doing. This influences students to abandon 4-year universities and getting a generally encompassing education. Instead, they see it better to dive right into their future career, whether that means going to a trade school, community college, online school, etc. Not only are these options considered more practical for socioeconomic mobility, but they are also much more practical in terms of cost efficiency. These options are all much cheaper than private liberal arts colleges.
At bottom, there needs to be a paradigm shift in society where we are able to place more value in higher education. And by higher education, I mean what Selingo describes as, “[gaining the] ability to learn how to learn. In other words, the capability to find the answers to the questions of tomorrow that we cannot envision asking today” (149). This would require the valuing of one’s ability to think critically and produce new knowledge, not their ability to regurgitate given information and produce mediocre replicas.