Is (US) Higher Education Broken?


Reposted from Marguerite Dennis’s blog.  The title may overstate the case somewhat but there are critical issues that must be addressed sooner rather than later.  In addition to the ones mentioned below, i.e., access, funding, cost, and student loan debt, all of which are interrelated, there is also retention and delayed graduation.  Of course, these are all issues that affect US students for the most part.  With recent enrollment declines more US colleges and universities than ever are recruiting internationally to pick up the slack.


I am a big fan of Jeff Selingo, the author of College (Un) Bound and writer for The Chronicle of Higher Education. I am not the only fan. Jeff has more than 109,000 LinkedIn followers.

In an article published on March 25th, the author shares the following:

  • Approximately 50% of American students who enter college graduate. Among wealthy countries, only Italy ranks lower.
  • State support for higher education hasn’t been lower since 1965, when there were 16 million fewer students in the state system.
  • The annual costs at four-year colleges have increased three times faster than the rate of inflation since the late 1970s.
  • Student debt has surpassed a trillion dollars. (This does not include parent debt.)
  • About $110 billion in student loans was borrowed in 2011 alone.
  • There are about 50 million borrowers, more than the number of people on Medicare and almost as many who receive Social Security benefits.
  • Venture capitalists have invested $429 million into education companies in 2011.

I am pleased that the author agrees with many of the posts I have written over the past two years, including:

  • Students will attend more than one college before they graduate.
  • Students want to attend courses year-round. They want a flexible calendar.
  • Students want to take courses online and in a classroom (hybrid).
  • Assessment of outcomes will replace income statistics.

I recently read an article which reported that many college presidents feel that the worst of Great Recession is over.  That may be but there are residuals, in my opinion, that will remain.

Parents cannot mortgage their homes and are unwilling to dip into retirement funds for their children’s college education. Costs and jobs are the new barometers of college selection and enrollment.

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