Monday, September 3, 2012

US higher education: A bubble?

Since 2006, I have been engaged in US academia from developing and teaching courses to working on acquisition of government grants and private sector funding to creation and commercialization of university IP to improvements in engineering education.

Given my closeness to the subject, I know for a fact that the US higher education system has been the envy of the world.  Yet, a recent article in The Economist "The college-cost calamity" here, surprised me a bit with the extent of concern it documents regarding the state of the US universities.

"A crisis in higher education has been brewing for years. Universities have been spending like students in a bar who think a Rockefeller will pick up the tab."

"The average cost of college per student has risen by three times the rate of inflation since 1983. The cost of tuition alone has soared from 23% of median annual earnings in 2001 to 38% in 2010. Such increases plainly cannot continue."

There are schools that are approaching and attempting to change "education" for the 21st century, from simple automation to hopefully transformation.

"Some universities are addressing their financial problems. Cornell began in 2009: Kent Fuchs, the provost, offered to cut the costs of administration by $70m, if the faculty would concentrate on excelling at a limited number of important things, rather than trying to do everything. Mr Fuchs says that a university can become too broad; a financial squeeze is an opportunity to become more focused."

Though, when the customers (students) say they won't buy the goods (education and training) offered because the price is too high, then the shops (universities) will be forced into change they may not desire.

"Still, the doomsayers may be onto something. Four-year residential colleges cannot keep on forever raising their fees faster than the public’s capacity to pay them, especially when online degrees are so much cheaper. Universities that fail to prepare for the hurricane ahead are likely to be flattened by it."

China and India may want to prepare for Western students in the coming decades?

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