[The Week in Education and Technology is a weekly summary of news, events, and ideas related to education.]
The American higher education system is built on the premise of more: an endlessly expanding population of students, able to sustain thousands of institutions, from tiny liberal-arts colleges to sprawling state flagships. Those assumptions no longer hold. We’re entering the era of no more. Fewer college-age Americans, distributed unevenly across the country, will mean fresh enrollment challenges and demand new and innovative approaches to how colleges both recruit and serve students.
The Hechinger Report has a recent post that chronicles what was learned by traveling to three counties with very high numbers of adults without a high school credential and examining the obstacles schools and families must overcome to provide and obtain this essential first step to a middle-class life.
The three counties, all in the rural South, are profoundly different in terms of race and ethnicity — and in their experiences of racism and segregation. Yet they face many of the same challenges, including low funding for schools, intergenerational poverty and few well-paid career opportunities to motivate students. They also share one abiding theme: parents know the risk of dropping out of high school and want desperately for their children to get through high school and beyond in their education.
I also enjoyed Scott McLeod’s post chronicling his reflections on a recent event he participated in called The Entrepreneurial Mindset.
Several key ideas resonated with me from our discussions. One was the idea that entrepreneurship is a mindset. It’s a willingness to take action, try things, and be resourceful. It’s a willingness to lean into the fear and welcome change. It’s a willingness to make mistakes and learn from them without being paralyzed. And it’s a willingness to focus relentlessly on the needs of the ‘consumer’ in order to improve their experience. In education, we’re not very good at many of these things. We also need to recognize as educators that entrepreneurship isn’t available to anyone who thinks of themselves as a victim. Passive, helpless mindsets don’t align very well with active, efficacious, change-oriented action.
This makes me think of the great work being done by Youth Entrepreneurs. In fact, they have a rich set of curriculum resources on this very topic.
I wrote a post recently, stating that there’s no such thing as free college. I the post, I referenced a post by Bernard Bull, in which he lays out future scenarios for largely tuition-dependent independent schools when US higher education moves toward a tuition-free model. Here are his four scenarios.
- Scenario #1 – No tuition charged to students for public college + 70% or more of the private college budget is covered by tuition paid by students
- Scenario #2 – No tuition charged to students for public college + 30% or less of the private college budget is covered by tuition paid by students
- Scenario #3 – Tuition charged to students for public college + 70% or more of the private college budget is covered by tuition paid by students
- Scenario #4 – Tuition charged to students for public college + 30% or less of the private college budget is covered by tuition paid by students
I think it’s interesting to think about these futures, as well as alternative models of higher education institutions, as the future unfolds. For example, consider the examples of two Kentucky institutions — Berea College and Alice Lloyd College. Berea decided over a hundred years ago “that any unrestricted money donated to the college would be invested in an endowment to grow over time. Today, the endowment is worth a whopping $1.2 billion, and profits from the investments cover most of the cost of tuition.” To support its tuition-free education, Alice Lloyd uses fundraising and also asks more from its professors. Faculty are not tenured and they teach up to 40% heavier class load than you do at a lot of similar colleges.
Another interesting example is Pennsylvania’s Williamson College of the Trades in Media. Through a combination of their endowment and yearly fundraising, Williamson is able to allow its students to graduate debt-free. Michael Rounds, the college president provides this explanation.
Every student receives a full scholarship that covers his room, board, and tuition. For this academic year, the value of each scholarship is $32,570. Although they don’t pay for their tuition, housing, or food, students do pay Williamson a modest annual fee for student activities and health-center costs. Students also pay a set fee each year for books, school supplies, safety equipment, and shop tools and clothing that they will keep when they leave. Over three years, in total, these costs amount to about $2,000.
Of course, some universities are forced to find new models due to financial exigency. Such is the case of Hampshire College.
Earlier this year, the institution appeared on the brink of closure when its board chose not to admit an incoming class, save for the few students who had taken a gap year or had been admitted early. Now, officials are fighting to keep the doors open by overhauling its educational model and launching an ambitious campaign to raise $60 million by 2025. Hampshire’s new curriculum will center on addressing the “pressing issues of our time,” such as climate change, artificial intelligence (AI) and social inequity, the college announced last week.
Hampshire is certainly not alone in its search to find an identity that will resonate with more potential students in the changing market that is higher education. Many historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) are also struggling with uncertain futures.
Rising college costs, the student loan crisis and federal budget cuts have broadly hamstrung higher education. But they’re killing HBCUs, where nearly three in five attendees are low-income, first-generation students and over 70 percent of students have limited financial resources. Fifteen of them have closed since 1997. Public and private HBCU endowments taken together are now roughly 70 percent smaller than those of non-HBCUs. And private historically black colleges saw a 42 percent decline in federal funding between 2003 and 2015. HBCUs are awarding fewer doctorates now than they did in 1977, and a report found that the six-year graduation rates at 20 HBCUs stood at 20 percent or lower in 2015.
And, in case you missed it, the American Council on Education (ACE), Huron and the Georgia Institute of Technology have released a report based on a survey of 495 leaders at four-year institutions. Here are some high-level takeaways.
- Few higher education leaders are highly confident that their institutions are adequately prepared for changing market forces.
- Leaders have more confidence about the future at institutions with longer planning horizons and integrated performance management structures.
- A majority of institutions are planning three to five years out with less than 20% planning 10 years or beyond.
In a world where education is likely to become more streamlined and modular in order to address rapidly evolving workforce needs, competency-based learning can only become more popular as a viable alternative to traditional curriculum and program design. But, as Chelsea Waite, writing for the Christensen Institute, asks, “What does it really mean to be competency-based? To help answer this question, she and her colleagues at the Canopy project created a dataset based on information from a diverse group of 235 K-12 schools employing varying flavors competency-based education. Based on their primary data, the group has drawn to initial conclusions.
First, some of the schools describing their models as competency-based aren’t implementing everything described in the formal competency-based education definition. Among the set of schools tagged competency education, for example, only 47% report having a competency framework that defines what proficiency looks like at each performance level. Second, some schools may be implementing certain aspects of competency-based education, but not describing their overall model that way. For example, among schools indicating that their grading policies focus on mastery (such as via standards-based grading that encourages a student to work to reach mastery rather than penalizing mistakes), only 75% used the competency education tag.
I also see that ELI has a recent article out on the 7 things you should know about a Domain of One’s Own. This has been an impactful development/movement both in educational technology and digital literacy.
[Domain of One’s Own] refers to the practice of giving students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to obtain a domain with hosted web space of their own. The technology lets users build online spaces use open-source tools like WordPress, Scalar, Omeka, MediaWiki, and Drupal. By enabling users to build environments for learning and sharing, such domains make possible a liberating array of practices that encourage users to explore how they interact with and present themselves in the online world. While giving users more control over their scholarship, data, and digital identity, these domains encourage an ethos of openness, freedom, and exploration and nurture a practice for shaping and thinking about one’s presence on the web. DoOO also draws users into a community of practice focused on collaboration and sharing.
Count Chipotle as the latest big company to offer tuition-free degrees into benefits package. The degrees will be delivered through a partnership with Guild Education and offered online or on-campus a variety of universities, including the University of Arizona and Southern New Hampshire University. Like dual-credit programs, university-corporate partnerships to offer employees access to college degrees is a trend that will continue to expand and reshape the higher education landscape. Of course, there are other groups that still need to be reached with the promise of postsecondary learning. A recent study from Georgetown University shows that racial inequities in workforce salaries are partly due to new demands on the workforce.
Between 1991 and 2016, growth in good jobs was concentrated in skilled positions, which often require workers with a postsecondary credential. Meanwhile, the number of good jobs in skilled-services industries that required a high school degree or less declined by roughly 700,000. Over that period, the share of white workers with a bachelor’s degree or more rose from 29% to 44%, enabling them to make substantial gains in employment and good jobs.
One solution to increased postsecondary training is to shift from “degrees” to alternative credentials for more focused/timely training and upskilling. credentials. For this movement to gain needed traction, however, we’re going to need a new type of credentialing framework.
For a helpful glimpse into the future of work, I recommend MIT’s Fall 2019 report on The Work of the Future.
It seems liek the future may be all about… mind reading? Hard to say exactly where this trend will go but, we now have and AI that allows paralyzed person to ‘handwrite’ with his mind. “In the new experiments, a volunteer paralyzed from the neck down instead imagined moving his arm to write each letter of the alphabet. That brain activity helped train a computer model known as a neural network to interpret the commands, tracing the intended trajectory of his imagined pen tip to create letters”
Perhaps not surprising,y, the military appears to be involved in mindreading endeavors as well. The Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N3) program aims to develop high-performance, bi-directional brain-machine interfaces for able-bodied service members. You can read about the work of different project teams at here.
In other technology news that can and likely will have an impact on our daily lives…
- Alphabet’s Wing starts drone deliveries to US homes
- An Austin startup can 3D-print tiny homes in 24 hours for a fraction of the cost of traditional homebuilding
- Quantum supremacy using a programmable superconducting processor