Updated: Jul 5
The US higher education system is not working for many U.S. citizens. When compared to the existing college system, this reimagined approach:
Provides significant cost savings; and,
Leverages technology to deliver high-quality educational content and services.
This article is presented with the following sections:
Appendix - Higher Ed Reimagined approach detail
The US higher education system is not working for many U.S. citizens. If you consider success metrics (1) based on graduation, loan performance, and employment; less than one-third of American students are graduating with a job that requires a college education. Even more telling, less than 10% of students, upon graduation, get a college-level job and are debt-free. At the other end of the spectrum, almost 20% of American students default on a student loan. 40% of students do not graduate. The loans have gotten progressively larger. These loans have become a “Life Anchor” that delays job changes, reduces homeownership, increases stress, and otherwise creates discouragement for many young people.
The point is the more the impairments, the more the risk. The more the risk, the less likely the college investment is to pay off. (2)
Higher Ed Reimagined approach
The 2020 pandemic has created significant disruption. Colleges are struggling, especially those with a traditional campus model. Approximately 20% of colleges are showing financial stress, and that was based on data before the pandemic started. College financial stress is expected to increase significantly. This disruption creates opportunity and the opportunity to change our higher ed approach is available now.
The suggested new approach will change the current system in meaningful ways:
Dramatically reduces costs by enabling the reusable lecture;
Increases teacher time to focus on helping students;
Allows students to move at their own pace, removes the “Tyranny of the Semester;”
Realigns connection between research and teaching;
Reduces student debt by changing the Student Lending system to focus primarily on academics;
Makes use of new platform technology to drive economic efficiency and mobility (reduces the need for a physical location.)
Uses platform concepts to give better visibility to the student regarding teacher and lecturer quality.
At its core, the concept uses an approach called “Flip the classroom” (3) – In the traditional higher ed approach, the professor spends time lecturing to many students, with less time for individual assistance. Homework is assigned as problems to help the student learn the content. Homework may also include tutoring, self-learning, or one-on-one office hours with the professor. This new approach will facilitate “flipping the classroom,” where the teacher assigns a lecture and reading for homework and spends class time tutoring or being available for individual questions. From a lecturer standpoint, this approach also recognizes that not all teachers are good lecturers and vice versa. It also leverages cost, so individual subject lectures (e.g., Psyc 101) can be taught by a small number of lecturers and reused on digital platforms across all teachers’ colleges. The teachers will be available for individual questions and can schedule time as convenient for both the teacher and the student. Also, Research University students may also provide the teaching service.
I’m using a few new concepts, such as Research University, Lecturer, and Teaching College. You will recognize the names and some of the roles, but the new approach dramatically changes the structure and interaction of the roles. Also, digital platforms have been applied in other contexts, like consumer goods (Amazon) and entertainment (NetFlix). The same conceptual platform model is being proposed for higher ed.
Please see the Appendix "How Will The New Approach Work." This table contains more details of the new approach.
Student Lending - The new approach includes adapting how Federal student lending is provided today. The Federal student lending system will be revamped to target the loan funding to only lecturer and academic teacher college costs. (4) Students may provide funding from other sources, including private lending, grants, scholarships, or other private sources. The Federal Government or related Industry may provide additional sources of funding in the form of scholarships or grants. The student loan funding change will be a catalyst to change the current higher ed system approach. No longer will need-adjusted “blank checks” based on existing institution tuition be issued as federal student loans. While need will still be taken into consideration, loans will be capped based on market-driven lecturer and academic teaching college costs.
The new approach represents a significant change to the higher ed system. It is expected this change will need to be grandfathered over a period of 4-5 years (grandfather period aligned with the expected undergraduate completion time period).
Increase in teachers – individuals that wish to focus on teaching students will be in demand. It is likely more accredited teachers will be necessary than exist today.
Increase in teaching colleges – teaching-focused colleges will likely increase.
Increase in teaching quality – the “flipping the classroom” is intended to take advantage of highly gifted lecturers and maintain a highly focused teaching environment. The student can be self-paced, potentially moving faster or slower as to the need of the individual student.
Increase out of classroom development - By removing “The Tyranny of the Semester,” time ceases as the operating standard. This will allow students to pursue interesting longer-term internships, co-ops, or volunteering opportunities. (5)
Decrease in lecturers – The biggest reduction will be in the number of professors that identify as a lecturer. Lecturing will be consolidated into a pool of highly gifted lecture communicators.
Reduction in public universities focused on research. This approach assumes enough federally funded research universities will need to be in place to inform the curriculum and the other objectives. It is anticipated the number of Research Universities needed for this task is less than exist today. Please note: some private and state universities maintain large endowments. (e.g., Harvard) Endowed universities may co-exist with the new federally funded research university if they decide to forgo federal loan support.
Reduction in sports entertainment: 1) Revenue sports (Basketball and football) – may be viable without federal loan support. It will depend on the actual profit after all costs (coaches salaries, facilities debt service, scholarships, recruiting, etc). 2) Non-revenue sports (all other, Soccer, Track, Wrestling, etc) – may not be viable unless students are willing to pay the extra costs privately. Unprofitable revenue sports may fall in this category.
Reduction in all other traditional activities and services (Clubs, dining, workout facilities, etc) – Many of these amenities may be available privately. (a student could join a local club in their community, eat off-campus, or join the local gym) Or, some teaching colleges may provide access to these services for an extra fee.
Change how we think about diplomas – today, diplomas are issued from colleges and universities. The new approach anticipates diplomas will be issued by the Teacher’s College platform. The platform's responsibility includes tracking class completion and progress toward diploma accreditation requirements. This approach eliminates the need to transfer credits between schools. It also reduces the biases associated with college name branding.
Significant reduction in student debt and associated costs – given federal debt is only issued for academic activities, students will have lower loan balances and market forces will drive down costs. Also, the consolidation of the lecturer and the reduction of participating Research Universities should reduce costs. Finally, the platforming of Teachers Colleges and Lecturers should create significant market pressure to reduce costs.
The US higher education system is not working for many U.S. citizens. When compared to the existing college system, this reimagined approach delivers significant cost savings. All the while, accreditation standards, market forces, and improved lecture and teacher focus will increase quality. This new approach transforms the higher ed delivery model along the lines of the “3 Ds.”
De-bundles academics from the other typical college amenities (e.g., dining, sports entertainment, and exercise facilities.)
De-leverages by reducing student lending. The new approach will dramatically decrease our current run-away student loan system, significantly decreasing unnecessary stress and financial burdens.
Delivers high-quality and cost-effective academic services, utilizing available technology and industry partnerships. It allows students and families access to a cost-effective education solution and with the option to add more expensive amenities as they are able or so inclined.
(1) This is based on data provided in the Wall Street Journal article “Calculating the Risk of College,” 12/10/18, and was supported by Pew Research. The author did estimate based on a small number of interpolations when the article data was not available. Also, the author developed the 4 segments observed in the graphic. The following graphic provides the segment data and definitions:
(2) Jeffrey Hulett, The College Decision: Proceed at your own risk
(3) I first came across "Flip The Classroom" mentioned by Sal Kahn in his book, The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined. Also the Massive Open Online Courses (or "MOOC") model uses a similar concept. Some MOOCs appear to create lower-cost / low delivery channel canalization delivery models for higher-cost schools. (for example, EdX is a MOOC utilizing content from MIT, Georgetown, Harvard, Cal Berkeley, etc.) These higher-cost schools can utilize the MOOCs to monetize existing content, plus, test and improve educational concepts. This is done with minimal impact to the higher-price campus delivery channels via credential control. That is, class completion on a MOOC generally does not count toward a higher-cost university degree, even though the content is provided by the same higher-cost university.
(4) Lecturer and academic teacher college costs – only include direct costs for the lecturer, teacher, and related supporting infrastructure. (supporting costs such as Buildings, Technology, and management related to delivering teacher services.) It does not include housing, clubs, sports entertainment, or other costs outside lecturer and teacher direct costs. Costs will also be based on a schedule provided by the Department of Education. The scheduled costs may include the relevant cost of living adjustments based on regional cost differences.
(5) Volunteer Marketplaces are becoming more common. For example, LinkedIn has a volunteer marketplace. Also, several startup marketplaces have begun as a result of the pandemic and the cancellation of many internships. It would not surprise me if internship programs themselves become integrated across a marketplace instead of a single company, as 1) talented students desire broader experiences than a single company internship, and 2) companies realize the costs and effectiveness of managing independent internships are better served in a marketplace environment.