The Future of Higher Education: the panel discussion, part 2

Liveblogging the Future of Higher Education event at the New School: updated frequently.

Please assume the following is paraphrase or quotation where possible.

Panelists include four campus presidents: David Van Zandt (the New School), Stephen J. Friedman (Pace University), Robert Scott (Adelphi University), Debora Spar, (Barnard College).

New topic: what can we do?

President David Van Zandt.

Scott: Adelphi prioritizes spending on student success, which ultimately saves money. They did this without going into debt, nor touching restricted endowment funding.    Tuition increases have been 2, 3% of late, but that doesn’t generate enough income.

Friedman: the greatest force for savings over the next decade will be technology.  Not MOOCs, nor for-profit-style online learning.  We are now at the point where technology changes pedagogy.  First, lectures will move online.  Second, institutions can offer on-campus asynchronous online learning.  Third, some things are better taught by computers than humans – i.e., topics about the application of rules system.  Cites Virginia Tech’s Math Emporium.  Fourth, hybrid education is the way forward.  This should allow institutions to increase class size.

Spar: we need to see more cooperation between institutions.  Mentions student life arms race.  Students should be able to take classes at other institutions, leading to a better division of labor.  Mentions Five Colleges and Claremont Colleges.  Less commonly taught languages is a good field for this.  Can be done online and/or consortially.  Moreover, we need to figure out how to measure faculty productivity.  This includes capping faculty size.  Finally, we need to play with the four year summers off model.  Cites Wesleyan University’s three-year model.  On top of this, we should deemphasize traditional age period for college and university.

Scott: agrees on inter-institutional collaboration, mentioning Adelphi partnering with numerous institutions.  Adds that campuses should review use of space.  Some slack there, and capital costs can benefit from addressing this.  Disagrees with technology, which he sees as a cost sink.  But students needs these skills.  Addresses MOOCs: institutions are providers of education; partner with other institutions; institutions will consume MOOCs (citing Antioch U and ACE’s work).

Friedman: there are opportunities for incorporating Stanford/Harvard level MOOCs into other schools’ curricula.

Van Zandt: whatever happened to the Socratic model of close engagement between student and faculty member?

Friedman: a lot goes on in class beyond the Socratic dialogue, like lecturing and assessing student progress.  He likes the way the MOOC/flipped classroom model makes faculty rethink the way they use classroom time to best help students learn.

Spar: the Socratic ideal, the small classroom can be preserved, but we need to cut other things.  Mentions having teaching on Friday and Saturday (!) mornings.  We might have to rethink idyllic seminars of 2-3 students.  We should revisit lectures and TAs.

Scott cites Babylonian Talmud on class size (to laughter).  But recommends that we shape class size with a focus on student success.  He notes that athletics is a huge source of expense, a field which could be taken up by local communities, as in Europe.  Additional cost cutting area: administrative expenses, which can be cut (beyond regulatory requirements).

Van Zandt: but students and parents demand more non-classroom services, which directly drives enrollment and hits tuition.

Friedman: depends on the institution, but a big academic reputation can let a campus decrease other functions.

Spar: we are relatively top-heavy in student services.  So she asks students about which services they use – informally, so far.  What services could they do on their own?  Van Zandt: that depends on location.  Easy for campuses in big cities, but harder for schools in remote, rural locations.

Friedman: distinguishes between merit and need-based financial aid.  Distinction can be blurred by competitive forces.

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Posted on December 3, 2012 at 6:14 pm by Bryan Alexander · Permalink
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