The Future of Higher Education: the panel discussion, part 3

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).

What about DiY learning?

Van Zandt mentions badges, Khan Academy, recent New York Times article (“Saying No to College“).

Spar: these movements are real, and we should ignore them at our peril.  We should watch what topics people are seeking through alternative channels.

Scott: we should pay attention to the reasons why some students avoid college.  But for the majority of traditional-age students, college enriches them.  Advises students to study topics for which they have a passion; it’s the institution’s responsibility to help them into the job market.

Friedman: faculty have their head in the sand about forces transforming education.  What’s happening will mean something different for every sector.  Now is the time to experiment and adapt.

Van Zandt: do you expect to see a smaller number of colleges and universities?

Friedman: religiously-affiliated private institutions are under stress.  Surprised there aren’t more failures.

Scott: naturally there will be change.

Audience questions and comments

Q: what about social good, beyond what’s good for individual institutions?  What’s the purpose of education?

A: Scott: we are as much about character and citizenship as about careers and commerce.  Spar: higher ed has been the pathway to opportunity for all Americans.  We are the way to the American dream.  If there’s a better way, we should move towards it.  We have a moral responsibility to create educated citizens – and we’re not doing well at it!  Friedman: importance of teaching critical thinking.

Van Zandt: nobody has mentioned research so far tonight (!).

Q: how significant is recruiting international students as a way to expand student body and increase tuition revenue?

A: Spar: demand abroad for American education is big, and speaks to beauty of model.  As families elsewhere generate wealth, they want to give their children a US education.  But eventually this demand side will flatten out.  Also vital to get American students interacting with non-US students: the purpose of internationalizing student body.  Scott: some colleges (not his) rely on international students for revenue.

Q: should learners get non-liberal education learning elsewhere other than campuses?

A: Van Zandt: very few students are actually in liberal arts programs.  Friedman: professional training is important even in the liberal arts.  It is important to include liberal education within professional education.  Scott: education is knowledge, skills, abilities, values.  Skills are most amenable to technology.  Classroom interaction is necessary for reflection, deeper understanding, learning how to learn in a group.

Q: why is cooperation so hard?

A: Spar: federal law prevents collusion.  Friedman: cooperation goes against faculty autonomy.

Q: what is the role of government in supporting education reform?

A: Van Zandt: government is already invested.  Worried about fiscal cliff side effects.  Spar: worried about government maintaining commitment to financial aid, such as Pell Grants.  Thinks regional governments have useful role.  Scott: mentions library and IT collaboration being robust – as opposed to curriculum.

Q: what about educating students about sustainability, in response to climate change and limited global resources?

A: Van Zandt: universities are already doing this, including basic science research, making environmentally-friendly facilities.  Needs to keep on with this.  Scott: already does a lot of green work on campus.

Q: would you lobby against tax reform that supports the 1%?

A: Scott; against tax credits for wealthy sending kids to school.  Spar: worried about inequality.

Q: I ask about digital humanities.

A: Spar very excited.  Notes Reacting to the Past, benefits of role-playing. Scott mentions historical work, including Shakespeare concordance.

Event concludes with applause.

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Posted on December 3, 2012 at 6:32 pm by Bryan Alexander · Permalink
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