Is Higher Education Broken? Reform, Disruption, or . . . ?
By Catherine Probst and Colleen Kearney Rich
Does higher education have a future? If so, what will it look like?
The problems facing higher education in the United States are receiving increased scrutiny these days from parents, students, academics, and many others. Media coverage on higher education’s future seems virtually inescapable, from Newsweek’s recent cover story, “Is College a Lousy Investment?” to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s series on “College, Reinvented.” According to the Chronicle’s recent edition, “It’s not just experts, lawmakers, and disgruntled academics who see problems in the industry. Now parents, students, employers, and pundits say higher education is fundamentally broken: ineffective, overpriced, outdated, out of touch.”
George Mason University is taking these questions head-on this weekend, as it hosts educators, university administrators, and practitioners for the “Forum on the Future of Higher Education.” More than 350 faculty members and administrators, many from Mason, are attending. They will be considering the challenges of how to deliver education in a more cost efficient manner while also being creative and innovative in improving its quality. The forum will feature discussions on topics such as more effective teaching and better learning outcomes; lessons to be learned from for-profits and online programs; additional opportunities for uses of technology; and how to effect change in large public universities.
“As both an exciting and challenging time for higher education, a key theme of the forum is what we can do to improve learning, how we can respond to the evolving needs and lifestyles of students, and how we can adapt to increasingly tight budgets,” says Mason President Ángel Cabrera. “This forum will provide an opportunity for us to engage in critical conversations that will lead us toward a new vision and strategic plan for the university.”
Panelists include Mason faculty, as well as other distinguished speakers including members of the media, higher education, and education-related businesses and associations. The speakers include Anya Kamenetz, author of DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education; Jeffrey Selingo, editor-at-large of the Chronicle of Higher Education; and Alexander McCormick, director of the National Survey of Student Engagement.
“As we consider the future of higher education, the forum will provide an opportunity for practitioners and administrators at all levels to discuss some of the most important issues we are facing in the field,” says Mason Provost Peter Stearns. “The forum is intended to open the door for discussion of new ideas on how to prepare for future planning in higher education, but not offer a precise agenda for change.”
After the forum, videos of the panels will be available online. In addition, the use of social media is being encouraged during the forum. Planners believe live tweeting during the panels and keynotes expands the discussion beyond those in the room, encourages questions and conversations both during and after the forum, and will help to preserve the insights of the forum in a digital archive. Moderators will be watching the feed and reporting on trends.
For more information about the forum, a complete schedule of events, and a link to the videos, visit the website.