An enjoyable look back at the history of higher education in America and the startling new ways it might develop in the future.
The author and CEO of test-prep powerhouse Kaplan is willing to doff his mortarboard to the Ivy League—but only because Rosen is absolutely convinced that one day, often maligned private-sector institutions like his will rule the day. Incredibly, his argument never comes off as self-serving; the author’s thorough exploration of “Harvard Envy” and the rise of “resort” campuses is both fascinating and enlightening. He cites spiraling costs, dwindling budgets and improved technology as some of the many reasons behind this inevitable changeover. If America is going to compete with the global brain trust, the author argues, it will have to be done from behind a computer screen. The prestige that Ivy League schools command is largely due to their exclusivity, a fact that runs counter to the growing need to expose increasing numbers of people to higher education. Thus, somewhere in America, there is a college campus contemplating the highest rock-climbing wall in an effort to woo new students. That’s just about as ridiculous as online distance learning—what might be thought of as the successor to old “correspondence courses”—becoming as viable as Yale or Duke. But both are happening. The U.S., writes Rosen, has no other choice but to look to virtual for-profit learning outlets like Kaplan and the University of Phoenix to boost the number of college graduates.
Presently, this may be the subject of snide editorials and contemptuous hearings, but Rosen envisions a day when for-profit learning centers step up and fill the education gap much in the same way “land grant” and community colleges did in years past. The alternative, he fears, spells trouble for American supremacy in education.