An editor-at-large for the Chronicle of Higher Education surveys the sorry status of higher education.
Part analytical, part self-help, Selingo’s debut will please some and annoy others. The author begins with the case of a young woman with high hopes who dropped out (he uses numerous other such examples throughout), then commences his examination of all that’s gone wrong. Soaring costs, students who no longer learn the way traditional colleges teach, the resistance of many in academe to online learning, prospective families and students who don’t know what they really want from college, the course-credit tradition, grade inflation, the fashion now among many institutions to convert themselves into what he calls a “resort campus,” with amenities and frills that befuddle the older generations—all are contributing to the cracks in the foundations of the old four-year, residential model. Selingo cites numerous alarming statistics—only 20 percent of students, for example, attend a four-year college full time—and he discusses at length the question of the value of a college degree and the conflict between purely vocational aims/economic gains and pursuing a major and career that bring personal satisfaction. Throughout, he points to promising ideas some schools are trying: blending online with face-to-face courses (“hybrid” courses, he calls them), which permit students to finish at their own speed. Near the end, Selingo forecasts five changes—among them: more personalized education and fluid timelines. He ends both with a sample list of 18 schools with innovative ideas and a list of questions students and families should ask the schools they’re considering—e.g., “What is the job-placement rate of the college’s graduates? How is it calculated?”
A mixture of alarm and hope, wisdom and portending.