It seems to me…
“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.” ~ Carl Rogers.
Now, at a time when a university degree is more important than ever before, funding support has been reduced to where educational costs are increasingly borne by the student placing a college degree beyond the ability of less wealthy students without incurring an overwhelming burden of debt.
Short-sighted budget reductions for higher education institutions affects more than student tuition rates. In 2009, academic institutions accounted for more than half of the nation’s basic research. U.S. research universities have developed many of the products, services, and industries which have revolutionized modern life and upon which our daily lives depend. They also are under increasing stress as funding support for U.S. investment in scientific research and development has been subject to increasing budget reductions.
The threat is real. Unless these funding trends are reversed, the U.S. might lose its position as world leader: inferior in technological innovation, second class in artistic creativity. “Many public research universities have gone from being state-supported to state-assisted to, at best, state-located.[i]” The U.S. is the only advanced country in which the federal government does not directly contribute to educational financing at its top public universities.
With the cost of a college education becoming increasing unaffordable even to middle-income students, it is obvious alternative methods of education must be developed. Digital aided learning is possibly the most important innovation in education since the invention of the chalkboard. MOOCs (massive open online courses), for example, provide access to college courses to thousands of students at relatively low cost who otherwise do not have access to higher education. Experience with these types of classes remains limited and it has not yet been determined what methodologies are best suited for that type of learning environment or how instructional costs can be recovered.
On-line classes are at a significant disadvantage when compared with the benefit of personal access to exceptional instructors – unfortunately, most instructors are not exceptional. Digital learning is able to do some things very well. It is very good at teaching basic concepts even for students able to attend a college or university. It allows instructors additional time to focus on actual education: detailed discussions, personal mentorship, project-based learning…
Adaptive learning techniques will provide additional class flexibility by allowing each student to progress at their own pace. By breaking course content into smaller conceptual modules of instruction and testing, students can access course content on any day, at any time, from anywhere, and as frequently as necessary rather than being required to gather together in large groups at predetermined locations and times. Digital learning also facilitates the collection of large data samples from which it will be possible to determine how individuals best learn.
Hopefully, our political leaders will come to their collective senses and restore funding not only for our public research universities but also so that everyone, rich and poor, has the opportunity to succeed in life and achieve to their full potential. No, not everyone requires a college degree; for those who do not, trade schools or certificate programs should be available alternatives. All levels of education require adequate support.
Yes, education must become more accessible, more effective, and more affordable. But perhaps those elected officials responsible for cutting educational budgets should reflect that they are the product of that very educational system they now are systematically destroying.
That’s what I think, what about you?
[i] Birgeneau, Robert. How to Maintain America’s Global Preeminence, Time, 7 October 2013, pp50-51.