If you were asked to write a list of the top 10 issues in higher education, what would make it on your list? I came across one person’s list, written this year: “The Top 10 Higher Education Issues We All Agree On.” A few of the author’s top 10 issues stood out to me. For example:
“Completion is the most powerful lever.” His point was that the drop-out rates in four-year institutions and two-year colleges (nearly 50% and 80%, respectively) is something worth tackling and is perhaps even more important than increasing accessibility of colleges. The “free college” movement has caught a lot of attention recently, particularly during the last presidential campaign, but I think that before pushing accessibility we should improve completion rates. It seems a heavy burden to bear for an individual to incur unnecessary debt for a university degree they never receive.
The author also stated that “Bachelor’s degree ‘addiction’ is hurting students“. He means that there are other paths that lead to better employment opportunities than just the path through formal university education. While I agree with the author that “alternative pathways and credentials… should be strongly encouraged from a public policy perspective,” I still strongly support formal university education for those who choose to pursue this path. A four-year degree is not just a pass to better employment, it is also meant to educate and inspire the whole mind through many different types of classes and experiences.
Finally, one of the big points the author makes is that “outcomes should be about ‘distance traveled’.” What he means is that the grades we give universities should depend more on the “value added” to the students rather than the quality of the candidates going into the university (which is how many universities are currently ranked). Colleges or universities that actually help a student get from point A to their desired point B should get credit and should be recognized for that success. I would hope that university rankings in the future would reflect this kind of success rather than reflect some kind of popularity contest.