Reimagining higher education in the United States

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As education leaders consider their options in the age of the COVID-19 crisis, they must rethink the conventional wisdom.

Higher education in the United States is at an inflection point. The core mission of the university—instruction, research, and service—has not changed. Nor has the need for advanced education to prepare individuals for a fulfilling life and to drive the knowledge economy. For individuals, the economic benefit of earning a college degree remains clear. College graduates are on average wealthier, healthier, and happier over a lifetime.1

Even before the COVID-19 crisis, however, the higher-education sector faced significant challenges. Consider student completion: only 60 percent of all those who started college actually earned a degree within six years in 2017 (the latest year for which data is available). The figures are even worse for Black (39.9 percent) and Hispanic (54.4 percent) students. Other troubling disparities persist. In student enrollment, for example, 69 percent of white high-school graduates enroll in college, compared with 59 percent of Black high-schoolers and 61 percent of Hispanics. Furthermore, the level of student debt is rising, while repayment rates plummet, creating a potentially unsustainable burden for many students.

The pandemic is intensifying these challenges and creating new ones. Students and their families are struggling with the impact of campus shutdowns and questioning whether it is worth it to pay for an on-campus experience when much of the instruction is being done remotely. Under these circumstances, the risk of outcome inequities—from completion to employment to lifetime earnings—could worsen. For example, evidence suggests that lower-income students are 55 percent more likely than their higher-income peers to delay graduation2 due to the COVID-19 crisis. Underpinning all of these challenges is a business model at its breaking point, as institutions face falling revenues and rising health-and-safety costs.

In short, the coronavirus has confirmed the case for fast and fundamental change. It has also demonstrated that change is possible. When the pandemic hit, many US colleges and universities moved quickly to remote learning and other delivery models, launched affordability initiatives, and found creative ways to support their students. Now is the time to build on these lessons to reimagine the next five to ten years and beyond.

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Why College is never coming back

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 Here’s some great news: one of America’s most broken industries is finally being exposed as a sham. And make no mistake, the end of college as we know it is a great thing.

It’s great for families, who’ll save money and take on less debt putting kids through school. It’s great for kids, who’ll no longer be lured into the socialist indoctrination centers that many American campuses have become. And as I’ll show you, it’s great for investors, who stand to make a killing on the companies that’ll disrupt college for good.

But Stephen, how can you be against education?! I love learning, but I hate what college has become. As recently as 1980, you could get a four-year bachelor’s degree at a public school for less than $10,000. These days, it’ll cost you $40,000 at a minimum, $140,000 for a private school, or well over $250,000 for a top school.

College costs have ballooned beyond all reason. They’ve risen even faster than healthcare costs, which is really saying something. Kids are burying themselves in debt—$1.6 trillion at last count—in order to attend college.

When I wrote about this last year, I had little hope things would change anytime soon. Why? It’s a tough sell to convince an 18-year-old kid not to attend the four-year party all his friends are going to, especially when the US government is financing it through student loans.

But a Lightning Bolt of Disruption Just Fried the Business Model of College.

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