Is postsecondary education still worth it?
This is the question that every higher education leader is being asked, probably on a weekly basis. The combined pressure of the global economic landscape, the financial crisis, new business models, growth of the for-profit sector, and criticism of our quality assurance system have led some observers to ask if higher education is the next big “bubble” in American society. Like the high-tech or housing sectors, has higher education become overvalued? Are we destined for a comeuppance?
I say no.
I can envision no future for the United States that does not depend on a well-educated populace and the innovations and research discoveries that flow from higher education. I can also envision no future when we will not face pressure to demonstrate our value and to improve student outcomes. Continuous improvement isn’t just a buzzword—it is the mandate under which we will operate for as long as anyone can imagine.
In this issue of The Presidency, you’ll find a compelling examination of the notion of the higher education “bubble” and why the concept keeps coming back time and again. You’ll also read about the need to build a better link between postsecondary education and careers and a full-throated defense of the value of pure learning.
All of these stories lend perspective to what I believe is the real question facing American higher education today: Will we just muddle our way through the challenges we face or will we seize the opportunity to begin a new chapter in the incredible history of American higher education?
After World War II, this country chose the bold approach. Research universities achieved heights of excellence the world had never seen and a new and uniquely American institution—the community college—sprung up across our landscape to open the doors of opportunity wider than ever before. The leaders of that era thought big and took bold action, and we are all beneficiaries of their vision.
We can forge another such new beginning for American higher education, but it will take vision, courage, and drive to make it happen. We must all think about what is necessary to help higher education not just survive these tough times, but to harness the incredible talent and creativity resident on our campuses to reaffirm the value of our common undertaking.
That challenge will surely be at the center of many conversations at ACE’s 94th Annual Meeting, Ahead of the Curve, scheduled for March 10–13, 2012, in Los Angeles, CA. I hope you are making plans now to join us as leaders from all sectors gather to address key issues and share practical solutions. More information is available at www.aceannualmeeting.org.
Molly Corbett Broad
American Council on Education