Links - August 27
Cornell College, Cafeteria Duty and the Chronicle's "5 Ways" article
Cornell College innovates
Cornell College (in Mt. Vernon, Iowa) has created a new twist on tuition resets. They are not resetting – their full Cost of Attendance (COA) remains at a bit above $63,000 – but they have now created a program –the Freeway Scholarship - which builds on their program for Iowa residents and guarantees $30,000 in financial aid to accepted full-time students from midwestern states (Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin, along with students from Kansas City, Kansas) for 4 years. Cornell is a small school, with an enrollment of around 1,000 students, but is in a category with a high risk of financial problems – smaller private schools in the Midwest and Great Plains. We can expect some of these schools to develop innovative solutions to remain viable. Cornell’s solution is clever:
The prestige factor of high tuition remains, good for cocktail parties.
Families know how much they will pay: a bit above $30k. This is in line with Cornell’s average Net Cost, which in 2018/19 stood at $28,661. Cornell is forthrightly presenting costs.
The high COA provides flexibility for federal financial aid.
It will be interesting to see if Cornell’s approach is copied.
Cafeteria Duty’s “All Colleges are the Same”
A Substack blog, Cafeteria Duty, written by a New York K-12 educator, makes the argument that Colleges Are All the Same, building from the Malcolm Gladwell podcast, Lord of the Rankings, on US News that we’d covered. Quotes:
“Can anyone actually tell me if the University of Illinois is a better or worse school than Utah State?”
“Implausible as it sounds, it is impossible to determine how much learning happens inside the classrooms of America’s colleges. Not a single person or organization can point to our colleges and say with hard evidence, ‘More learning happens at this school than at that school.’ Certainly students and their families cannot.”
“And why not ask America’s colleges to prove to all of us how much learning does or does not happen in their classrooms? Why should institutes of higher education be exempt from the systems of accountability we have implemented in our K-12 schools in the last two decades?”
We have been pointing out that from an economic and career perspective, college degrees are largely a commoditized product. Cafeteria Duty approaches the topic from an academic standpoint, arguing that learning depends on the student, the teacher and the classroom dynamics, and that it is very hard (impossible?) to determine whether teaching quality varies between institutions. Given that most Bachelor’s graduates take at a minimum 35 classes to obtain their degrees, it’s likely that the quantity of different instructors will drive the overall academic experience towards a nationwide average, resulting in a quite uniform level of educational quality across different institutions. As we have been fond of pointing out, student financial behavior reflects this insight: any outsize college price increases are rewarded with declining enrollment. Economics and academics fit together.
The Chronicle of Higher Ed’s “5 Ways”
Authors are fond of predicting future changes to higher ed. The latest installment is found in the Chronicle of Higher Education from Arthur Levine (ex-President of Teacher’s College at Columbia) and Scott van Pelt (Wharton, ex-admin at Columbia Business School). It’s among the more interesting examples of the genre. Levine and van Pelt highlight some major trends in “5 Ways Higher Ed will be Upended” (paywalled):
Institutional control will decrease, consumer power will increase
Learning will come to resemble media consumption (music, movie, news media)
New entities will enter higher ed, driving up competition and driving down prices
An industrial era model of higher ed (time, process, teaching) will be replaced by a knowledge-economy successor (outcomes)
“Just in case” degrees will be replaced by certificates and “just in time” degrees
All of us will have some quibbles with each one of them but the presentation from Levine and van Pelt is often incisive. The fifth of these – “just in case” v “just in time” – analogizes learning and knowledge with supply chain concepts and addresses the perpetual criticism that content in schools is soon forgotten after students have learned it. Worth your time.
Beautiful campus architecture
We keep running across photos of striking campus architecture and wanted readers to enjoy some of higher ed’s more interesting buildings and landscapes. Here is the Geisel Library, Cal - San Diego’s main library:
See this piece and others at CTAS’ main site.