Seth Godin provokes us with doom and gloom. Other than predicting the end of higher ed as we have known it, he predicts that accreditation leads to mass market degrees. In one of his most interesting paragraphs, he writes:
A lot of these ills are the result of uniform accreditation programs that have pushed high-cost, low-reward policies on institutions and rewarded schools that churn out young wanna-be professors instead of experiences that turn out leaders and problem-solvers.
Just as we’re watching the disintegration of old-school marketers with mass market products, I think we’re about to see significant cracks in old-school schools with mass market degrees.
Back before the digital revolution, access to information was an issue. The size of the library mattered. One reason to go to college was to get access. Today, that access is worth a lot less. The valuable things people take away from college are interactions with great minds (usually professors who actually teach and actually care) and non-class activities that shape them as people. The question I’d ask: is the money that mass-marketing colleges are spending on marketing themselves and scaling themselves well spent? Are they organizing for changing lives or for ranking high? Does NYU have to get so much bigger? Why?
What is more? Parents and employers are waking up to the problems with higher ed. I am not necessarily in agreement with his post, but he does hit on a few problems, viz accreditation costs and expectations, that make higher ed’s job much more difficult. Lost in Godin’s view of higher ed is the role of liberal education. He ignores it completely and seems to be more enamored with the for profit model. An interesting question for the digital age is: what does the 21st century library look like?
Update: one other thought: Godin misses a bit of the increase in tuition. He compares it to the rise in wages, but that is not necessarily a measure that tells us anything significant. I bet if he looked into it, he’d find that the reason tuition is increasing is because state appropriations in most of the states is decreasing. In other words, taxpayer dollars are subsidizing higher ed less and less.