People are beginning to seriously ask, is paying this much for a higher ed degree worth it? Are there less expensive alternatives?

If people are asking this question, then those of us within higher education had better have some plans on how to address this situation. My personal take here is that we need to work to reduce the cost of getting a degree by 50% or more — while providing cross-disciplinary, real-world assignments and projects that engage the students…projects that help them build up valuable communication and research skills that will aid them in hitting the ground running upon graduation.

Here are recent examples of folks reflecting on this question/topic (never mind what you think of these postings or their authors — consider the fact that these a but a handful of such postings out there):

Personally and historically speaking, I just accepted that my wife and I would have to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to finance our 3 kids’ educations. As I’ve gotten older, I have realized a couple things:

  1. That’s not going to happen
  2. There will be other — far less costly — alternatives (see my Walmart of Education posting here)

The key thing here is this:

If people are even asking these questions, it is high time that higher ed came up with some serious/concrete/well-publicized and backed up solutions and responses to these sorts of questions. There have been increasing calls for accountability and transparency; and I’m sure we’ll work to produce that data. But in the meantime, the bottom lines will still be how much folks can afford,  what is their perceptions re: the value that a college education provides, and what does it take to earn a living (i.e. if employers of the future don’t require a degree, but rather look at what a person can do, then that situation will be important to consider here).

Don’t get me wrong. I strongly believe in the value of education. I came from a liberal arts background and I work for a Christian, liberal arts college. So my point is not to bash college educations. To me, a college education is still worth a great deal. But I went to Northwestern University, a university that currently costs ~$55,000 per year. I’m sorry, it’s just not worth that much (nor could I afford to send our kids there, even if I wanted to).

The key point I’m addressing here is that if people are asking these sorts of questions, then we have one more significant ingredient of the “Perfect Storm” that’s brewing for higher ed.

More later…