Continuing and Professional Education

Leapfrogging in higher ed

Authored by Hunt Lambert, Dean of Continuing Education at Harvard University

In the late 1980s, China’s growing economy demanded connectivity as it struggled to reach the United States’ 90 percent household telephone penetration rate. As it turned out, wiring China was a physical and economic impossibility: social and technological realities stood in stark opposition to large-scale needs.

And yet, in just a few short years, China’s telecommunications progress came to define what we now describe as “leapfrogging” — pioneering the application of new technologies to bypass the older framework in place to unlock their 1.5 billion citizens’ economic potential.

Today, higher education faces a similar dilemma. Against a backdrop of upcredentialing, the imperative for degree completion has never been greater. And yet, former President Obama’s call for the United States to lead the world in college completion by 2020 remains a distant possibility.

No public or private entities in the world have the money to build the campuses — let alone develop the quality faculty — needed to produce the billions of college graduates our global economy demands. MOOCs have failed to live up to their democratic promise of access, completion or meaningful learning outcomes. And even if higher education as we know it could scale over time, consumer preferences are evolving even faster. In an uncertain economy, many students are increasingly skeptical that degrees are a worthwhile investment of time and money.

Should we throw in the towel? Or, is higher education poised for a revolution on par with the telecom explosion of the past two decades?

Here’s what we know: The degree is still the coin of the realm in our information economy, but there is unprecedented demand for — and recognition of — non-degree credentials. Indeed, 41 million adults currently hold some form of non-degree credential, and there is growing acknowledgment that tomorrow’s students, dubbed “the new normal” by former U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell, will demand a mix of non-traditional programs and partnerships providing learning opportunities across a work life that is likely to span 60 years or more. (Read More...)

As Graduation Rates Rise, Experts Fear Diplomas Come Up Short

Berea High School in Greenville, S.C., graduates 80 percent of its students, but ACT scores indicate few are ready for college.  CreditSean Rayford for The New York Times

Berea High School in Greenville, S.C., graduates 80 percent of its students, but ACT scores indicate few are ready for college. CreditSean Rayford for The New York Times

GREENVILLE, S.C. — A sign in a classroom here at Berea High School, northwest of downtown in the largest urban district in the state, sends this powerful message: “Failure Is Not an Option. You Will Pass. You Will Learn. You Will Succeed.”

By one measure, Berea, with more than 1,000 pupils, is helping more students succeed than ever: The graduation rate, below 65 percent just four years ago, has jumped to more than 80 percent.

But that does not necessarily mean that all of Berea’s graduates, many of whom come from poor families, are ready for college — or even for the working world. According to college entrance exams administered to every 11th grader in the state last spring, only one in 10 Berea students were ready for college-level work in reading, and about one in 14 were ready for entry-level college math. And on a separate test of skills needed to succeed in most jobs, little more than half of the students demonstrated that they could handle the math they would need. Read More...

An Era of Scrutiny

Authored by Mark Nemec, PhD, President & CEO Eduventures

As colleges and universities start their fall sessions, President Obama’s plans for higher education need to be top of mind. Top of mind, not because his proposal will take immediate effect—hearings on the issue will take place sometime before 2015 and the President called for implementation by 2018; but rather because his August speech in Buffalo and its proposed policies fully signal what we in higher education have been anticipating: we are in an era of extra attention if not downright scrutiny. Read More...