Reimagining the Undergraduate Experience: 4 Provocative Ideas

How can we reimagine the undergraduate college experience in the future?

That was the question at the heart of my column last week on the overworked bachelor’s degree, which generated plenty of discussion, agreement, and pushback in the comments. It was also a question at the center of a yearlong exercise at Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, also known as the d.school.

The exercise was the first time that the school turned its renowned “design thinking” process on itself….


From Tennessee, a Solution for Mission Creep

American higher education loves to tout the diversity of its 4,000-plus institutions. Sure, there are four-year universities and two-year community colleges, public and private institutions, vast research universities, mom-and-pop trade schools.

But most institutions that come to mind when we talk about higher education in the United States are strikingly similar in their structure and their ambitions. They desire to keep up with the Joneses (it’s why they establish peer groups for dozens of measures, whether admissions or research) or, better yet, move to a better neighborhood (their aspirant group).

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To Reach the New Market for Education, Colleges Have Some Learning to Do

Afew weeks ago, I moderated a panel discussion at the South by Southwest education conference, in Austin, Tex. Known as SXSWedu, the gathering is in only its fourth year and already draws some 6,500 entrepreneurs, educators, investors, and policy makers, easily surpassing the attendance at many of the annual meetings held by the various higher-education associations.

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Merit Aid Won’t Help Colleges Survive

In the summer of 1994, I interned at U.S. News & World Report, where I was assigned to collect data for the magazine’s annual college rankings, just beginning to grow in influence. A few years later, when I started reporting for The Chronicle, college-enrollment managers and presidents asked me about the methodology employed by U.S. News and just how much they could manipulate the rankings by attracting higher-caliber students. Their approach for moving up in the rankings was relatively simple: Offer financial aid to smart students, whether they needed the money or not.

The merit-aid arms race was in full force by the start of the new millennium. But in 2000, some 53 percent of institutional aid was still going to needy students. As a result, few higher-education leaders worried about the consequences.

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How Starbucks is Modernizing the Free Tuition Benefit for the 21st Century Worker

The announcement coming from Starbucks today that it will pay for an online degree from Arizona State University for thousands of its workers has the chance to shift the conversation around a college education as an employee benefit much like the company did with health insurance for part-timers in the last decade.

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If I Were 22: Take My Time, Focus, and Adapt

Here’s my advice to my 22-year-old self: take your time, focus, and be adaptable.

When I turned 22, I was in my last semester at Ithaca College. I had already completed my requirements for a journalism degree. A professor suggested that I use my last semester to enroll in some classes that I never had the chance to take before and might prove useful in forming the foundation of knowledge we all need in a global economy.

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It Really Doesn’t Matter Personally or Professionally If You Went to Harvard or State U.

A few days after most of the high-school graduating Class of 2014 decided where they are going to college in the fall by sending a deposit to secure their spot on a campus comes a new study that finds, despite conventional wisdom, it doesn’t really matter to your eventual well-being where you attend school.

Indeed, there isn’t much of a difference between the most selective, top colleges in the U.S. News & World Report rankings and everyone else. Also, there is no difference between typically high-priced private colleges and lower-priced public universities.

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What College Prices and Subsidized Mobile Phones Have in Common

It seems everyone has a smart phone these days, and for most of us, those devices were pretty inexpensive if we were willing to sign a two-year service contract. It’s likely that if you have an iPhone, for instance, that your wireless carrier subsidized hundreds of dollars toward the cost of that phone.

But as the Wall Street Journal reported this week, U.S. wireless carriers are making fast progress on weaning consumers from such generous offers, making them pay the full cost of the phone, usually in installment plans.

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Do Parents Spend More on College for their Sons or Daughters?

Last June, after a talk at theSummer Seminar in Minneapolis about how colleges need to increasingly prove the value of their brand of education to cash-strapped parents, an admissions director from a pricey Midwest private college approached me.

He said that in recent years at his institution it appears that parents are more willing to pay higher tuition prices for their daughters, but not for their sons. As the father of two daughters his observation intrigued me.

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State of Higher Education: The Unbound Future of America’s Colleges

As demand surges for a college degree around the world, the higher-education enterprise has never been stronger. But the state of the industry that serves the enterprise is broken, particularly in the United States.

For most of the 20th century, the U.S. bragged that it had the best colleges and universities in the world— and rightfully so. Not anymore.

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