Rethinking the Bachelor’s Degree to Bolster the Humanities

The classic liberal-arts major on college campuses has been in a state of crisis for several decades now.

The number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in traditional arts-and-sciences fields (English, mathematics, biology) peaked in the late 1960s, when about half of all degrees awarded were in those disciplines. Today, such majors account for about a quarter of degrees, as students have fled to practical degrees in vocational fields, such as business and communications or, more recently, sports man…


Graduation Rates: Flawed as a Measure of Colleges, but Still Useful

It’s commencement season on college campuses, the time when graduating students see their years of effort culminate in a victory: getting the degree. That road to commencement was longer for some students than for others, though, and eventually those varying journeys will be reflected in the institution’s graduation rate.

The value of that number has been debated almost from the day it was first calculated in the mid-1990s. The flaws of the official government rate are well known: It counts only…


Colleges Face a Reality Check From Powerful New Tools in Applicants’ Hands

Twice in the last week and a half I have been seated next to a recent college dropout on an airplane flight.

One left Ohio University after a semester last fall, and the other dropped out of a performing-arts college in Los Angeles after two years. Both had accumulated debt. One of the former students was about to start work on a cruise ship, and the other hoped to perform on a cruise ship. Both had the same goal: to earn enough money to go back to college eventually.

Neither of the students qui…


Let’s Improve the Job Prospects of This Year’s College Grads

College commencement season is upon us, and in just a few weeks, the Class of 2013 will begin their post-college life. Those entering the job market seem to be hedging their bets: 1 in 3 soon-to-be graduates report applying for more than 40 jobs, according to one survey. For them, the news continues to be [...]


What Is College?

My 3 1/2 year-old daughter recently saw me wearing a sweatshirt from my undergraduate alma mater (Ithaca College) and asked me what it spelled. When I told her, she replied: What is college? A profound question from a 3 1/2 year-old and one being asked by college leaders and students alike these days as tuition [...]


The Second Internet Wave Comes to Higher Education

Scottsdale, Ariz. — Steve Case is one of the few technology leaders who has lived through two Internet revolutions. The founder of AOL made an appearance this week at the Education Innovation Summit, the upstart gathering that in its fourth year attracted some 1,400 entrepreneurs, financiers, and educators to the Arizona desert.

Most entrepreneurs from the 100-plus companies that pitched their ideas at the conference were too young to recall the ubiquitous shrink-wrapped CDs that helped AOL grow…


Colleges Must Prepare for a Buyer’s Market

College professors increasingly complain about the consumer mentality of their students: In exchange for shelling out ever greater amounts of tuition dollars, students expect to be treated to easy A’s and maximum flexibility in assignments and class attendance. Students should be savvy consumers of higher education—but not in the classroom. Instead, they, and their parents, [...]


Wanted at Work: Take More Risks in College

Innovation needs risk-taking as its fuel, but according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, workers are increasingly afraid to take chances on the job: “After years of high employment and scared from rounds of company cost-cutting and layoffs, managers say their workers seem to have become allergic to risk.” A college campus [...]


Breaking the Tyranny of the Academic Calendar

Higher education in the United States is measured in units of time: three-credit courses, 15-week semesters, and academic years with fall and spring semesters.

The decision by the Education Department on Tuesday to clarify its rules and outline a process for providing federal aid to students enrolled in “competency-based” programs has potentially far-reaching consequences beyond just rethinking how colleges award credits based on what students actually know instead of time spent in a seat. I…


What’s the Value of a College Degree?

When my parents bought their first house in the early 1960s, they focused on buying a place to live in and raise their children. By the time I purchased my first house early last decade, buying a house was as much about the “investment” as it was about buying something in order to put a [...]