Redesigning Higher Education

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Institutions that rethink the educational experience by putting the student at the center of their decision-making processes will be better positioned to meet the modern demands of traditional and post-traditional learners.

Those in higher education like to give a lot of lip service to the concept of student-centricity,other technical practices, online learning,self teaching and entrepreneurship. The student, after all, is our raison d’être.

The world is changing quickly and to keep pace, higher education must innovate.As students consider their options for higher education, they must ask themselves: will the cost of my education be repaid by its value? Will my education allow me to balance technical skills at risk of being replaced by automation, with timeless “soft” skills? Will my education prepare me for a career, and will that career even exist by the time I’m ready to join the workforce?

Positive changes have begun to take hold in higher education on a small scale. These innovations, updates and refocused ways of thinking about higher education have proven successful in individual schools, leading to better outcomes for students and thus for the economy at large. If ideas like these could take broader hold over the coming years, higher education could become more effective for students, educators and employers.These ideas include

1. Condensing the academic experience

A traditional four-year degree is widely considered the standard requirement for career success. But in a wide range of fields, four years of higher education is superfluous. Rather than demanding that students arbitrarily extend their education over the course of four years, more focused, affordable and practical alternatives should be encouraged.

The premium placed on a four-year degree can prevent many people who do not have the means or opportunity to delay their careers for four years from obtaining the same level of success as their peers. About 60% of full-time college students fail to complete their degrees in four years. This argument also holds for graduate schools, such as law school.

2. Doing away with focus on credentials

According to The Atlantic, the average education level across 500 occupational categories increased by 1.2 years from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s. Over the same period, the education required to hold those positions did not rise. The implication is that workers obtained (and paid for) more education to do the same jobs.

If less emphasis were placed by schools and employers on paper credentials that do little to affect actual job preparedness, job-seekers would be encouraged to improve their qualifications in other ways, such as through online courses, credentialed certificate programs, self-teaching and entrepreneurship.

3. Aligning the incentives of students and educational institutions

One way to align the incentives of students and educational institutions is to do away with or supplement traditional tuition models with Income Share Agreements (ISAs).

With an ISA, students can complete their education without the burden of high tuition and instead repay the school after they graduate with a set percentage of their income. The result is a system that avoids student debt, holds schools accountable for student success, and affords more students who wouldn’t otherwise have access to higher education the opportunity to attend the schools of their choice.

4. Forging stronger ties between industry and education

When institutes of higher learning partner with industry, everyone benefits. Students get increased access to mentors and internships, schools improve the relevancy of their curriculum, and companies get the first pick of rising talent.

5. Implementing project-based learning

Modern careers require creativity, critical thinking, interpersonal skills, writing ability, presentation skills and negotiation. Crafting and presenting a reasoned argument, asking the right questions and seeking out the answers – these are skills that must be taught in combination with any sort of technical education.

One way to integrate these real-world skills into the classroom is through project-based learning. By having students plan, design and execute their own projects, they learn to function as they will in our ever-evolving job market.

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