Traditional Higher Education Isn’t Dead Yet and Here’s Why
An intense debate continues to rage in Washington about a certain policy fashioned to put pressure on colleges and universities in America to change their mode of operation.
Among these policies, some address college fees and others open windows of opportunities for attractive subsidies for unaccredited and non-traditional programs. Perhaps inspired by talks in Silicon Valley about faster and cheaper alternatives to college, a lot of these arguments are centred around the general assumption that higher education infrastructure in America is quite weak—giving room for disruption.
However, assuming that traditional colleges are no longer functional is quite untrue. Despite a decade of playing catch up to innovators in modern education, traditional colleges are beginning to turn the table to ‘disrupt the disruptors.’
“Critics fail to consider that higher education, for all its sins, has a record of reinvention as the labour market evolves. Many of today’s top institutions first launched as 19th Century upstarts to challenge the Ivy League and early elite colleges of the East Coast,” said Paul Freedman, CEO and Co-Founder of Entangled Group in a report.
“Four generations ago, higher education retooled once again for the needs of postwar America through the G.I. Bill., putting a college degree and a middle-class life within reach for millions.”
Therefore, while colleges are seeming quite sluggish in react to the ever-changing technological or economic trends, it may be too soon to begin creating entirely new structures.
Online education is now thriving among private, public and non-profit institutions where an ever-growing population of diverse students are in need of more flexibility. With about one-third of students now enrolled in at least one online course—and two-thirds of those students enrolling in public institutions.
Recently, colleges have begun adapting to these new changes, which reflects in the success of short-term intensive programs such as coding bootcamps, web development and graphic design. With data science reviving a lot of public interest—as you can now earn an online masters degree in data science—bootcamps are slowly becoming outdated.
“Once heralded as a replacement for the computer science degree, the rise of the bootcamp may now be foreshortened by competition from traditional universities that are beginning to assimilate coding and data science programs in ways that align the durability of the degree with the sometimes-ephemeral demands of our modern labour market,” said Freedman.
Fusing these two perspectives together results in an experience that attracts the type of relevant skills employers are searching for into the academic environment—all these without sacrificing the benefits attached to the reputationsand the accreditationof being associated with renowned institutions.
Furthermore, traditional colleges are utilizing modern technologies to capture and give lectures and various learning materials to students online—many of whom are tasked with balancing their family, social life, professional career and education. For example, the City University of New York has been offering combined courses for about two decades now. These courses combine the power of online learning with thepersonal feel of on-campus education, ensuring that traditional institutions still remainrelevant among students today.
Despite the assumptions made by Silicon Valley about the non-progressive nature of traditional education, they are quite notably effective at adapting to changes in the educational sector. In fact, of all the eighty-five institutions established in the Western world by 1520 that still exist today, about seventy are universities.
Irrespective of the competitive and challenging market, leaders of colleges are still very much able to identify educational trends that can aid their students to achieve the most success, by learning from their disruptors.