The article points out that universities still have a valuable role to play in society in conducting basic research, to "serve as conservators and promulgators of our cultural memories", and to allow mentoring for the rising generation. While I personally object to the term mentor, given that the actual role of Mentor was to put the brakes on Telemachus, all these are valuable roles that the university plays in society. However they caution about many of the same issues I am so passionate about in this blog- the increasing social injustice that comes with the cost of higher education. But beyond bitching about the problem, they have made some very reasonable suggestions to address it.
The most important, I believe defining, point of the article is that these issues have to be addressed inside the academy. This is absolutely true! The pressures on higher education are external, but these pressures are being felt across all aspects of society and, as the title of this blog alludes to, we are very short short of money so we must begin to think our way out of the mess we find ourselves in. The article makes several reasonable suggestions that outline a path forwards:
- Intelligently combine distance or asynchronous learning opportunities engendered by technology with face-to-face interaction and mentoring.
- Focus on each institutions strengths and be willing to cut programs and classes that don't contribute to that strength including low-enrollment graduate classes.
- Focus on enabling students to graduate in four years.
These are all great ideas, but I don't think the authors go far enough. It is not enough for a university to simply cut back to self-identified strengths. It also needs to partner with other schools (that don't have the luxury of multi-billion dollar endowments like Harvard) to offer a complete range of services. Think of this if you will like a "cloud" model of higher education. One of the images I present when I give talks is shown below: