Last week, Jeb Bush and Randy Best published a Views column titled Higher Ed in 2018. In this piece they made the case for "transformational" change in higher ed, arguing that the next 5 years will see a fundamental shift from a "provider-driven" model to a "consumer-driven" one.
Is higher ed a community of "providers"?
I've never thought of us in this language, reserving "providers" to the medical world.
Bush and Best argue that the days of a system designed around the needs of us providers is nearing its expiration date. Metrics of success, such as class size or alumni giving, will recede in favor of new measures such as enrollment growth, completion rates, graduate employability and job performance.
This will be a shift from measuring the quality of a higher education institution by our inputs to judging success by our outputs.
It would be a slight understatement to observe that the tone of the reaction from our community to Bush's and Best's Views piece was not universally positive.
To pull out some choice quotes from the 52 comments the piece has so far received:
Sherman Dorn wrote:
"The only relevant sentence from this ad-as-op-ed: "Companies like ours — Academic Partnerships — are helping universities respond to this transformative moment in higher education." Nice job of inserting an ad in IHE without paying for it, guys!"
Steve Foerster added:
"The short version: A set of lofty and not entirely realistic predictions designed to scare people into thinking that change is happening faster than it really is so that they'll want to take on this company as a consultant. In other words, it's an ad."
Tina Trent opined that:
"Shill from the shillers. Inside Higher Ed has a serious lack of standards, publishing this"
May Dove commented that:
"This is seriously unworthy of Inside Higher Ed."
And John seemed to sum of much (if not all the sentiment) of our IHE community, sharing his view:
"I can't believe IHE published this."
I too have some major disagreements with Bush and Best's piece. What seems absent from their writing is an acknowledgement of the role of public policy in determining our societies level of investment in post-secondary education, and the troubling and ultimately self-destructive trends towards disinvestment in our public systems of higher education.
Despite this critique, I was very happy to see IHE publish the piece.
Bush and Best made a set of well-reasoned arguments and predictions about the future of higher ed. They backed up their assertions with (some) evidence. The (single) mention of their company, Academic Partnerships, provided the reader context for how the authors view the situation, and was appropriate for the the line of reasoning followed in the column.
We may agree or disagree with Bush and Best's diagnosis of the challenges facing higher ed, as well as their proposed solutions, but it would be hard to claim that their opinions are not worthy of debate and discussion.
There is a distinct lack of opportunities for educators in the non-profit world to engage at the level of ideas with leadership in the for-profit education sector.
IHE provide a platform for the open, public, and hopefully civil discussion of our competing views of the future of higher education.
In the case of Higher Ed in 2018 both the column and the subsequent comments made me think about where we are going in 5 years. The comments added value to Bush and Best's piece both in their critiques and their additions.
We should commend the writers of Higher Ed in 2018 for their willingness to make strong statements and predictions, for their willingness to put some stakes in the ground. And we should be equally grateful for our Inside Higher Ed community for being willing to engage in a discussion about the merits of the article, as well as our (alternative) vision for higher ed in 2018.
Do you think our community's reaction to Higher Ed in 2018 will encourage or discourage more writing of this kind from the leaders of for-profit education?
What do you see as the ground rules and pros and cons for bringing the for-profit sector into our IHE community?