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Unbundling Higher Education, A Doubly Updated Framework

People buy Knowledge Acquisition, Access to Opportunities, Cognitive and Employable Skills, and a Personal Transformation when they buy a degree.

This is what people buy when they’re buying a degree.

Over the past year, I’ve had to update my framework as I realize that the language I use just doesn’t click with the audience.  In particular, I kept describing the service from the service provider’s point of view, rather than they value proposition from the customer’s (student’s) point of view.  So, here’s how I’ve changed a few value propositions.

“The Content Loop” is now “Knowledge Acquisition.”  In the end, people are buying knowledge and the process of acquiring knowledge.  They are not buying the Content Loop.  The Content Loop is what content providers create to ensure they acquire the knowledge they need.  Within that quadrant, I’ve chosen to change Content Authoring to Expert Information.  Again, authoring content is what the service provider does; expert information is what people pay for.

Within Access to Opportunities, I’ve changed “Signals of Achievement Velocity” to “Signals of Aptitude.”  Largely because these are the same thing, people just get Aptitude because of the SAT.  Achievement Velocity, I think, communicates a long run bet on the economic productivity of the student.  That being said, people had to think a minute to understand what I was saying when I said achievement velocity.   When I say aptitude, they get it immediately.

“Metacontent and Skills” is now “Cognitive and Employable Skills.”  Metacontent aslo doesn’t click with people.  It means the subliminal things that are taught, largely by the instructor being an example: how to do a math problem, how to give a presentation, how to respond to complex and tough questions.  Often when you interview alumni 10 years out they remember their instructors because of the metacontent, and they don’t remember the content at all.  However, “metacontent” isn’t really a word.  When I’ve used the phrase “cognitive skills” it seems to resonate.  The education establishment seems to use “cognitive skills” to describe learnings that are picked up earlier in life: Grammar, grit, problem solving – things that get deeply embedded in the brain and character of individuals.  This being said, young adults pick up a lot of behavioral models and life-skills that help them work for economic organizations while they’re in college – and none of them are taught directly.

Within “Personal Transformation,” I’ve changed “A Personal Platform” into “A Secured Life Transition.”  What I always meant was that people need an intermediate step in between where they are now and where they want to be.  A Personal Platform makes sense, but it’s confusing to most people.  A Secured Life Transition has worked better in presentations, that’s for sure.

Sorry for the confusion.  Thanks for bearing with me.  In the end, you always have to test ideas, products and services with the market.  If the market doesn’t get what you’re saying, you have to adapt.

 

 

 

 

In Defense of the Sabbatical

I’ve heard a few stories in the wake of all the budget shortfalls questioning the economic productivity of the sabbatical.

While I agree with that question at colleges focused on teaching and the liberal arts, for those research universities and high caliber programs who attract the brightest scientists and technologists in their field, Sabbatical is an important generator of economic growth by spurring innovation.

There’s plenty of evidence that a really good way to create transformative technology which creates rapid economic growth is to give really smart people lots of free time.  You can look to the ministry of the English church in the 18th century, R&D teams sponsored by companies like Bell Labs, Xerox PARC, etc.

I’ll liken it to what Barak Obama said in the State of the Union: What you don’t want to do in an airplane to gain altitude is to remove your engines to eliminate extra weight.

This is cross-posted on my company blog about Facebook and Higher Ed.

How Would I Spend $100 Million to Save Education?

I have three different paths I would pursue: one to increase the distribution of new technology to institutions, one to open up data to enable great services, and one to subsidize investment into web services that improve teacher collaboration and best-practice sharing.  Given my experience as as a secondary teacher and as CEO of Inigral, this would be my contribution to the dialog.

1. Technology can’t successfully enter a market dominated by institutions that have trouble evaluating, deciding and purchasing.  To address this, I would first create a well-branded call for early adopter institutions to participate in a special league of institutions who try out new technologies.  This would also lead to organizing and plotting institutions in Higher Education and K12 onto a technology adoption curve, so that new companies and technologies know which customers to partner with while they are still early.

2.  A second major problem is the stranglehold on data and information that could be used by web services to provide great technology.  My personal pain has always been with plugging in to courses and schedules, which are nowhere with that can be read and process by computers.  I suggest that institutions receiving state funding or accreditation participate in the Open Data movement (tastefully, while still respecting privacy), and the laws around privacy be revised to provide consistency with Open Data.

3.  Good best-practices and supporting materials to are not getting to teachers and practitioners in ways that are easy to use and adopt.  One way to address this would not require innovation at all, just a real focus on selecting “Master Teachers” and giving them the time to coach and train upcoming teachers.  Beyond that, I would incentivize investment from private investors in web applications that support best-practice sharing and peer-evaluation and feedback.

More Detailed Explanations for the Interested:

1. High profile Foundations should make an official call for Visionary and Early Adopter institutions modeled on Race to The Top, with new technology grants to the strongest applicants.  In order to qualify, these institutions would need to set up a fast track way to make decisions about technology adoption in order to have the privilege of being part of this community.  Institutions that sign up for the Visionary program would make themselves available to entrepreneurs who are literally nothing more than an idea and talented people in a garage. They would work with these entrepreneurs to come up with a Minimum Viable Product and get to a working prototype.  These institutions would not pay anything or would pay a very small amount.  Early Adopter institutions would be willing to pay for products after a working prototype has been iterated upon until it successfully solves problems and gets used.  They must be willing to pay more for a competitive advantage and to have early access to any efficiencies or solutions provided by the innovative product or service.

2. I suggest a national repository as part of the Open Data movement, and require or incentivize schools, post-secondary and K12, submit their planned course offerings to a central repository that can be read by computers (i.e. in XML).  I personally would also create levels of access with secure keys to access more specific data about teachers and enrollments.  Companies could then gain various levels of access, monitored and permitted by institutions themselves.  There are all sorts of online tools, gradebooks, communication tools, etc, and one of their major barriers to entry is that teachers aren’t spending the time to set them up effectively, virtually locking in old vendors who aren’t innovating and preventing new products from getting utilized.

3. I used to teach K12, and its amazing what an isolating experience walls are.  It’s also outlandish how poor teacher training is, even the best teacher training.  It’s presented as all art and strategy, even though good teaching is entirely proven tactics that need to be practiced to the point of perfection.  Nearly half of teachers spend two years getting their bearings and then quit.  It has little to do with salary, and mostly to do with a lack of support, a lack of respect, and a lack of recognition.  Many of these related problems can be addressed through the internet.  These kinds of services need “patient capital.”  Bootstrapping a company requires instant revenue streams, of which there are few in education.  Venture Capital is looking for billion dollar exits within seven years of their investment.  As a result, there are a lot of people that would do something in this space, but just can’t get off the ground

I’ve heard a couple of great ideas in this regard, and I know some of them are being worked on by various folks. For instance:

A.  A K12 teacher-driven web platform that shares best-practices, model teaching, and tactical advice as well as resources.  I’ve seen a million lesson sharing sites, and BetterLesson stands out as a quality product, HotChalk stands out in terms of quantity and breadth, my understanding is TFA has a start on this internally, but they don’t share and they need better product design.  But lessons themselves don’t really do anything.  They’re not chunked enough, they’re not contextualized enough, and a lot of the time its not the lesson itself that makes good teaching, it’s the good teaching around the lesson that new teachers need.

B.  A Yelp-like review system for education vendors.  You’d be amazed the absolutely terrible, unworkable products that get into our schools.  Why?  There’s a budget, and the sales process masks all the terribleness, the buyers are almost never the users.  Technology companies in higher education tend to over-invest in sales (because selling is so difficult) and under-invest in product development.  I’ve heard of scenarios where highly paid sales teams outnumber software engineers 6 to 1.

C.  A $100 dollar stipend for each teacher that they must spend on web applications.  This way, the user is the buyer.

Strategies for Adoption in Higher Education

This is one of my responses to the call by the Gates Foundation for Next Generation Learning.  The question was “WHICH INTERACTIVE TECHNOLOGIES HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO BE MOST WIDELY ADOPTED AND WHY?”

To answer the question specifically: technologies that show the potential to be most widely adopted will have a combination of network effects, a sticky user experience, and a low-resistance path-to-market that focuses on users and circumvents institutional decision making.
Student-centered web services like Chegg, CourseHero, Cramster, Notehall, Zinch, Unigo, GulliverGo, ULoop, and others have the chance to get the widest distribution.
We can also assume that any innovative product will have highly social elements that tap into network effects.
Monetization does not necessarily follow distribution, (though Chegg is killing it).  The easiest way to monetize is to sell a product to the user or get in the lead gen game (like myedu.com did), but it’s also the easiest way to lose focus on bringing innovation to education.  In order to fully monetize the user base the service will need to offer products to the institution, using the extensive student distribution as a lever.  Zinch has this model, though it also plays the lead gen game.  The most high-profile company to pull this path-to-market off in the commercial world is Yammer.
When it comes to the thesis of Next Generation Learning, NextGen seems to skip the fact that consumer-focused products with sticky and simple user experiences will win big and be able to translate that into a new learning platform.  In particular, Watermelon Express has executed well on their product development. Grockit is also making a bold play with a similar test-prep like point of entry, but with a clear platform for a “DIY” Adaptive Learning Environment with gaming mechanics.
When it comes to course management products, either a disruptive model will have to back it’s way in or the new new thing will have to have an open-source distribution model with a value-added services business supporting it.  There’s simply not a real economy around EduPunks for the forseeable future, institutional adoption processes are slow and painful enough to kill any start up, and Blackboard is out to push out or scoop up anybody that gets traction.  In particular, I have hopes that someone will hone in on an opportunity around real-time classroom participation through the form of backchannelling here.  Drew Harry at MIT has open sourced his backchan.nl.  HotSeat came out of Purdue but I’m not sure how they plan to spin it off.  The good part about education is that there are lots of people willing to collaborate all across the world.

To answer the question specifically: technologies that show the potential to be most widely adopted will have a combination of network effects, a sticky user experience, and a low-resistance path-to-market that focuses on users and circumvents institutional decision making.

Student-centered web services like Chegg, CourseHero, Cramster, Notehall, Zinch, Unigo, GulliverGo, ULoop, and others have the chance to get the widest distribution.

We can also assume that any innovative product will have highly social elements that tap into network effects.

Monetization does not necessarily follow distribution, (though Chegg is killing it).  The easiest way to monetize is to sell a product to the user or get in the lead gen game (like myedu.com did), but it’s also the easiest way to lose focus on bringing innovation to education.  In order to fully monetize the user base the service will need to offer products to the institution, using the extensive student distribution as a lever.  Zinch has this model, though it also plays the lead gen game.  The most high-profile company to pull this path-to-market off in the commercial world is Yammer.

When it comes to the thesis of Next Generation Learning, NextGen seems to skip the fact that consumer-focused products with sticky and simple user experiences will win big and be able to translate that into a new learning platform.  In particular, Watermelon Express has executed well on their product development. Grockit is also making a bold play with a similar test-prep like point of entry, but with a clear platform for a “DIY” Adaptive Learning Environment with gaming mechanics.

When it comes to course management products, either a disruptive model will have to back it’s way in or the new new thing will have to have an open-source distribution model with a value-added services business supporting it.  There’s simply not a real economy around EduPunks for the forseeable future, institutional adoption processes are slow and painful enough to kill any start up, and Blackboard is out to push out or scoop up anybody that gets traction.  In particular, I have hopes that someone will hone in on an opportunity around real-time classroom participation through the form of backchannelling here.  Drew Harry at MIT has open sourced his backchan.nl.  HotSeat came out of Purdue but I’m not sure how they plan to spin it off.  The good part about education is that there are lots of people willing to collaborate all across the world.

Facebook for Incoming Classes: While Admissions’ Back was Turned.

Brad J. Ward recently discovered that marketers from a company interested in reaching incoming freshman was out disingenuously making hundreds of X University Class of 2013 groups on Facebook. The perspectives from both Ward and his commenters are worthy of some deep consideration.

While backs were turned snubbing social media and Facebook, people with interests were proactive and hosted conversations they wanted to be visible in and a part of.  This should not be surprising; it is natural.  There are instances all across the web where marketers who have the interest and the budget “host” conversations, groups, and networks.  Some seem authentic, some seem like posers.

Here’s my thing: would Nike get accosted for creating “Atlanta Runners and Athletes” with a map of Atlanta?  I know I know, you’re going to say its not the same thing.  And, it’s not.  The city of Atlanta isn’t actively trying to manage its brand and doesn’t have a trademark on its aerial image.  However, it is the same in the sense that this is a reasonable thing for Nike to do because Nike wants to be there when people in Atlanta coordinate athletic activities.

CollegeProwler shouldn’t have to apologize for creating groups. (Universities could send them a cease and desist for hijacking the branding, which was in poor taste.)   Now that admissions offices want into those groups, I bet if they asked CollegeProwler to kindly turn over administrative rights in exchange for a link to the CollegeProwler site in the group posts, CollegeProwler would be more than happy to hand them over.

Facebook is a free for all, and no group is the “official” group of anything just as @student points out. You could, right now, go and create a group called “The OFFICIAL Brittany Spears Fan Club.”  Then, you could dramatically portray Ms. Spears all wrong.  Her fans would in no way be duped by this; they just go wherever there’s claim to support her and they will ultimately gravitate to the best community and the most authentic communication channel.

So, admissions offices could be like the record industry – they could make a lot of enemies by waging war on all of the people taking advantage of their own slowness.  Or they could do what would work: go host the best community and create the most authentic communication channel about their college or university.  The could try it through an off-facebook community that will just add another barrier to particpation.   Or, they could figure out how to tame the beast.  Talk about your strategies here in this Facebook group.

I, of course, hope they do it by watching our intros on Facebook for Universities and Colleges and ultimately choosing to use Schools on Facebook.  After all, though I think I am authentic. a secondary motive for this discussion is that Inigral, Inc is present in these types of conversations.

Notes on ACT: What Works in Student Retention? All Surveyed Colleges

ACT: What Works in Student Retention?

These notes were put together by Jill Chiang, Berkeley.

  • In an all college survey, only about half the colleges were able to identify an individual responsible for coordinating retention strategies (51.7%) and have established an improvement goal for retention of students from the first to second year (47.2%). Only 33.1% have established a goal for improved degree completion.
    • Those specifically responsible for retention (had the term retention, the term enrollment, or the terms student affairs, student services, student development or student success included in the title made up 21.5%, 15.8%, and 19.8% respectively)
    • The most, 29.1% included the terms Director, Coordinator, or Executive Director included in the title.
  • Institutions are more likely to attribute attrition to students characteristics than they are to attribute attrition to institutional characteristics.
    • Institutional characteristics (only 2 factors reported back): amount of financial aid available and student-institution fit
    • Student characteristics (13 factors reported back):including lack of motivation to succeed, inadequate financial resources, inadequate preparation for college, and poor study skills
  • Retention practices responsible for the greatest contribution to retention:
    • First year programs – freshman seminar/university 101 for credit, learning communities, integration of academic advising with first year programs
      • Freshman seminar/university 101 for credit: Only offered by 13.1%
    • Academic advising – advising interventions with select students, more advising staff, integration of advising with first year transition programs, academic advising centers, and centers that have both academic advising with career and life planning
      • Advising intervention with select students: 12.6%
    • Learning support: a comprehensive learning assistance center/lab, reading center/lab, supplemental instruction, required remedial/development coursework
      • Tutoring program: 13.1%
      • Mandated course placement testing program: 10.7%
      • Comprehensive learning assistance center/lab: 10.4%
    • The remaining practices were cited by less than 10% of all colleges
  • The top institutional factors making the greatest contribution to attrition (on a scale of 1 to 5) ranked highest among Financial Aid, Student-Institution Fit, Student Involvement, Social Environment, and Curriculum (least included Personal Counseling Services, Admission Practices/Requirements, Quality of Teaching)
  • Student Characteristics making the greatest contribution to student attrition ranked highest in: Lack of Motivation to Succeed (Lack of Educational inspirations and goals), Inadequate Financial Resources, Inadequate Preparation For College-Level Work, and Poor Study Skills. Health Problems and Poor Social Integration were among the lowest.
  • Most college integration services were : tutoring programs, academic clubs, instructional use of technology, individual career counseling service, orientation services
    • Least were Freshmen Seminar/University 101, Study Groups, Social Skills Course/Program, Community Member Mentoring
  • The top program with the Greatest Impact on Retention happened to be the least offered college integration services – Freshman Seminar/University 101
  • Recommendations from the ACT:
  1. Designate a visible individual to coordinate a campus-wide planning team
  2. Conduct a systematic analysis of the characteristics of your students
    1. Who are our students?
    2. What differentiates students who stay from students who leave?
    3. Look at demographics, academic performance, academic plans, non-academic variables, self-reported needs, student opinions and attitudes
  3. Focus on the nexus of student characteristics and institutional characteristics
  4. Carefully review high-impact strategies identified through the survey (first year programs, academic advising, learning support)
  5. Do not make first to second year retention strategies the sole focus of planning team efforts
  6. Establish realistic short-term and long-term retention, progression, and completion goals
  7. Orchestrate the Change Progress
    1. Composition of the planning team
    2. Frequent reports to and input from the entire campus community
    3. Provide proof of concept in support of planning team recommendations
  8. Implement, Measure, Improve

Academic Advising and Student Retention, Summary of two papers by Joe Cuseo

Recently the problem of student attrition has been presented to me as something our Facebook solution might impact.  So, I’ve been digging.  By far the best read on this are written by Joseph Cuseo, a professor of Psychology at Marymount College.  I’m going to highlight some of his points about retention and brick-and-mortar solutions.

First, it’s a big problem.  25% attrition at four year universities, 50% at two year universities.  At some schools, each lost student is tens of thousands of dollars of revenue.

Retention is more cost effective to address than recruitment, it can can cost as little as 1/5 the cost of recruiting a new student.  If a school is trying to improve its bottom line, it’s easier to focus on retention.

Advising programs that structure, recruit, train and incentivize outstanding advisors have greater success rates than those that are simply voluntary.

Good advising improves retention by 25% over  “poor advising” and 40% over no advising.

Contact with faculty outside the classroom is the single biggest determinant of student satisfaction with their institution.

Here are some recommendations by Joe:

  • Provide strong incentives and rewards for advisors to engage in high-quality advisin
  • Strengthen advisor orientation, training, and development, and deliver them as essential components of the institution’s faculty/staff development program.
  • Faculty are probably least prepared when it comes to academic advising; this can be solved by professional development programs before they enter the programs
  • Assess and evaluate the quality of academic advisement.
    Maintain advisee-to-advisor ratios that are small enough to enable delivery of personalized advising
  • Provide strong incentives for students to meet regularly with their advisors
  • Identify highly effective advisors and “front load” them—i.e., position them at the front (start) of the college experience to work with first-year students, particularly first-year students who may be “at risk” for attrition.
  • Include advising effectiveness as one criterion for recruiting and selecting new faculty.

Inspirations:

Cuseo, Joseph.  Fiscal Benefits of Student Retention and First-Year Retention Initiatives

Cuseo, Joseph.  Academic Advisement and Student Retention: Empirical Connections & System Interventions

FERPA, Facebook and The Social Web

As some of you know, I’ve been posting at Michael Feldstein’s blog about our limited beta release this Fall.  The overwhelming sentiment is “This is exciting, but what about FERPA!”

The immediate reaction to the thought of activating a campus-wide Facebook application can make any decision-maker nervous.  Information is shared all over Facebook, and a campus’ interest to keep student data private and secure is not only an obligation but is also upheld by the law.

First, a basic understanding of Facebook Platform is necessary.  Facebook presents applications through a frame and never has the opportunity to cache nor store any data presented within an application.  As of the new redesign pushed by Facebook in July 2008, users have direct control over the “stories” that are generated by applications.  Users also have control of what Facebook users can see what kinds of data, and can even directly block individual users that may find a nuisance.

We store our data with an infrastructure company on the cutting edge of data storage and security.  We can, if requested, create a local installation on a local server behind campus security systems.  However, we’d like our customers to note that innovative hosting companies have extensive expertise regarding large scale, secure hosting with nearly 100% up-time.  Having that kind of performance locally is nearly impossible.

At Inigral, we’ve worked with our pilot school and our lawyers to assure that all features of our application are FERPA compliant and uphold the strongest standards of security and privacy.  I don’t want to go into the exact feature set that makes it such a comfortable thing for institutional adoption, but it is proof that venturing into the wide world of the Social Web is highly possible with a little care.

However, the institution is not completely hands-off in this regard.  At most campuses, the administration will have already asked the student to sign an agreement to share data with third parties acting in concert with the mission of the institution.  With near certainty, we will be covered under such agreement.  If the institution does not have such broad language in place but has policies that treat enrollment data as “directory information,” we will be covered so long as students are notified and allowed to “opt-out.”  If enrollment data is not treated as “directory information,” the students should be asked for their consent by an “opt-in” email.

FERPA is in place to make sure that institutions are careful with and respectful of a students right to privacy, but it was not intended to hold back education in the 1990s before there were things like APIs and the Social Web.  No school has ever lost Federal funds because of FERPA, which is the only punishment that can occur for being in violation (besides being tied up in a lawsuit).  Privacy, Security, and personal Control over information is more than a valid concern, but lets not let it be a brick wall of anxiety in the face of the march towards user-friendly, interoperable, and multitudious educational solutions!

Schools Should Embrace Facebook and Social Networking, Regardless of Impact on Instruction

Why should a school embrace Facebook and other social networks?  In addition to it being a completely futile battle against the tides, students get a lot out of it. That’s right administrators and professors – its not about you.

The seemingly meaningless interactions like pokes, wall posts and picture comments are not a waste of time, Sam Gosling, a psychologist from the University of Texas, pointed out at his talk at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco.  Gosling stated that such interactions help to solidify real, existing relationships.

Nicole Ellison, a professor of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media at Michigan State University, recently spoke at Facebook, invited by my friend and our advisor to Courses and Schools, Jeff Hammerbacher.  Her relevant work centers around social networking as a means of students developing social capital.  For those who ever went to a reputable school (especially, say, business school), a good portion of the utility of education is the social capital amassed during the program.

Ellison found in her research that there is a significant (and large) correlation with facebook use and bridging (community), bonding (close friends), and maintaining (previous communities) social capital.  Particularly notable for administrators and staff that work with students was that students with lower self esteem and lower satisfaction with life make more gains in bridging social capital, or making connections to their university community.

I can explain all this, theoretically, from my learning in BJ Fogg‘s Psychology of Facebook course at Stanford.  There is a concept in social psychology called “interpersonal attraction,” a descriptor of the magnetism between two people.  People with strong interpersonal attraction would want to talk with one another, sit with one another, and develop trust between each other.  Interpersonal attraction is strongly predicted by proximity, familiarity, and similarity.  Facebook overcomes proximity, promotes familiarity, and allows students to find similarities.  Therefore, people actively using Facebook have a large amount of interpersonal attraction with a larger number of people.

Schools should embrace Facebook because there students are building and maintaining relationships through the medium, and a large value add of the school setting are the relationships that are created and maintained.

Schools will probably eventually find that their alumni that use social networking tools feel more connected to the community are better contributors and participants, and prospects with more ties to current students and alumni through social networking tools will be more likely to matriculate.

Professors like George Bogaski, Mid America, and John Curry, Oklahoma, generally articlute that using Facebook to augment instruction results in more positive feelings toward the class, more bonds between classmates, easier contact with students, and even anecdotal higher performance.  This is without even using CMS applications like Courses.

As someone who is trying to merge social networking and instruction (I am currently out of the classroom working on Courses and Schools on Facebook), I believe that the merger of the two can and should happen.  But until the perfect tool comes along, administrators and staff should embrace Facebook and social networking for what it is – a medium where people are developing and maintaining relationships.  And remember: it’s not about what YOU get out of it, it’s about what they get out of it.

The Hyperinflation of College and its Unintended Outcomes

 Politicians these days like to talk of sending EVERY child to COLLEGE.  While inspiring, it makes me think they are missing the reasons behind failing schools and our education systems’ inability to prepare EVERY child for a hopeful future.  It also leads me to think about the unintended outcomes, which usually come to haunt all well meaning but poorly thought out, simplistic political initiatives.

The net effect of trying to send everyone through a four-year well-rounded degree program will be threefold:

1) the college degree will increasingly lose its value as a method of distinguishing the probable capability level of knowledge workers, thus employers will look to other criteria such as experience, graduate studies, domain expertise, and whether or not the degree is from an institution they perceive as ranked highly and exclusive;

2) the number of colleges will proliferate in the face of inelastic demand, thus driving up costs as they compete with each other by increasing marketing and admissions coddling expenditures (not just brochures but shiny new infrastructure) and building non-core programs to capitalize on the inability of prospective students to distinguish the strength of their intended programs;

3) those unfortunate souls who are not college track or those who did not go to college will likely have a negative self-image that not only will reduce the quality of life but also prevent many of them from self-educating, self-motivating, and seeking opportunities they may desire, thus debasing both the American Dream and a core driver of our economy – determined and motivated go-getters from all walks of life.

I have no data, but I would venture to say that these trends are well into already happening.  For instance:

1) The hiring practices of top firms now centers exclusively on a red carpet from top ten universities while worker training programs have more or less been externalized in much of the knowledge economy – making for “talent wars” over the same set of people rather than expanding the pool of those that have the needed skill set.

2) Look to any lesser-known college or university and they are likely spending frustrating sums on not only recruitment efforts per matriculated student but also on increasing the sets of possible studies and investing in all things shiny, new, and trendy, including rebranding with some sort of “global make a difference” theme.  Charles Miller, who headed the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, recently refuted the idea that college provides a return on investment of $1,000,000:
“[P]roperly using the present value of the lifetime earnings, adjusted for the cost of going to college and the difference in the number of working years, and excluding those graduates with advanced degrees, calculated at the three percent discount rate used in the report produces a lifetime earnings differential of only $279,893 for a bachelor’s degree versus a high school degree!”

3) Pockets of sub-cultures in urban and rural areas are dependent on government assistance and conditions there are deteriorating.  While attendance in college is going up, high school graduation rates are falling as those unsuccessful at pre-college track curriculum wave a white flag and drop out.
All of these effects are in no way exclusively caused by the push to send everyone to college, but certainly a relationship can be drawn.  It should be evident that no solution is exclusively rhetorical or involves some sort of “political will” of the people.

And, it should be made clear that addressing even the most politically savvy mom and apple pie issues can have serious unintended consequences.  Perhaps politicians and even the non-profit world should rethink the implications of even trying to send EVERY child to COLLEGE and start thinking about providing a diverse set of opportunities with the goal to prepare them to contribute to our economy, find value in their life through their work, and have a secure livelihood.