The Future of Higher Education

Jeffrey Sellingo

Reviewed in this article:
College Unbound:
The Future of Higher Education, and What It Means for Students
, by Jeffrey Selingo
New Harvest, 2013. Hardcover, 256 pages

With the cost of college rising rapidly, many parents and young people are beginning to ask whether a traditional college education is worth the price. With online alternatives to traditional college developing at a rapid pace and massive open online courses (MOOCs) available, students are learning without ever setting foot in a lecture hall. Could MOOCs be the future of higher education?

Jeffrey Selingo is a respected author, columnist and speaker on the topic of higher education in the United States. He is also a professor of practice at Arizona State University. In “College Unbound,” (2013) Selingo draws on his years of experience to come up with a comprehensive and unflinching criticism of the American higher education system.

Early in the book on page 21, Selingo critiques the college education system. “The classroom has become one giant game of favor exchanges between students, professors, and administrators.” Selingo goes on to describe how higher education is in crisis, explaining that the rising cost of tuition and grade inflation cause people to question the value of a college degree.

A college education is not the ticket to a professional job that it once was, argues Selingo. In fact, too many colleges are churning out students who don’t have the skills to succeed in today’s competitive job market.

However, “College Unbound” isn’t all doom and gloom. As the book progresses, Selingo explains how technological solutions could revolutionize the higher education system, giving students more control over their education and cutting costs for both learners and educators. A number of online platforms already offer free courses for students looking to learn new skills. For example, Khan Academy teaches everything from math to history, with content broken up into easily digestible modules.

Selingo isn’t the first author to write about how MOOCs might transform education in America. Clayton Christensen, a professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School, is also a prominent author on this topic. He has advocated for the benefits of blended learning -- combining supervised study at a brick-and-mortar institute with online learning materials.

Although Selingo doesn’t present as clear a picture as Christensen regarding the direction that blended learning should take, he does cite several detailed examples about how schools are incorporating technological innovation into their core programs. Selingo welcomes this trend, using the examples as evidence to support his vision for the future of American education.

In the final section of “College Unbound,” Selingo describes how higher education could evolve. Rather than committing to a four-year program of study at a single college, students of the future could build up credits by taking courses at a variety of institutions, including online learning platforms and residential colleges.

The only thing missing from “College Unbound” is an in-depth exploration of how changes in higher education will affect educational institutions. “College Unbound” focuses on how students will benefit from the shift, without examining what it might mean for faculty members and other staff. However, if you are a student, parent of a young person, or just someone who is concerned about the future of higher education, read this book.

Written by Ashford University staff

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