In this new century, three forces – declining funding, rising expectations and rapidly developing technology – will profoundly challenge public higher education. Are we in higher education ready?
Technology – the Internet, search capacities like Google, and our ability to find, aggregate, and use information in new, networked, more powerful ways – represents a profound challenge to the university as we know it.
We are now moving towards an age where information is created, aggregated and disseminated in powerfully different ways. The model of the university as a collection of experts, the model of teaching that requires expert knowledge, the model of an institution that requires the physical presence of human beings…all of these are being called into question in the Information Age.
We currently lose a substantial number of students who enroll in our four-year institutions. Many academics would simply suggest that students who drop out are unprepared for the academic demands of college. That kind of thinking pervades the academy, found equally in classrooms as well as the institution as a whole. Students who fail, in the view of too many, are simply not prepared, not qualified and subtly, not worthy. It is the old idea of college as a sorting machine. Yet I believe that far too often, it is the institution, not the student, who is failing. As long as our institutions are structured the way they are, we will likely continue to lose large numbers of students.