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Event Summary

Students are not the only ones suffering from crippling debt in the wake of the 2007–08 recession. US colleges and universities have “nearly doubled the amount of debt they’ve taken in the last decade,” stressed Jeffrey Selingo of the Chronicle of Higher Education at an AEI event on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, said Selingo, in a recent public opinion survey, just 57 percent of Americans polled thought that a college degree is a good investment. A panel of education experts joined Selingo, author of “College (Un)bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means For Students” (New Harvest, May 2013), to discuss what this means for the future of higher education.

According to Selingo, while there is no one solution to “fixing” higher education, hybrid models, which blend online learning and discussion with face-to-face class time, and competency-based models, which focus on student learning rather than credit hours, allow for more affordable, flexible, and personalized access for both traditional and nontraditional students.

Siva Vaidhyanathan of the University of Virginia, however, questioned whether these innovations could solve higher education’s complex political and cultural problems. There is no quick technological fix, he said, to these deep, systematic, 40-year-old problems.  Furthermore, Vaidhyanathan questioned whether a bachelor’s degree is right for everyone — especially for all 18-year-olds.

Ann Kirschner posed this pressing question:  if we are doing so great, how come it hurts so bad? There has been tremendous innovation, but, as Kirschner stressed, the overwhelming majority of students are not experiencing the institutional innovation that would allow them to thrive.
–Lauren Aronson

Event Description

Technological advances and growing human-capital needs have put higher education innovation at the forefront of the US reform agenda. As student loan debt surpasses the $1 trillion mark and unemployment of college graduates remains high, many observers believe that American higher education is undergoing a fundamental transformation. Will technological advances expand affordable access to college and provide new opportunities to improve student learning? What will these new developments mean for quality, equity, and university-based research?

In his new book “College (Un)bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students,” Jeffrey Selingo, editor-at-large of the Chronicle of Higher Education, argues that America’s higher education system is broken but technology can transform it for the better. While the impact remains to be seen, “College (Un)Bound” emphasizes that one thing is certain: the class of 2020 will have radically different college experiences than their parents had. Join veteran education observers and AEI’s Andrew Kelly for a provocative panel discussion on the future of higher education innovation.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


5:15 PM

5:30 PM
Jeffrey Selingo, Chronicle of Higher Education
Ann Kirschner, Macaulay Honors College, City University of New York
Siva Vaidhyanathan, University of Virginia

Andrew P. Kelly, AEI

6:45 PM
Wine and Cheese Reception

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Lauren Aronson at [email protected], 202.862.5904.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Andrew P. Kelly is a resident scholar in education policy studies at AEI. His research focuses on higher education policy, innovation, financial aid reform, and the politics of education policy. Previously, he was a research assistant at AEI, where his work focused on the preparation of school leaders, collective bargaining in public schools, and the politics of education. His research has appeared in the American Journal of Education, Teachers College Record, Educational Policy, Policy Studies Journal, and Education Next, as well as popular outlets such as Education Week, Inside Higher Education, Forbes, the Atlantic, National Affairs, The Weekly Standard, and the Huffington Post.  He is the coeditor of “Getting to Graduation: The Completion Agenda in Higher Education” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), “Carrots, Sticks, and the Bully Pulpit: Lessons from A Half-Century of Federal Efforts to Improve America’s Schools” (Harvard Education Press, 2011), and “Reinventing Higher Education: The Promise of Innovation” (Harvard Education Press, 2011). In 2011, Kelly was named one of 16 “Next Generation Leaders” in education policy by the Policy Notebook blog on Education Week.

Ann Kirschner
is the university dean of Macaulay Honors College at the City College of New York. Her career as an entrepreneur in media and technology included the creation of and NFL SUNDAY TICKET for the National Football League and FATHOM, Columbia University’s for-profit online learning venture in partnership with the London School of Economics, University of Chicago, and other leading institutions.  A frequent contributor to conferences and publications, Kirschner was named one of New York Magazine’s “Millennium New Yorkers.” She serves on the board of directors of the Apollo Group, Public Agenda, Jewish Women’s Archive, and the Princeton University Graduate Leadership Council.  Her first book, “Sala’s Gift” (Simon and Schuster, 2006), tells the story of her mother’s wartime rescue of letters from Nazi labor camps, and has been published in seven languages. Her new book, “Lady at the OK Corral: The True Story of Josephine Marcus Earp,” was recently published by HarperCollins.

Jeffrey Selingo, an author, reporter, columnist, and a leading authority on higher education, has spent his journalism career covering colleges and universities worldwide. His new book, “College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students” (New Harvest, May 2013) explores the college of the future: how families will pay, what campuses will look like, and how students will learn and prove their value in the job market. Selingo is editor at large of the Chronicle of Higher Education and a senior fellow at Education Sector, an independent education think tank in Washington, DC. He also blogs for the Huffington Post and LinkedIn Today. From 2007 until 2011, he was editor of the Chronicle, where he worked for 15 years in a variety of reporting and editing roles. His work has been honored with awards from the Education Writers Association, Society of Professional Journalists, and the Associated Press, and he was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists. Before coming to the Chronicle, he covered environmental issues as a reporter for the Wilmington Star-News in North Carolina (1995–97), and worked for The Ithaca Journal in New York (1994–95). As a recipient of a Pulliam Journalism Fellowship, he covered business technology for the Arizona Republic in Phoenix.

Siva Vaidhyanathan
is the Robertson Professor and chair of the department of media studies at the University of Virginia. He also teaches in the University of Virginia School of Law. Vaidhyanathan is the author of “The Googlization of Everything and Why We Should Worry” (University of California Press, 2011), “Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How it Threatens Creativity” (New York University Press, 2001), and “The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash between Freedom and Control is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System” (Basic Books, 2004). He also coedited (with Carolyn de la Pena) the collection “Rewiring the Nation: The Place of Technology in American Studies” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007). Vaidhyanathan has written for many periodicals, including American Scholar, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Times Magazine, MSNBC.COM,,, Columbia Journalism Review, BookForum, Slate, The Washington Post, and the Nation. He is a frequent contributor to National Public Radio and to MSNBC.COM, and has appeared in a segment of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He has testified as an expert before the US Copyright Office on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. He has previously taught at Wesleyan University, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Columbia University, New York University, and Universiteit van Amsterdam.

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