AEIdeas

The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute

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  1. For four centuries, colleges and universities have defined education in the U.S. The government got involved with the land grant universities and the instantiation of “junior colleges” (as they were first called). The for-profit sector rose in prominence less than 25 years ago. In the end, not much has changed…institutions still have a monopoly on one thing – the degree.
    While I’m delighted to see politicians calling for innovation and reform – we are indeed overdue – they are going about it in a way that does not ask the fundamental questions: what does a degree mean? why do we have time-based, credit-hour based degrees instead of true measures of competency? Why are employers losing respect for what a degree means when freshly minted graduates don’t have the information literacy and thinking skills demanded by today’s jobs?
    Indeed, it is this last group that has to start getting more vocal. We need relevant education, right-sized to the employment needs of this era. Not everyone needs an N-year or X-year degree. Employers ought to get proactive about the skills their employees ought to have and demand that the education system deliver the graduates that have those skills and knowledge. If higher ed can’t deliver, then let’s stop reinvesting in old institutions that can’t adapt to the new world in which they exist.

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