Monday, January 20, 2014

Is Higher Education doomed?

Michael Staton claims The Degree Is Doomed.  I enjoyed the post.

It starts with:

The credential — the degree or certificate — has long been the quintessential value proposition of higher education. Americans have embraced degrees with a fervor generally reserved for bologna or hot dogs. Everyone should have them! Many and often! And their perceived value elsewhere in the world — in Asia in particular — is if anything even higher.

From the evaluator’s standpoint, credentials provide signals that allow one to make quick assumptions about a candidate’s potential contribution to an organization and their ability to flourish on the job. To a prospective student (or parent), the value lies in assuming these signals will be accepted in employment markets and other times of social evaluation. These signals have long been known to be imperfect, but they were often the only game in town. Thus, a degree from a top university has been seen to contain crucial information about a person’s skills, networks, and work habits.

Higher education, however, is in the midst of dramatic, disruptive change. It is, to use the language of innovation theorists and practitioners, being unbundled. (Some more of my thoughts on higher-ed unbundling can be found here.) And with that unbundling, the traditional credential is rapidly losing relevance. The value of paper degrees lies in a common agreement to accept them as a proxy for competence and status, and that agreement is less rock solid than the higher education establishment would like to believe.

Physics has a concept called momentum.  Things will keep going the way they are going unless there are significant forces.  I can see reasons why the college degree may lose its value, but I don't think it will happen over night, and it maybe that only some degrees lose their value.

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