Rise of the ‘Edupunk’ Spells Opportunity For Entrepreneurs

Jack Stripling has an interesting piece in the wake of the recent TIAA-CREF Institute’s 2010 Higher Education Leadership Conference.

In a notable acknowledgment of the tail wagging the dog, several panelists alluded here to the possibility that if colleges don’t change the way they do business, then students will change the way colleges do business.

College leaders don’t yet know how to credential the knowledge students are gaining on their own, but they may soon have to, said Mark David Milliron, deputy director for postsecondary improvement at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. We are not far from the day when a student, finding unsatisfactory reviews of a faculty member on ratemyprofessors.com, will choose to take a class through open courseware online and then ask his home institution to assess him, Milliron said. Colleges need to prepare for that reality, he said.

While the concept of a self-educated citizenry circumventing the traditional system of higher education may have sounded far-fetched a decade ago, the fact that the likes of Spilde gave it more than lip service marks something of a shift. Indeed, there was more than a subtle suggestion across hours of sessions Monday that colleges are in for a new world, like it or not, where they may not be the winners.

The piece highlights the work of various leaders in higher education, but makes clear that budgetary challenges are looming and change will come, even if it is not openly discussed in policy circles. From the piece:

Among those lamenting the lack of real action was William E. (Brit) Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland and a national advocate for improving efficiencies in higher education. During a session covering the college completion goals set out by President Obama and others, Kirwan passionately questioned the “enormous disconnect” between the rhetoric coming from policy makers and the reality in states that are slashing budgets. Moreover, he asserted that concrete benchmarks have not been set for how the United States will achieve Obama’s stated goal of returning to its historic summit as the nation with the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

“If we were serious about this, we would have it mapped out,” he said. There are indeed maps, but Kirwan’s point suggests even policy wonks don’t see clear benchmarks.

The seriousness of the budget realities, however, did not go unnoticed by Matthew Goldstein, chancellor of the City University of New York. Speaking like a man under the Sword of Damocles, Goldstein suggested state deficits in New York and elsewhere were the “next bubble.”

“Here’s where the problem is really going to come and smack us right in the face,” Goldstein said.

“You don’t hear the talking heads and you don’t hear the politicians who are running for office saying how real this problem is,” he added.

Goldstein went further, asserting that the inability of states to meet obligations in higher education was a true “national security problem.”

There is far more to read in this piece if you are interested in the state of higher education in America — including positive actions such as UVA’s twitter based ‘flash seminar’ experiment.  (sounds cool, wonder what students think)

With knowledge at the center of our economy and society, and our knowledge makers and distributors undergoing radical change — from increasing demand and decreasing budgets to disruptive technology and global competition — the importance of entrepreneurship is clear.

Smart institutions will welcome them at all levels, from on and off of campus, many institutions and leaders will continue to fend them off, dreaming of security, not opportunity.

via News: The Rise of the ‘Edupunk’ – Inside Higher Ed.

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