Dad of Divas' Reviews: Book Review - College (Un)bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students

Friday, May 31, 2013

Book Review - College (Un)bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students

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About the Book
What is the value of a college degree?

The four-year college experience is as American as apple pie. So is the belief that education offers a ticket to a better life. But with student-loan debt surpassing the $1 trillion mark and unemployment on the rise, people are beginning to question that value. Is a college diploma still worth pursuing at any price?

In College (Un)bound, Jeffrey J. Selingo, editor at large for The Chronicle for Higher Education, argues that America’s higher education system is broken. The great credential race has turned universities into big business and fostered an environment where middle tier colleges can command elite university-level tuition while concealing staggeringly low graduation rates and churning out students with few hard skills into the job market.

Selingo not only turns a critical eye to the current state of affairs in higher education, but he also predicts how technology will transform it for the better. Free massive online open courses (MOOCs) and hybrid classes, adaptive learning software, and the unbundling of traditional degree credits will increase access to high quality education regardless of budget or location and tailor lesson plans to individual needs. One thing is certain—the Class of 2020 will have a radically different college experience than their parents.

Incisive, urgent, and controversial, College (Un)bound is a must-read for prospective students, parents, and anyone concerned with the future of American higher education.

About the Author
Jeffrey J. Selingo is a leading authority on higher education worldwide and editor at large for The Chronicle of Higher Education. He frequently speaks before national higher-education groups and his writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Huffington Post.

My Take on the Book
As a college administrator I was skeptical going into this book, as I still hold fast that higher education is important, not because it is where I work for a living, but also for the benefits that I see that it provides for the students that I interact with on a daily basis. 

Saying this I do not want to misconstrue that the author is saying that Higher Education is not valuable, far from it. Instead he is stating that based on the trends that are prevalent today that the system of Higher Education in the United States is broken in many ways. 
The author criticizes Higher Education for the costs that it sets for students and how much debt that students come out of college with. The challenge though in my perspective is that even those of us working in higher education are extremely cognizant of the debt ratio that our students are leaving with and we spend much time trying to work with students on fiscal management, but the problem is that many students do not want to hear or change the lifestyle that they either come to college with, or have become accustomed to in college, so they continue to take out the maximum amounts of loans available and live a lifestyle much higher than they should. 

The author does provide a glimpse of positive trends though in his perspective. In examining the idea of online education, the author spends much time talking about how this could change the costs within higher education and could expand the reach of higher education even further. The one thing I would warn about the move to more online education is that without advising and support students may be doomed to fail, especially if they more of a structured learning environment which online classrooms may not provide. 

The book itself was well written and he provides well written arguments to support his claims. While I may not completely agree with his overall sentiments, I will say that it does provide good rhetoric for all to consider as the dialogue about where higher education should go in the future continues. 

I have to agree that Higher Education needs to find solutions for many of the problems that the author brings up and there is no easy answer to this. This book will allow all who read it to better consider all of the debate at this time and where some stand on the issues themselves. 

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