How College Education is Evolving

Stanford University professor of education Mitchell Stevens has stated that he believes the traditional four-year on-campus experience of many college students is not the best way for them to learn. Part of the problem is that colleges and universities aren’t as well regulated as lower-grade schools, so it can be difficult to tell which institutions lead to student success.

Currently, there are 1,837 colleges and universities in the United States, but in 2008 a whopping 57% of first-year undergraduate students attended two-year schools. In 1988, only 39% of freshmen attended community college. Stevens and his co-author, Michael Kirst, speculate that modeling institutions after for-profit schools rather than Ivy League universities may help students succeed. By offering online classes and flexible scheduling, for-profit schools are easier to fit into students’ lives, but they are rarely accredited institutions, and often manage finances poorly.

One alternative to traditional college is being offered by Davidson College, in North Carolina. Davidson College currently offers evening courses for adult students, as well as “flipped courses,” where the lecture is watched online, and class time is spent discussing the material and interacting with other students. The college is also focusing on integrating new technology into education.

While there may be more successful models of higher education on the horizon, that does not mean that students should forgo traditional college. The most recent Economic Report of the President clearly shows that male college graduates earn double the salary of men who did not graduate college, and female college graduates make 2.25 times as much as their less-educated counterparts.

The income difference between college graduates and people who did not graduate college continues to grow each year, making graduation vitally important. Completing a traditional college education is still beneficial, and will only improve as teaching techniques and facility accountability improve, too.

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