Those of you who read the Chronicle frequently might have seen the front page article in the Aug. 13 edition. Here it is for those of you who haven’t seen it: http://chronicle.com/article/Can-Gates-Foundations-Mill/123824 .
What is revealed in the article is that the Gates Foundation, along with several others, have become involved in higher education recently (the Gates involvement is dated in the article ALL THE WAY BACK to 2008!). The thrust of their concern is to have more people gain a degree. This, as the article indicates, dovetails with the Obama Administration’s goal to again be the world leader in percentage of population with degrees.
None of us who have spent our professional lives in higher education can object to the general notion of more people having degrees, but we do need to question what means are going to be used to provide these degrees.
If you are paying attention to this national debate, which has not loomed overly large on the public stage (the Harkin Bill as passed recently cut the funding found there to provide for Federal financial support for higher ed), the push for more degrees is driven by a push for shorter duration (the Bologna/European concept of 3-year Bachelor degrees), more technology (using distance ed to provide “access”), and more job-orientation.
They don’t talk about capacity. The two great 20th-century expansions of higher education in America came from capacity growth with the GI Bill after WWII & the Vietnam/NASA driven expansion of the 60s. Universities grew.
Now they want to provide more degrees to more people, but without more facilities. “You can do it through distance ed” or “you can enlarge your classes a few seats, can’t you?”
There’s nothing wrong with providing more degrees to more people, but we need faculty involved in how to provide them, so that the degree more people are getting is the same degree as their predecessors’.