Americans and senior administrators at U.S. colleges and universities agree that higher education is in crisis, according to a survey sponsored by TIME and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The bigger problem is that they disagree over how to remedy the situation and what they believe is the main purpose of higher education.
Eighty-nine percent of adults and 96% of senior administrators at American higher education institutions said the industry is in crisis. With tuition rates and student loan rates on the rise, parents and students are concerned. According to the poll, nearly 80% of adults believe that the education students receive at many colleges and universities is not worth the cost. The average debt load for college students who took out loans and graduated in 2010 was $25,250. While 74% of college leaders thought this was a reasonable amount of debt, only 38% of the public agreed. On average, college graduates earn nearly twice as much as high school graduates or individuals who only received some college education, according to the report, “The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm” published by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. However, that doesn’t change the fact that many people are burdened by student loans for many years upon graduation from college. More than 90% of Americans said higher education institutions aren’t doing enough to improve affordability of tuition, and 56% of educators agreed.[See which colleges are cutting or freezing tuition.]
In the recent presidential debates, education and the economy have been hot topics. Both candidates agree that in order to improve the economy, education needs to improve. They believe that if students are provided with better learning materials and access to a better education that they will be more qualified for the job opportunities that are currently available.
According to the survey, both the public and college leaders agree that online classes can help bridge the gap by providing greater access to higher education. This year, many colleges and universities increased their online course offerings through online-education providers like Coursera and edX. Students at a number of institutions are able to enroll in free online courses that are taught by professors at top institutions around the nation. Unfortunately, many of the institutions do not currently offer course credit for these online classes.
Results from the survey also demonstrate that nearly 58% of senior administrators believe that the cost of higher education will continue to rise. But some institutions are now reconsidering granting course credit for online courses as they become more widespread.
Update: Antioch Univeristy will now offer course credit as a part of a bachelor’s degree program for students who are enrolled in massive open online courses (MOOCs) through Coursera. Coursera, the largest provider of MOOCs, launched only 9 months ago, but in that time they have created a significant impact on the higher education industry.
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