What are some bad futures for teaching, learning, and campuses? With this post I’m continuing my series of educational dystopias.
4. The Bubble Bursts
This dystopia is more focused on higher education than the previous ones. It’s about a perfect storm striking colleges and universities, one which forces these institutions into a downhill slide. Call it “peak higher education”.
To begin with, the demographic problem of declining K-12 population saps enrollment in traditional-age undergraduate populations, hitting hard at tuition-dependent institutions. Most campuses continue to raise their published tuition in response, driving away debt-panicked learners. Said campuses also lack the flexibility to respond to this challenge, since so many expenses are in the form of sunk costs: tenured faculty, extant buildings and grounds, staff mandated by regulations. On top of these problems, American state governments continue their practice of reducing funding for public colleges and universities.
Meanwhile, educational alternatives are on the rise, especially as education’s reputation declines. Homeschooling experiences a boom. Many consider informal learning to be on par with classwork. Much research has migrated to the corporate and governmental sectors.
Campuses experience many changes in this environment. There are fewer of them, and those that survive are less crowded than they once were. Their student body is much more international than it once was, as schools seek students from abroad to make up for domestic shortfalls. (But campus leaders worry that this strategy might peter out, as other nations continue developing their own academic capacities)
Some colleges and universities offer low-cost programs, such as the famous or notorious $10,000 BA. Tenure is quite rare, since money is scarce for new or replacement tenure lines. Scholars publish less research as a result of this, plus the decline in professional development funding. Information services (IT, library) are largely outsourced as cost-saving measures.
What does it mean to be an eighteen-year-old in the age after higher education’s peak?
Vocational tech classes are widespread in K-12. These high school graduates often look forward to apprenticeships, which are now accepted in career paths. And they perceive campuses as intensely transnational places.
What do you make of these? Which one seems most likely to occur? And how can educators avoid them?