— Ben Fung (@DrBenFung) June 8, 2015
It's an age old problem: You must spend money to make money. In this case, it is spending money on education to make money after graduation.
The above conversation on Twitter lead to some immediate thoughts and then some pensive action. Given, I'm not a formal educator. I'm not a professor. I'm not a credentialed teacher. However, I do teach... a lot. I do so through this blog (and others), my VLOG, as a consultant, as a clinician, as a mentor, and certainly, I have had formal training in the educational process.
All that said, the solutions I recommend come from a perspective of business. They do not fully nor remotely take into consideration the litany of regulations required for academic accreditation nor anything else in the spirit of the like.
Lowering Costs & Improving Compensation
First, I think we need to be honest with ourselves regarding what higher education is, has been, and should become. Education was the original one-up in the working world, an experience where students could gather true life and career skills to become more valuable in the workplace for hire. However, as schooling evolved, the experience became far more theoretical and academic rather than applicable and practical. Moreover, there became this lattice work of degrees to which students need to climb in order to get to the next higher rung for hopefully better compensation in the workplace.
Traditional frameworks of education have always been in the classroom setting. A teacher with the knowledge would dispense their life's work (not always in books), understanding, and wisdom in exchange for money. That cost would hopefully translate into a valuable combination of a degree (piece of paper) and real life skill sets to which an employer would be willing to hire for better rate of compensation -- or -- that the person could go out and earn money for themselves as their own business person (entrepreneur).
So where are we now? Well... if we're truly honest with ourselves. Higher education has certain ironies that are perpetuating unnecessary costs.
- The Classroom: Why not switch to mobile teaching? Why not switch to virtual classrooms? The overall costs saved for all the parties involved here are tremendous when done correctly. Given, most online programs actually cost a pretty penny. However, it is done so in the face of the marketplace -- the value exchange is the convenience of doing things online.
- The Redundancies: I find it quite ironic that each higher education program actually creates for itself redundancies in prerequisites through undergraduate studies. In many international systems of education, one doesn't have to take undergraduate courses then take the same courses in graduate school. It is all streamlined. If you got into medical school, you did so practically straight out of high school. I think it'd be a lot more affordable if schools started to allow for a la carte style prerequisites (inclusive of the undergraduate degree itself) that should a student realize they wish to pursue graduate studies, they could streamline in rather than double their efforts. An example for myself, I've taken statistics 4 times now!
- The Theoreticals: Its also saddening to me that higher education is becoming increasingly theoretical. Of course, this is all done under the name of "foundations" and "general education." Yet, when I showed my chemistry course work to an internationally trained pharmacist years ago, her response was "that isn't chemistry, that's theory!" Expanding on her point, she challenged any student taking undergraduate or even graduate chemistry studies to create for themselves a common OTC drug. They couldn't.
So! Decrease cost by become more mobile, more virtual, accepting prerequisites and using the internal testing process as a measure of if a student is worth it or not. After all, if performance is ultimately the judge, why not let it reign supreme? If a student is doing well, OBVIOUSLY, their credits are good as were their course work. However, if they are doing poorly, I don't care if they got their degree from Harvard with a 4.0. They are STILL failing. Besides, the acceptance in larger volumes in early prerequisites (bar the hands on stuff) allows for a decrease in cost due to scale. It also allows for the expense to students to be lowered as well. It also allows for the right performers rather than the right prerequisites to dictate who wins and who loses.
I would offer this in all cases: Decreasing the cost of higher education is hard. It also, is perhaps, less important than improving compensation for our new graduates.
How To Improve Compensation?
Well, to answer that... it's VLOG time!