Some Snapshots of the Shifts in Higher Ed

A cluster of related articles on higher education.

1. From Washington Monthly: why states are funding higher ed less.

State support comes out of taxes. When the economy goes bad, states collect less money in taxes. States, however, are legally required to fund certain things. Pension plans, for instance, are usually not things the governor can simply reduce or cut one year. He has to pay for them. To a certain extent this makes sense, but it can be devastating for other items in the state budget.

2. A longer Washington Monthly piece on how Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are seeking to make money off higher education, if they can just find the right key.

So the VC guys and the start-ups look at K-12 and higher education, which between them cost over $1 trillion per year in America, and much more around the world. They see businesses that are organized around communication between people and the exchange of information [like Facebook], two things that are increasingly happening over the Internet. Right now, nearly all of that communication and exchange happens on physical platforms—schools and colleges—that were built a long time ago. A huge amount of money is tied up in labor and business arrangements that depend on things staying that way. How likely are they to stay that way, in the long term? Sure, there are a ton of regulatory protections and political complications tied up in the fact that most education is funded by the taxpayer. As always, the timing would be difficult, and there is as much risk in being too early as too late.

Still, $1 trillion, just sitting there. And how much does it cost for a firm like Learn Capital to invest in a few people sitting around a table with their MacBook Airs? That’s a cheap lottery ticket with a huge potential jackpot waiting for whomever backs the winning education platform.

3. Meanwhile, the Community College Dean, of the blog with the same name, thinks about the “Big Sort,” where educated people from top-tier schools marry each other and cluster in certain places, and the “two-body problem” in academia. But mostly he wonders what the future role of community colleges will be.

 Community colleges, by dint of the “community” part, are tied to particular places.  As those places become more polarized, and as instruction becomes more removed from those places, some of the baseline assumptions of the colleges come into question.

One Comment

  1. Rummah says:

    The community college piece had me pondering for awhile. Years ago I worked in one of the fly-over states. One of the secretaries at the company where I was employed had relocated there from NYC because her husband had found a position at a local college. She hated the town so much she divorced him to move back.