Fighting the commodification of higher education

American higher education has the same strengths and weaknesses as the U.S. entrepreneurial, market-driven healthcare system.

Higher education institutions, such as healthcare providers, fight aggressively for resources, prestige, and customers (whether patient or student) in highly competitive markets. Extreme stratification in terms of reputation and wealth characterizes both healthcare and higher education.

Institutional competition, as a result, strongly encourages colleges and universities to take steps to stand out in a highly visible way that enhances their position and prestige. It is not surprising that campuses compete with each other in terms of facilities, facilities, breadth of programs, and even food.

But intense competition discourages most schools from deviating radically from established rules, lest they narrow, bizarre or struggle to narrow their appeal. At first glance, American higher education seems to be remarkably diverse, including liberal industrial colleges, research-based institutions, public and private, urban and rural campuses, religious colleges, military academies, seminars, technology institutes, passenger and residential campuses, and online. Provider. All true.

Yet most campuses share some common elements, including credit hours, specific length terms, standard start dates, delivery requirements, department-based majors, letter grades, and more.

Consistent pressure, however, creates opportunities for alternative providers who target unmet demand and inadequate markets. In medicine, these include emergency care centers, profitable emergency rooms, boutique and concierge practice and specialized clinic and treatment facilities. In higher education, business options naturally include mega online providers, such as Western Governors, Southern New Hampshire, and the courses, various boot camps and skills academies and industry certifications that aim to serve the opportunities offered by traditional colleges. And universities are either too expensive or time consuming, or inadequately career-centric.

Leading health centers and institutions of higher learning have a well-deserved reputation for excellence and innovation. Yet in both cases, a significant number of potential beneficiaries remain poorly served. Indeed, the market for free higher education for all has transformed the GI Bill, once an international model for democratization of access to higher education and into a funnel to uplift the social dynamics of the college, a profitable institution for all experienced veterans.

Higher education and healthcare highly entrepreneurial, marketing systems are extremely risky for scams. In the absence of strict supervision and control, the Quacks and Charlatans take advantage of the opportunity. Excessive treatment in higher education, over-the-counter prescriptions, and over-the-counter diagnostics in health are counterproductive to many Masters and Certificate programs and other certification offers, including uncertain or even negative pay, in clear violation of profitable employment rules that are supposed to ensure graduate attainment. Income that allows them to pay off debts.

In a recent article EdsurgeJeffrey R. Young reminds us of a 1997 Present essay by the late David Noble, a renowned historian of science and technology who condemned the rise of the “Digital Diploma Mill”, saying online institutions are eager to admit as many students as possible. The lowest possible cost than offering a degree with real value in a quality education or job market.

Noble argued that these institutions abandoned a collegiate norm that relied on students’ close contact with professors in favor of a model that depended on the mastery of a certain physical knowledge and skills.

But the larger problem that Nobel identified – the marketing of higher education – was not limited to online providers with their narrow curricula, cookie-cutting courses and alternative stuffing models. In the bold new world of higher education that has emerged in the last quarter of a century, colleges and universities are, first and foremost, certified and commercial enterprises.

Their students need to build customer and human capital. Faculty members and departments are encouraged to be as entrepreneurial as possible. Campuses are increasingly valued politically as drivers of local economic and regional economic development and as incubators of basic and applied research. Far from being a learning, developmental or transformational process, it is increasingly being seen as a transaction and the equivalent of passing the required number of courses.

Is it possible to be free from the stuff of higher education, or is American higher education trapped in a Wiberian iron cage, where campuses are trapped in a system that values ​​throughput, efficiency, rational calculation, and bureaucratic control over education?

After all, isn’t a college education supposed to be the opposite of a product, instead emphasizing intellectual importance, advice, community, dialogue, discovery, and personal growth?

My own view is that it is really possible to provide a transformative, developmental, relationship-rich education within the matrix of today’s top bureaucratic institutions. Many institutions already do this for honors students. But unfortunately, these programs, which include nominated faculty members, dedicated counseling, special seminars, rich research opportunities and a wealth of co-curricular and extracurricular activities, are confined to a small subset of the graduate population.

How can we scale such opportunities? Here are some suggestions.

1. Empower multiple individual faculty members to organize teams with a thematic focus.
In exchange for offering students a community-supervised and a special credit-bearing seminar, provide those faculty members with a moderate stipend and student-involved funding.

2. Create different types of teams to serve students with different interests.
Some teams may focus on research, and not just laboratory research, but qualitative and data-driven and archival research. Other groups may focus on community service, civic engagement, or the arts. Still others may be career-centered, emphasizing areas of healthcare, including business, computer science, nursing, law, public policy, and technology. Then there may be “creators” and project-based teams. The goal is to embed as many graduates as possible within a community of interest.

3. Recognize students’ active participation in an integrated program with a special title in transcript.
Students deserve to be rewarded for participating in an integrated program and their participation in the activities must be formally acknowledged. A transcript notification recognizes their programmatic engagement.

4. Expand opportunities for students to interact with faculty.
Students who develop academic relationships with faculty members outside of the classroom are more academically successful. Professors who know students personally are also able to write strong letters of recommendation.

Lunch or informal group meetings are a great way for undergraduates to get to know a faculty member outside of the classroom and learn about graduate school and research, internship, and scholarship opportunities. The amount paid has exceeded the average cost.

5. Demonstrate the research and creative achievements of the graduates.
Celebrate faculty-supervised undergraduate research and art projects with poster sessions, short (two or three minute) oral presentations, and student and faculty panels. A showcase gives students the opportunity to communicate to a wider audience the importance of their research and creativity. This allows them to sharpen their presentation skills and strengthen their resume while preparing to apply for a job or graduate school. Above all, the event introduces the entire campus community to the students’ vision, creativity, ingenuity and passion.

Karl Marx had a word to describe those 19M Centuries of communists, such as Charles Fourier, John Humphrey Noise, Robert Owen, and Henry de Saint-Simon, who sought to create a cooperative community within capitalist society. He called these dreamers “utopian socialists” and dismissed their dreams as imaginary and unreal.

In fact, however, some of their communities have been around for decades and more, inspiring many women’s rights activists, sex radicals, labor organizers, food and clothing reformers, extinctists and world peace activists with a brighter vision of liberation from a world. Status classification and exploitation.

There is nothing utopian or fundamental about the kind of community building initiatives proposed in this post. If we want to combat the commercialization of higher education, follow these steps, which are significantly possible.

All that is required for implementation is the desire to create a campus where each student has his or her own community.

Steven Mintz is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.

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