Is Higher Ed on the Brink of Major Change?

by George Leef

In this week’s Pope Center Clarion Call, Jane Shaw writes about the recent book by Clay Christensen and Henry Eyring, The Innovative University. The authors foresee a great deal of change in the higher-education market, catalyzed by improvements in distance learning. They contend that many colleges and universities will be left in the dust unless they figure out how to adapt, much as companies have crumbled when innovative technologies hit their markets and they couldn’t rapidly adjust to it.

That sounds right to me. The college degree has its origins in bygone centuries, when students were captive to the institutions where they enrolled, with no choice but to “buy” the bundle of educational good that constituted their degrees. The problem is that often, much of what was in that bundle was of scant value. New learning technologies change all of that. Most people would rather get just the things they want at a low price than to accept a large bundle of things, many of which they don’t want, at high cost.