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Pope Center provides road map to dismantling traditional higher education

The Pope Center for Higher Education is promoting the disruption (or dismantling?) of traditional higher education by way of reduced university budgets and a takeover by for-profit education models, according to a presentation given last week by the Pope Center’s president, Jane Shaw.

In North Carolina, we’re seeing for the third year in a row the university system suffering the deepest cuts of the three branches of the state’s education system. At the same time, UNC Chapel Hill is one of many schools joining the increasingly popular MOOC movement, which is a revenue model that could ultimately cut costs by reducing the need for labor, i.e. professors. One lecture could reach tens of thousands of potentially paying customers (also known as students).

Are these actions part of a much larger campaign to dismantle traditional higher education?

Shaw’s presentation last week was given at the State Policy Network’s annual gathering. Her talk was called “Innovation in Higher Education.” Check out her presentation here.

Notable among Shaw’s remarks include “there’s a lot of fat in higher ed budgets,” and that good policies are “frustrated by leftwing faculty.”

Alternatively, Shaw asserted that “For-Profits ‘Get It.’” However, Shaw’s slide also indicated that there are some problems with the industry, namely that they produce high default rates and low graduation rates (known as ‘churn’) and they are under fire from the media and Congress.

Shaw also compared using online and for-profit education as a means to disrupt the traditional higher education model with Clayton Christensen’s description of how Sony’s 1947 pocket radio turned that industry upside down.

The pocket radio was arguably a superior product to what consumers previously had access to and paved the way for subsequent inventions like television, video players and so on.

For-profit schools by and large provide lower quality educational experiences, charge high tuition amounts and are heavily subsidized by the American taxpayer by way of the federal student aid program.

Shaw concluded her presentation by encouraging states to keep financial pressure on university budgets, bring Western Governors University branches into the state system as Texas has done, and encourage institutions to accept credits from elsewhere, like the company StraighterLine.

**This post was updated to reflect that Clayton Christensen is not associated with the University of Phoenix. We regret the error.

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