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Powerful Question & Thoughts About Higher Education

How college loans exploit students for profit

“Once upon a time in America,” says professor Sajay Samuel, “going to college did not mean graduating with debt.” Today, higher education has become a consumer product — costs have skyrocketed, saddling students with a combined debt of over $1 trillion, while universities and loan companies make massive profits. Samuel proposes a radical solution: link tuition costs to a degree’s expected earnings, so that students can make informed decisions about their future, restore their love of learning and contribute to the world in a meaningful way.

An ultra-low-cost college degree

At the online University of the People, anyone with a high school diploma can take classes toward a degree in business administration or computer science — without standard tuition fees (though exams cost money). Founder Shai Reshef hopes that higher education is changing “from being a privilege for the few to a basic right, affordable and accessible for all.”

Let’s teach for mastery — not test scores

Would you choose to build a house on top of an unfinished foundation? Of course not. Why, then, do we rush students through education when they haven’t always grasped the basics? Yes, it’s complicated, but educator Sal Khan shares his plan to turn struggling students into scholars by helping them master concepts at their own pace.

The power of believing that you can improve

Carol Dweck researches “growth mindset” — the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems. In this talk, she describes two ways to think about a problem that’s slightly too hard for you to solve. Are you not smart enough to solve it … or have you just not solved it yet? A great introduction to this influential field.

Academic research is publicly funded — why isn’t it publicly available?

In the US, your taxes fund academic research at public universities. Why then do you need to pay expensive, for-profit journals for the results of that research? Erica Stone advocates for a new, open-access relationship between the public and scholars, making the case that academics should publish in more accessible media. “A functioning democracy requires that the public be well-educated and well-informed,” Stone says. “Instead of research happening behind paywalls and bureaucracy, wouldn’t it be better if it was unfolding right in front of us?”


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