Stanford University has perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring, architecturally stunning campuses in the world. The tree-lined Palm Drive entrance leads to a vast campus of low, red-clay-tiled buildings. With the university holding a $17-billion endowment, you can almost feel the gold oozing from the manicured streets. And it doesn’t hurt that the sun always seems to be shining.
Earlier this week, I spent a few days attending a meeting on the campus. It happened to be move-in day for first year students, the Class of 2017. It’s too bad so few of them get to experience this place. Of the 38,828 people who applied to Stanford last year, only 2,210 were accepted, and even fewer enrolled, around 1,700.
Recently, President Obama went on a bus tour through New York and Pennsylvania talking about how higher education in the U.S. is the key to a sustained economic recovery, and as a result, a college degree needs to be more accessible to more Americans. He was mainly talking about how we need to bring down the high price tag of college by no longer chasing higher tuition rates with more federal financial aid dollars.
Under his plan to create a new ratings system, students who go to colleges that act in the national interest, say by enrolling and graduating more low-income students, will get bigger grants or loans with better interest rates. Places like Stanford will do well under almost any plan the federal government proposes because it graduates nearly every one of the students it enrolls.
But it only enrolls 1,700 students a year out of some 4-million 18-year-olds in the U.S. Universities like Stanford are not getting any bigger as our nation’s higher education needs increase. Out of the few dozen most elite colleges in the United States, only one is going on any substantial drive to grow, and that’s Yale University. It’s building a $600-million mini-campus to welcome just 800 additional students.
When President Obama talks about expanding access to higher education, Ben Nelson thinks that should include access to a high-quality education. Nelson founded the Minerva Project, which aims to provide an Ivy League education at a fraction of the cost. His vision and his résumé (the thirty-something University of Pennsylvania graduate once headed Snapfish, the online photo-sharing Web site) has attracted $25-million in venture capital and advisers such as Larry Summers.
Minerva will open its doors in 2015. It won’t have a physical campus that costs hundreds of millions of dollars to build like those at Stanford and Yale. Instead, it will combine online and face-to-face learning in major cities around the globe where students will immerse themselves in local cultures and history—a real kind of experiential learning. It will charge $10,000 a year in tuition (the travel costs will bring it up to around $28,000).
Yesterday, at a gathering at the Gates Foundation in Seattle, its co-founder Bill Gates said that higher education works like no other market in the world: money nor students flow away from its bad products — low quality colleges.
President Obama wants to provide better consumer information to help families make better choices (and give them money) to attend higher quality institutions. But that won’t do anything if those colleges and universities just become more exclusive by rejecting yet more students. That’s why Ben Nelson’s idea is needed for our national interests. Now we just need many more colleges and universities like it—high quality, accessible, with lower prices.
Jeffrey Selingo is author of College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students and editor at large at The Chronicle of Higher Education. Follow him here by clicking the FOLLOW button above, at jeffselingo.com, and on Twitter @jselingo
Originally posted on : Linked In By: Jeff Selingo
Meet the Team
WorldBridge Partners earned the Best of Staffing®Award for providing remarkable service quality. Fewer than 2% of all staffing agencies in the U.S. and Canada earned the 2015 Best of Staffing Award for service excellence. With satisfaction ratings more than three times higher than the industry average, the Best of Staffing winners truly stand out for exceeding expectations. This award identifies the staffing industry's elite leaders in service quality.