WSJ: The Future of U.S. Higher Education…

A Few Star Universities, Many Affiliated Satellites

Consider how the U.S. hospital system is evolving … independent hospitals are affiliating with “name brands” (e.g. Mayo, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins) … or are joining “integrated delivery networks” (e.g. HCA, CommonSpirit, Universal, Ascension, Tenet).

That model is analogous to a “re-imagining” of higher education in a WSJ op-ed by Daniel Pipes, founder of an organization called Campus Watch.

Mr. Pipes predicts that “top schools will flourish while the rest wither and are reborn as affiliates.”

Here’s the essence of Mr. Pipe’s rationale:

The taxi system was unreliable, expensive and unpleasant, so along came Uber and overturned it.

Higher education, even more antiquated than taxis, was due for a comparable shock.

Covid provided it.

More specifically, this is what Mr. Pipes envisions:

Covid has forced a massive reliance on Zoom instruction has finally proved the internet’s potential to disrupt the dominant, archaic model.


In-person attendance will return, but institutions will scamper to find new procedures [and ways to add value


MOOCs (“massive open online courses,”) – which have generally languished — will take off and finally fulfill their potential.


The appearance of such huge courses at a moment when lesser institutions are failing will result in a few star universities flourishing while the rest starve and die.


Imagine a reduction from some 5,300 U.S. colleges and universities to 50, each with its renowned outlook, specialties and strengths.


Thousands of existing campuses will become shared satellite facilities for those 50 that flourish.

Legions of (local) teaching assistants and graders who meet in person with students, will give education the personal touch and community grounding essential to its mission.

So, what happens at the “flourishing 50” campuses (and their faculties)?

My take:

> They continue to fulfill their research missions.

> They train the next generation of scholar-teachers

> They offer advanced content courses that require in-person teaching by subject matter experts.

> They operate as “content farms”, providing proprietary online courses

> The provide quality control over the “satellites” to protect the school’s standing and brand image.

For sure, the next couple of years will be interesting.

In-person advanced seminars with star professors will continue as ever,

Tuition will come crashing down as economies of scale come into play, truly opening education to all and ending the student-loan crisis.

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