Archive for the ‘Higher Education’ Category

Old School: Target offers employees a paid tuition program…

August 9, 2021

Ah, for the good old days…

Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s it was commonplace for employers to offer tuition reimbursement programs to employees.

I know because I took masters courses in economics courtesy of a mid-sized machine tools company … and got my Univ. of Chicago MBA courtesy of a multi-national food retailer.

The terms and conditions were simple:  I had to pay upfront … and when I had proof of payment and a course grade that was B or higher, my employer reimbursed me for the schools’ tuition.

There was some small print requiring the courses to be “business-related” … but that wasn’t a issue in those days since workers were trying to advance their careers.

Companies benefited  since each job-related course increased employee’s value to the company and since the program had a “stickiness” that helped retention.

Employees benefited since they were getting a free education … and potentially a free degree.

Of course, there were indirect costs borne by the employees … mostly the sacrifice of free time since courses (and “homework”) were done in the evening or on weekends … and degrees seemed to take forever when taking only 1 or 3 courses at a time.

Bottom line: It was a win-win for companies and employees.

But, the tuition benefit seemed to fade away when tuition-inflation caused costs to skyrocket… and, when course offerings and degree majors became less practical and way less job-related.


Fast forward to today.

Many companies are rekindling the old school programs … offering employees a chance to complete or advance their studies at little or no cost.

The latest example: Target.

Team members will have a range of options, including courses for high school completion, college prep and English language learning as well as select certificates, certifications, bootcamps, associate and undergraduate degrees.

Target is partnering with education and upskilling platform Guild Education to provide easy access to more than 250 business-aligned programs from over 40 schools, colleges and universities.

Read the last lines carefully: only business-aligned programs from 40+ approved schools:

Schools, colleges and universities like the University of Arizona, Oregon State University and historically Black colleges and universities like Morehouse College and Paul Quinn College.

My bet: Target will be negotiating tuition discounts from the approved schools … rejecting schools with ROI-busting tuition increases.

Well done, Target.

Sometimes, old school ideas had merit…

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

April 9, 2021

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.

Here’s how schools should be thinking about fall classes…

July 9, 2020

In-person? Online? Hybrid? … What to do?

My view: Educators (especially at the college level) are making a fundamental mistake when trying to structure their curriculums for the fall.

They’re thinking about the problem in the wrong way.


Now, most schools are simply trying to maintain past schedules and coax all courses online, essentially emulating what’s currently being done in the classroom.

Rather, they should strategize around  two fundamental questions:

1. Which courses require classroom presence?

2. Which courses are most suitable for online delivery?

When those questions are answered, load the fall schedule with the most online-suitable courses … and defer the classroom-dependent courses until the virus is behind us (hopefully when the calendar flips to 2021)


So, which courses are classroom-dependent and which are online-suitable?


Finally, a Covid testing plan that makes sense to me…

July 8, 2020

Tip of the hat to Georgetown on this one.

Last week, I did some reading re: the Herculean challenges facing colleges as they contemplate when and how to re-open.


In a nutshell, residence colleges face three major challenges:

  1. Staying afloat financially
  2. Delivering a valuable education
  3. Keeping their campuses healthy

One aspect of healthy campuses is instituting a comprehensive Covid testing program.

Many schools are rationalizing  away the need for testing, arguing that tests aren’t sufficiently accurate and that they cost too much to administer. Source

That’s not the approach that Georgetown is taking…


Why do students need a physical classroom?

January 16, 2020

An interesting op-ed in yesterday’s WSJ concludes that 2020 will be “the year the dam breaks for college education in America”.


The author notes  “the rising cost and slowing returns of traditional schooling, coupled with advances in and the growing acceptance of online education

Among the specifics…


What’s the impact of declining birthrates on future college enrollments?

October 15, 2019

And, how should colleges brace for the changes?

According to Nathan Grawe, a professor of social sciences at Minnesota’s Carleton College …

A declining birthrate means the currently typical college-going population could decline by more than 15 percent starting about 2026.

The impact: schools will need to tightened their cost belts, aggressively recruit students and do a better job retaining and graduating their enrollees … or close down.


Let’s unpack Grawe’s argument…


The degree-earning gender gap…

April 9, 2019

An interesting analysis done by economist Mark Perry concludes:

Since 1982, women have earned 13 million more college degrees than men.


Let’s drill down on those numbers…


More: Have colleges watered down their curriculums?

March 28, 2019

A survey of 700 schools answers the question.

In a prior post, we outlined the criteria and method that the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) used to assess whether students are learning the “essential skills and knowledge” for work and for life.


In a nutshell, ACTA researchers culled through over 700 schools’ course catalogs and web sites to determine what courses were being offered and, more important, which courses were required of all students.

Specifically, they investigated whether undergraduates are gaining a reasonable college-level introduction in seven core subject areas:

  1. Composition & argumentation
  2. Literature and critical thinking
  3. Foreign language & culture
  4. U.S. government & history
  5. Economics: Macro, micro, behavioral
  6. Mathematics, logic & computer science
  7. Science & scientific experimentation.

Here’s what they found …


Why are Asian-American students dominating “elite” schools?

March 15, 2019

No, they don’t buy-off sports coaches and abuse standardized testing procedures. 

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (“TJ” for short), is a selective DC-area magnet school designed to provide an elite, high-tech education for the most academically gifted students in Northern Virginia.

The school offers rigorous study in advanced college-level offerings like electrodynamics, neurobiology, and artificial intelligence.

High octane academics, for sure … offered to the best and brightest.

What’s the rub?

Demographic mix.


The school’s newly accepted Class of 2022 is 65 percent Asian, 23 percent white, five percent Hispanic, and two percent black.


20 years ago, the concern was that Black and Hispanic representation at TJ was less than half their demographic mix in Fairfax County – the “feeder” county.

Several initiatives were launched to increase Black and Hispanic representation, including early identification and proactive outreach to high potential minority children; supplementary in-school and extracurricular programs to teach and mentor them; and more ready access to prep and gateway courses such as Algebra.

While undertaking those initiatives, something unexpected happened.

The numbers of Black and Hispanic students applying and enrolled at TJ remained stalled at the pre-initiative levels. So, that’s still a concern.

But, during the same time period (and unrelated to the minority initiatives), the number of white students declined sharply … and the number of Asian-American students has soared.

Why is that?


Part-time nation: Even on college faculties …

July 24, 2014

interesting factoid from “ What universities have in common with record labels” …

Used to be that the majority of college faculty were on the tenure track … with less than 1 in 3 being non-tenure track “part-timers”.



With the cost pressures that universities face these days, those numbers have completely reversed.

Now, the majority of university faculty s part-timers … and about 1 in 3 are on the tenure track.

And, Quartz points out that there’s increasing separation between content producing “marquee”  profs and “average” profs.

“The ranks of professors will quickly diverge into the 1% and everyone else.”

As the original Grandma Homa used to say; “It’s easy to be good, hard to be great.”


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