In my last post I noted that it might surprise some of my friends that I agree with portions of what Dallas Mavericks’ Owner Mark Cuban said in his May blog.
Although I disagree Mr. Cuban’s housing bubble analogy – in which he parallels the theme of University of Tennessee Law Professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds’ book, “The Higher Education Bubble” -- I do agree with some of his criticisms of higher ed.
Before Mr. Reynolds’ book was published or Mr. Cuban blogged, Culverhouse had already considered these challenges, adopting our “IR2” initiative. IR2 is my way of describing our College of Commerce emphasis on Innovation, Relevance, and Rigor.
Here’s how I believe those principles apply to “education bubble” concerns.
1. I agree with Mr. Cuban’s assertion that “you go to college to learn how to learn.”
Although learning how to learn has always been important, today’s rapidly-changing society demands life-long learners. The Culverhouse 93 year tradition of such instruction is a prime reason parents entrust their children to us, even in a time of public budget cuts that drive up tuition costs. That’s why our programs must be innovative, relevant and rigorous -- so students get their money’s worth.
That also precisely why I don’t agree with Mr. Cuban’s view that new, unaccredited schools are better options for those seeking to avoid debt. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t want to be treated by a physician or consult a lawyer who hasn’t been accredited by his or her peers. That would be an unwise investment, whether or not I’m paying with borrowed money.
2. I agree with Mr. Cuban that higher education tends to move too slowly.
Some studies indicate that in today’s high-tech economy, the job skills mastered one year might be irrelevant four years later. We have to be more accountable to the public for our educational outcomes. We must be relevant to society and the job markets.
That’s why Culverhouse is applying IR2 principles to initiatives like entrepreneurship studies and the accelerated STEM path to multi-specialties bachelor’s degrees/MBA. Programs like these help students develop their career paths and skill sets simultaneously. But because they are also accessing classical disciplines, like the arts, history, languages and science, their education includes a perspective and depth they wouldn’t acquire through other avenues.
That brings me to my next point of agreement.
3. I agree with Mr. Cuban, that employers want the best prepared and qualified employees.
Recently a Wells Fargo banker told me, “I really want students who can think critically. I don’t really care about their background. I just want them to be educated to think critically.”
That’s what differentiates higher education from training. Education is important to a democracy. In our knowledge-based economy, education is still the key to critical thinking, moving into the middle class, and creating better economies. It is the coin of the realm for national and international markets, simply because students are better prepared for a marketplace that requires higher-level thinking skills.
Questions and solutions
Mr. Cuban and Mr. Reynolds are right to raise questions about student loan debt. There are plenty of higher education problems to solve, including how to fairly fund this traditional pathway into the middle class. It’s a question for the public to answer, since it’s the public that our state universities serve.
Meanwhile, the educators at this College of Commerce are doing our best to solve our part of the equation, offering an increasingly innovative, relevant and rigorous education – a high-value education that can be applied for a lifetime, far beyond any campus bubble.