When the world of higher education began in America, the motto was, “universitas magistrorum et scholarium” which means, “a community of masters and scholars”. It was a place for exchange of ideas. It was a place where students could meet with those who were experts in their field and learn everything they could from them. It was a refuge from the outside world.
I have now been teaching in Higher Education for about 17 years. In that time, I have taught in Community Colleges, big R1 Universities, Small private colleges and universities. One thing that I have noticed in each of these situations is that we are still holding on to the industrial revolution in how we tend to structure our programs. We have changed from a community of masters and scholars to a place where students exchange debt for a series of credit hours.
We have specific courses that every student must take in order to get a degree. There are courses within the degree program itself that are there to prepare a student in their major. Then there are the courses known as “General Education”. Most colleges and universities require that a student take varying amounts of English, Math, Science, a Foreign Language, History… The idea behind this is that we are helping form a well rounded individual.
Here is the big problem with that!
The world is growing at too quickly a rate for a student to have a chance to be a renaissance man. There are over 2 million new books published now each year. There are over 130 million books in print. In four years of college, even if the student spent every waking hour reading, they might get through 1,500 of those books….not even approaching 1%. Students need to be able to find a niche in the world and work in it.
I hate it when people say, “here is the problem” but don’t have a solution. So, here is my solution suggestion.
Teach the basics of those general education courses in the context of the major discipline. Here is what I mean by that. Instead of requiring every student in the university to take English 101 that teaches composition and rhetoric, teach a writing course in the discipline using the style of writing, documentation etc. that is common to that discipline. We teach students to write in the English Department’s MLA format, and then the Bio-Chemistry major goes back to their side of campus and has to unlearn and re-learn how to write and document in their area of concentration.
As a Spanish professor, we could teach things like Math, History, and even Science as part of the Spanish curriculum.
The kickback is that this would create a need for more faculty in each department to cover the extra courses. The trade off is that departments would not have to fund teaching all of those general education courses.
The second trade off is even better. The students in the classes would actually want to be there. The courses would still be hard, but they would be targeting the interests and goals of the student. As a professor, having classes full of students who really love my subject area sounds like a dream come true!
It is easy to confuse being busy with being productive. By productive, I don’t just mean that you produce more widgets. I am referring to the idea of actively working toward your life goals. Are you spending valuable time with your family? Are you working toward making your own business a success? Are you achieving that degree? Are you getting out of debt?
Are you really making progress, or are you spending hours a day checking e-mail? Are you using your talents in the best way possible? Could you free up some of your time by hiring someone else to do work that doesn’t take your marketable skills, but takes up a lot of your time?
It is easy to spend a lot of time in our busy lives accomplishing nothing. If you are happy because you conquered level 5 million on Candy Crush, you might be able to free up some time to work on your business idea and break free from your corporate job. Are you an average American who spends more than 4 hours a day watching TV? (That seems crazy to me…but I do spend that much time interacting with people on social media most days.) My own social media addiction is a good example. If I spent that time reading and blogging and spending time with friends in real life, I would be much more productive.
What can you change in your life to make it less busy, but more productive?
So you don’t have a background in marketing. You don’t have money for advertizing. All you have is an idea?
Here are some ways to get to work helping your idea spread. Start marketing you by building your platform. When you have that platform, you can then use it to get speaking engagements, sell books, music, courses…AFTER you have gained that potential customer’s permission to market to them; AFTER you have gained their trust.
- Write a blog. You are reading this one aren’t you? Share your ideas with people! By posting to your blog on a consistent basis, this will not only help others become familiar with you or your organization, it will help create that trust environment that we need in today’s connection economy. People tend to do business with those they know and trust.
- Have a social media presence. This doesn’t mean just signing up for a facebook, twitter, linkedin or other account. This means figuring out where your target demographic is most likely to be and then using it. Don’t just promote your product or service! Interact with others. Seek out those who are experts in your field. Help those who are coming up in your field. Like the blog, use this as a tool to make connections. It is wise to create offline connections too with these people. After you have connected online, get together with them at a conference or give them a call.
- Ask people to guest blog on your site. This gives them exposure to your readers, but it also brings in an outside expert for “your people” to learn from.
- Guest blog on other sites in your niche. This gets your name out in other circles.
- Comment or interact with others on both your blog and other blogs in your niche.
- Create free content to put on youtube or other video hosting site. Make sure that you include a link back to your own site.
- Have a website that is kept up to date. (The only think worse than not having a website at all is having one with out of date information like no longer working phone numbers or other defunct contact information.)
- Share your ideas with people you know in real life.
- Volunteer to write an article in your local newspaper about your area of expertise.
- Offer a free course in your area of expertise at a local community center or library. (They may even allow you to sell copies of your product or make a pitch for your paid service.)
The basic premise here is give til it hurts, then give some more. You will build up a tribe slowly. It takes time. I wish I could tell you that there were three easy steps to becoming a millionaire in a month or less, but that is very unlikely. It takes work. But if you want to get your, or your organization’s name out there for practically free, you now know some ways to do it. The long slow road isn’t easy, but it will get results if you put the work in.
When I was a college student, there was a guy at my school who had done 4 years in the military before coming to school. Unlike many military guys, he hadn’t spent his pay on cool cars, motorcycles and other things. He had saved well during his four years. As a freshman in college, he bought a house near the school that was quite a fixer-upper. It had four bedrooms though. He rented each of the bedrooms out to college friends which more than covered the mortgage cost. Between that and his down payment, he was able to pay the house off in the four years we were in school. (He also had cheap labor for fixing up the house since the other three college students who were living with him were able bodied men. )
As we graduated, the rest of us were facing student loans and moving out of the dorms. He had a paid off house and a business plan that was already in action. His real estate empire was well on the way and he was in his mid 20′s.
The moral of the story for me…I think I need a housemate or two.
The world of higher education is in a rough spot. People are beginning to figure out that a college education isn’t the golden ticket to that good job they were promised by people back in high school. I remember well seeing those “career counselors” who taught us that if we follow the rules, get an education, find a career with a good company…we will make more money than those with only a High School diploma.
You are reading so far and thinking, Wait! I am a student in college now. Or you are possibly a professor and wondering if the outlook is really that bleak for the future of your field.
I too teach college, so I feel your pain. After seventeen years in the field, I am quite comfortable with it. I love what I do. I love college students and teaching. This is part of the reason I want to share these thoughts with you.
The world of Higher Education is a crazy one. While from the outside, it looks like a place where a collection of teachers who should know their fields well pour their heart and soul into students who are just waiting to receive that knowledge, the reality is quite different.
There are different kinds of colleges and universities. Those in the system understand this well, those outside usually do not.
The “top of the heap” are those famous colleges. The Ivy League. These are the oldest and most competitive schools. The education will be a solid one, but more importantly, your classmates will be the brightest and best our world has to offer. If not, then they come from rich and powerful families and thus are still good for future networking prospects.
The next group of colleges are Tier 1 schools. These aren’t Ivy League, but they are trying to be in the top rankings for their type of school.
There are also what are known as R1 schools. These schools pride themselves on being research institutions. They get huge grants for their labs and publications. Don’t be fooled, your local state college might be an R1 school!
There are private colleges and universities. These range in quality from incredible to lousy. Unfortunately, the price-tag isn’t a great measurement for which is which.
At the “bottom” are community colleges. These schools deal with many students who are first generation college students. Students who don’t have the financial background to go to more expensive schools. Students who couldn’t get into “better” schools.
The incredible thing about community colleges and private colleges/universities is that they are most often the school where the professors are actually teaching the courses.
In the R1 and Tier 1 schools, the freshman and sophomore courses are often taught by Teaching Assistants (TAs). A TA is often just out of undergraduate work themselves and working on a Master’s degree. This means that you might be paying a lot of money for a brand name professor, but the person actually teaching has no experience in the field.
You might be asking, “But you still haven’t explained what the world of Higher Education will do!”
I believe that we will see a collapse in the Higher Education market similar to the crash in the housing market that was seen a few years ago.
I believe that there are some key factors that will set apart the schools that will make it and those that will change drastically or go under.
Ivy League schools will still go on. If for no other reason than that they are the schools where the rich and powerful learn how to stay rich and powerful, make friends with others who are rich and powerful and maybe even marry one of them.
Another group of schools that will be ok are the schools who have learned to budget well and are not in debt. This lack of debt means that when tuition prices hit a natural ceiling and can’t go up anymore, they aren’t scrambling to figure out how to make the payments on those new state of the art buildings they are so proud of.
The third group of schools that I believe will make it are those who are thinking way outside the norm.
- There are schools that have kept their costs down in spite of the crazy boom caused by cheap government loans and grants.
- There are schools that are trying new things that really cater to needs of the changing student population.
- Example: Working with 5 week sessions rather than semesters or quarters so that students can more easily work and study.
- Example: Finding ways to ensure that students graduate with zero student loans, or at very least minimal student loan debt.
- There are schools that will find a niche market. They will quit trying to cater to everyone.
- Example: Art schools, Seminaries, Pure Science and Math Schools.
What is your school doing?
Books By Burl Walker
- December 2013
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- December 2012
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- December 2011
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