Here’s a column the academy hopes no-one will read: Glenn Reynolds’ insightfully advocating in the WSJ for deep reforms to the American college system. Reynolds argues that mounting college debt paired with stagnant wages will catalyze solutions that could drastically disrupt the academy. Some of his predictions will be familiar to regular VM readers: online education will become more important, and schools will have to find ways to reduce administrative bloat. One particularly interesting suggestion he makes is that colleges might keep physical spaces but still conduct their classes online:
We may eventually see the rise of “hoteling” for college students whose courses are done primarily online. Build a nice campus—or buy one, from a defunct traditional school—put in a lot of amenities, but don’t bother hiring faculty: Just bring in your courses online, with engineering from Georgia Tech, arts and literature from Yale, business from Stanford and so on. Hire some unemployed Ph.D.s as tutors (there will be plenty around, available at bargain-basement rates) and offer an unbundled experience. It’s a business model that just might work, especially in geographic locations students favor. Grand Cayman is awfully nice this time of year.
With the social and technological picture changing so rapidly, it’s hard to know if all of Glenn’s predictions will work out, and we might emphasize even more strongly than he does that the right kind of humanities education can be as practical as anything in the engineering department. But any college president who isn’t taking Glenn’s concerns seriously isn’t doing the job.