Thursday, February 24, 2011

Reducing Higher Education Costs

This post by a UT humanities professor discusses Governor Perry's idea that a college education can be designed so that it may be had for $10,000. Advances in technology and some common sense would be the key to a reformat.

One feature is to eliminate live lectures. Another is to reduce that the time required for an undergraduate degree from four to three years.

Mary tells me that many of her med school peers have stopped going to lectures, choosing to use the time for even more studying. The intense testing regime of med school would seem to discipline severely anyone who didn't use the time released from skipping lectures for personal study. It seems risky to me to skip the lectures, but maybe there is a good argument for it, especially if the economic costs of the lecture outweigh the benefit.

Assuming that there are important pedagogical benefits of a good lecture (note the qualifier), what would one loose if they were simply taped? What is the marginal pedagogical benefit of attending a live lecture? Run that question through a cost-benefit analysis.

My experience with law school tells me that it easily could be reduced to two years from three. What a good law school does best is teach one how to think and write like a lawyer. My observations were that the students at ChiLaw "got it" well within two years. If the summer after the first year were eliminated, one could get a good legal education within a year and a half. Tack on in place of that third year some sort of residency or internship requirement, and one has significantly reduced the cost of a legal education.

What about the "collegial" benefits of students coming together to discuss the issues raised by course content? I don't believe eliminating them is on the agenda. There would continue to be settings for small groups and, of course, the "social networking" features of the internet would be employed to supplement if not simply replace those meetings.

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