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Glenn Hubbard asked me today at a talk with the @EconClubNY, "How do you expect higher-ed to be evolving both in terms of delivery and addressing opportunity?" I told him I think the two things go together.
I am very proud of the fact that I put in place a set of policies during my time as President of @Harvard that was widely emulated, that basically said if your family had an income below $60,000, you didn’t have to pay a cent to come to @Harvard.
This changed the composition of student body, the applicant pool and influenced what other universities did. It was a really great thing.
Maybe it changed 5-10% of a class, that was 100 people, and maybe it happened at 10 other schools. So maybe 1000 people each year. That’s good but relative to the issue of opportunity in America, 1000 people is more than symbolism but not much more.
If our leading universities are really are going to matter for opportunity in the United States, it’s going to be because they operate on a completely different scale than they used to.
If you think about it, any institutions in the private sector that was a quarter as successful as Columbia or Harvard would have expanded by far more over half a quarter of a century than any of the universities have.
Universities, unlike businesses, define their success by who they exclude rather than by who they include.
The great opportunity before us is that technology in education cannot just be a cheaper way of providing product but can be a better way of providing product.
Technology can enable students sitting each at home, doing their reading, to be in dialogue with each other about the reading. Technology can enable each person watching a lecture to watch at their own pace, with digressions into whatever interests them most.
Technology can make possible when you’re preparing materials for 20,000 people for there to be an entirely different level of expense in making it entertaining and enlightening than say for a calculus lecture to 125 students.
So, the question is who is going to take this opportunity? It’s like the opportunity that was open when people figured out that video didn’t just have to be putting a camera in the back of theater but provided opportunities previously unexploited.
The history of American capitalism shows, as my late @Harvard colleague Clay Christensen emphasized, it’s not a very high chance it will be America’s leading universities who will disrupt and profoundly change the sector.
Everything we know about disruptive technological progress suggests when run by inclusive committees, as universities are, makes it even less likely to have that kind of disruptive change.
It will come from somewhere. It will represent a huge, huge opportunity. My guess is that after 50 year of basic stasis, higher-ed will look very different 15-20 years from now than it looks today. And the question is, who is going to drive that change?
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