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While there are considerable barriers to lowering the price of U.S. higher education, there are also abundant opportunities for significant cost containment through radically innovative approaches, concluded a collection of experts at a daylong AEI research conference.
The first set of panelists made the case for reform — soaring student loan debt and tuition with dwindling state budgets — and examined the possibility of enacting this change at traditional institutions. While existing institutions can take some steps toward accomplishing this, the potential for reform is likely small. Paul LeBlanc of the Southern New Hampshire University emphasized that there has been very little conversation about disruptive innovation on the higher education reform front.
The second set of panelists responded by zeroing-in on the organizations offering more transformative change. Two panels highlighted a number of emerging companies that are using the Internet to offer extremely cheap or even free college courses to hundreds of thousands of students worldwide, stressing that one day, it might be possible for students to earn a degree by taking courses from multiple providers rather than from a single university. Michael Staton of Inigral discussed at length some companies that are even exploring how to simulate non-academic aspects of the "college experience" such as forging a social network or demonstrating talent to future employers.
Ultimately, federal and state policy will have to change to keep up with the times. The current higher education regulatory model is built on a singular, restrictive conceptualization of college as a four-year residential experience. Yet, today, Burck Smith of StraighterLine pointed out, with a vastly different demographic attending college in a world full of many more postsecondary options, the notion of "college" is rapidly evolving.
It’s no secret that college has become more expensive. Between 1982 and 2007, the cost of tuition and fees for U.S. colleges and universities has increased by more than 400 percent, far outpacing the rate of inflation and median incomes. The recent recession has exacerbated the college cost problem as institutions have raised tuition to make up for lost state funding. Meanwhile, the new completion agenda has called on American higher education to produce more postsecondary credentials in order to meet employer demand. Accomplishing these goals without breaking the bank will require new ideas on how to dramatically reduce the cost of providing postsecondary education.
Andrew P. Kelly of AEI and Kevin Carey of the New America Foundation have commissioned eleven pieces of new research that unearth promising approaches and obstacles to cost containment as well as the implications for state and federal policy. Can the leaders of existing institutions reengineer business models and leverage technology to reduce costs? What is the key to replicating success stories? Moving beyond the traditional system, how can unbundling the various components of a college degree help to dramatically reduce costs? What changes must be made to traditional approaches to regulation, financing and quality control in order to make new pathways possible?
At this AEI event, the authors will present their findings and discuss them with other experts in the field.
Please find the papers from this event at the bottom of this page.
Registration and Breakfast
Andrew P. Kelly, AEI
Panel I: The Case for Reform
Robert B. Archibald, College of William & Mary
Anya Kamenetz, Fast Company
Robert Martin, Centre College
Zakiya Smith, White House Domestic Policy Council
Kevin Carey, New America Foundation
Panel II: Opportunities and Obstacles at Existing Institutions
Wally Boston, American Public University System
Sara Goldrick-Rab, University of Wisconsin
Richard G. Jewell, Grove City College
Jeff Selingo, Chronicle of Higher Education
Andrew P. Kelly, AEI
Panel III: Unbundling College Degrees in Theory and Practice
Andrew Delbanco, Columbia University
Ann Kirschner, Macaulay Honors College, City University of New York
Paul LeBlanc, University of Southern New Hampshire
Michael Staton, Inigral
Kevin Carey, New America Foundation
Panel IV: College in Pieces: Cost-Effective Approaches to Student Services and Credentialing
Ari Blum, Inside Track
Paul Fain, Inside Higher Ed
Amy Laitinen, New America Foundation
Ben Wildavsky, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
Andrew P. Kelly, AEI
Panel V: Implications for State and Federal Policy
Vance Fried, Oklahoma State University
Arthur M. Hauptman, Public Policy Consultant
Raymund A. Paredes, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board
Burck Smith, StraighterLine
Kevin Carey, New America Foundation
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Robert B. Archibald is chancellor professor of economics at the College of William and Mary and has been part of the faculty since he left the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1976. Archibald chaired William and Mary’s economics department from 1986 to 1991, served as interim dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for the 1996–1997 academic year and directed the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy from 2000 to 2004. He has chaired several committees, including the Faculty Research Committee, the Academic Computer Advisory Committee, and the Ad Hoc Committee on the Allocation of Overhead. When he is not working as an administrator, he teaches Intermediate microeconomics, statistics and a seminar in higher education economics. He is currently focusing his research on issues in higher education.
Ari Blum is chief executive officer of InsideTrack, an organization dedicated to improving outcomes for students and the universities that serve them. His career has included leadership roles in a broad range of mission-driven, rapidly growing and successful businesses. Before joining InsideTrack, Blum was with Niman Ranch, the nation's leading brand for natural meats of exceptional quality, integrity and sustainability. He has experience in early-stage venture investing with Investors' Circle and in investment banking with Houlihan, Lokey, Howard, and Zukin. Since joining InsideTrack as chief financial officer in 2006, Blum is responsible for the company's strategic direction and growth.
Wally Boston was appointed president and CEO of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education Inc. (APEI) in July 2004 after serving as executive vice president and chief financial officer in 2002. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and then guided its 10-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, Boston led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. Boston is also a board member of the Education Alliance, a nonprofit organization promoting public/private partnerships serving K-12 public schools in West Virginia. He serves on the advisory board of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, the Presidents’ Forum of Excelsior College, the Arizona State University Education Innovation Advisory Board and Avalere Health LLC. He is a past treasurer of the board of trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. Boston served as either chief financial officer, chief operating officer or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies and Sun Healthcare Group. Boston has also authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online postsecondary student retention.
Kevin Carey is director of the education policy program at the New America Foundation. An expert on Pre-K-12 and higher education issues, Carey has published articles on education and other topics in magazines including The New Republic, Washington Monthly, The American Prospect and Democracy. He writes monthly columns on education for The Chronicle of Higher Education and The New Republic and edits the annual Washington Monthly College Guide. Carey's research includes higher education reform, improving college graduation rates, college rankings, community colleges and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. His writing was anthologized in Best American Legal Writing 2009 and received an Education Writers Association award for commentary in 2010. He appears frequently on media outlets including CNN, C-SPAN and NPR. Before joining New America, Carey worked as the policy director of Education Sector and at the Education Trust. Previously, he worked as an analyst in the Indiana Senate and as Indiana’s assistant state budget director. He also teaches education policy at Johns Hopkins University.
Andrew Delbanco is the director of American studies at Columbia University, where he won the 2006 Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates. Delbanco consistently writes on topics ranging from American literary and religious history to contemporary issues in higher education. His essays are regularly published in The New York Review of Books, The New Republic, Raritan and other journals. Delbanco has also edited and authored a number of books, including: “The Puritan Ordeal,” “The Death of Satan,” “Required Reading: Why Our American Classics Matter Now,” “The Real American Dream” and “Melville: His World and Work” — all of which received notable honors. In 2001, he was named America's Best Social Critic by Time Magazine and then two years later was named New York State Scholar of the Year by the New York Council for the Humanities. Delbanco has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the New York Public Library Center for Scholars and Writers. He is a trustee of the National Humanities Center and the Library of America, and has served as vice president of PEN American Center. Since 1995, he has held the Julian Clarence Levi Professor Chair in the Humanities at Columbia University.
Paul Fain is a senior reporter with online trade publication Inside Higher Ed, where he covers community colleges, for-profit institutions, the non-traditional student market and the completion agenda. Previously, Fain was a senior reporter with The Chronicle of Higher Education, where from 2004 to 2011, he wrote broadly about college leaders, finance and governance. Fain is regularly asked to speak at conferences and events and has been widely cited in the news media. Before joining The Chronicle, Fain reported for C-VILLE Weekly, a newspaper in Charlottesville, Virginia. He has also written for The New York Times, Philadelphia City Paper, Washington City Paper and Mother Jones. Fain has done two stints in public relations, most recently in the higher education practice of Widmeyer Communications. Fain’s writing has won numerous awards, including the 2008 Dick Schaap Excellence in Sports Journalism Award and a 2006 second place prize for beat reporting from the Education Writers Association.
Vance Fried is Riata Professor of Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University. His research focuses on entrepreneurship in higher education, entrepreneurship and public policy, the venture capital industry and the management of firms financed by venture capital. He is the author of “Better/Cheaper College: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Rescuing Undergraduate Education” and related policy papers for AEI and the Cato Institute. He has published in several major journals including Academy of Management Perspectives, California Management Review and Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, among others. Before joining the faculty at Oklahoma State, Fried worked as an attorney in private practice, as an executive of an independent oil company and as an investment banker working with small and mid-cap companies.
Sara Goldrick-Rab is associate professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also the senior scholar at the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education and an affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty, the LaFollette School of Public Affairs and the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research. A sociologist of higher education, her research explores policies aimed at reducing socioeconomic and racial inequalities. Goldrick-Rab was named a 2010 William T. Grant Scholar for her project “Rethinking College Choice in America.” She was also named a 2004 Rising Scholar in Higher Education by the National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good and a 2006 National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation postdoctoral fellow. She is the co-author of “Putting Poor People to Work: How the Work-First Idea Eroded College Access the Poor,” which was a finalist for the C. Wright Mills Award. Her research has been published in journals such as the Sociology of Education, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis and has been financially supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Spencer Foundation, American Educational Research Association, Smith Richardson Foundation, Association for Institutional Research and the Mellon Foundation. She consults regularly with the Center for American Progress, the Brookings Institution, the Community College Research Center, Mathematica Policy Research, the Workforce Strategy Center and the Consortium for Chicago School Research, among others.
Arthur M. Hauptman has been an independent public policy consultant specializing in higher education finance issues since 1981. An internationally recognized expert, he has written extensively on student financial aid, fee setting at public and private institutions, and the public funding of institutions in the U.S. and around the world. His work addresses the fact that public policies are more effective when these three elements of higher education financing are systematically linked. In the U.S., Hauptman has consulted with many federal and state agencies as well as higher education associations and institutions. He played key roles in developing the rationale for a number of federal programs, including direct student loans, income-contingent repayment, GEARUP and tuition tax credits. For states, he has argued for counter-cyclical policies to address the adverse effects of recessions, tying public-sector tuition fees to general income growth rather than costs and paying institutions on the basis of their performance. Internationally, he has consulted with governments or funding bodies in more than two dozen industrialized and developing countries to develop financing strategies for tertiary education.
Richard G. Jewell is president of Grove City College, which he came to after leaving his position as a director of the Chicago-based Navigant Consulting Inc., the nation's largest forensic accounting firm, in the fall of 2003. An accomplished lawyer and businessman, Jewell was previously a partner and vice president of Navigant’s predecessor, Peterson Consulting LLC. Before that, he served as executive vice president of the University of Pittsburgh Trust, the holding entity for five of the university's applied research companies. He was also a senior administrator in applied research at the University of Pittsburgh, a member of the university's senior management council, and president of the Pittsburgh Applied Research Corporation, the for-profit operating company for the University of Pittsburgh Applied Research Center. For 10 years before his work at the University of Pittsburgh, he was a general corporate attorney for Harbison-Walker Refractories. His initial law work was in litigation for the Pittsburgh law firm Wayman, Irvin, Trushel & McAuley. Jewell is also a U.S. Army veteran. He was first elected to Grove City College's board of trustees in 1974 and received its Distinguished Service Award in 2001.
Anya Kamenetz is a senior writer at Fast Company magazine. She is the author of four books that explore the future of education and give an in-depth analysis of the many factors influencing higher education. Her book “Generation Debt” addresses student loans, generational economics and politics, while her book “DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education” investigates the roots of the cost, access and quality crises in higher education and offers innovative ideas to address these crises. She has also written two ebooks, including “The Edupunks' Guide,” which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and “Learning, Freedom and the Web,” produced in collaboration with the Mozilla community. Both books were released in 2011. In 2010, she was named Game Changer in Education by the Huffington Post. In 2010 and 2009, she received two national awards for education reporting from the Education Writers Association. Kamenetz was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing by the Village Voice in 2005. She gives speeches across the country and provides commentary on NPR, CNN and other news networks.
Andrew P. Kelly is a research fellow in education policy studies at AEI. His research focuses on higher education policy, innovation in education, the politics of education reform and consumer choice in education. Previously, he was a research assistant at AEI, where his work focused on the preparation of school leaders, collective bargaining in public schools and the politics of education. His research has appeared in Teachers College Record, Educational Policy, Policy Studies Journal, Education Next and Education Week, as well as popular outlets such as Inside Higher Ed, Forbes, The Atlantic, National Review and the Huffington Post. He is co-editor of “Carrots, Sticks, and the Bully Pulpit: Lessons from A Half-Century of Federal Efforts to Improve America's Schools” (Harvard Education Press, 2011) and “Reinventing Higher Education: The Promise of Innovation” (Harvard Education Press, 2011), as well as the upcoming “Getting to Graduation: The Completion Agenda in Higher Education” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012). In 2011, Kelly was named 1 of 16 “Next Generation Leaders” in education policy by Education Week’s Policy Notebook blog.
Ann Kirschner is university dean of Macaulay Honors College at the City College of New York. Kirschner began her career as a lecturer in Victorian literature at Princeton University. Her career as an entrepreneur in media and technology included the creation of satellite and internet businesses for the National Football League and Columbia University's online education company, Fathom. A frequent contributor to conferences and publications, Kirschner was named one of New York Magazine's “Millennium New Yorkers.” She serves on the board of directors of Apollo, BPP Holdings, Public Agenda, the American Friends of Open University of Israel and the Princeton University English Department Advisory Council. Kirschner is the author of “Sala's Gift” (Simon and Schuster/Free Press, 2006), the story of her mother's wartime rescue of letters from Nazi labor camps, which was translated into multiple languages. Her next book “Tombstone to Hollywood: The Adventures of Mrs. Wyatt Earp,” will be published by Harper Collins.
Amy Laitinen is deputy director for higher education at the New America Foundation (NAF). Before joining NAF, Laitinen was a senior policy analyst for higher education at Education Sector, a non-partisan education think tank in Washington, D.C., where she focused on student financial aid and federal higher education tax policy. Laitinen previously served as a policy adviser to the undersecretary and assistant secretary for vocational and adult education at the U.S. Department of Education, where she was responsible for developing policy and budget proposals for postsecondary education, adult and workforce education and interagency policy. She also led policy design efforts for President Obama's proposed $12 billion American Graduation Initiative and served as a policy adviser in the White House, where she helped plan the White House Community College Summit. Laitinen previously served as chief of staff for Matt Gonzalez, president of San Francisco’s legislative body. She also worked as an economic analyst for the University of California Institute for Labor and Employment, where she wrote an analysis that led San Francisco to adopt its own municipal minimum wage. For two years, she taught as a Teach for America corps member in New York.
Paul LeBlanc became president of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) in 2003 after having served as president of Marlboro College from 1996 to 2003. Under the eight years of Paul’s direction, SNHU has more than doubled in size and has become the largest provider of online higher education in New England. In 2012, the university was number 12 on Fast Company’s World’s Fifty Most Innovative Companies list and was the only university included. SNHU has been recognized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as a “Beating the Odds” school for its innovative programming to increase graduation rates and productivity. It has also been on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Best Colleges to Work For list every year since the listing was created and, in 2011, was named to the Honor Roll, earned a Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement classification in 2010 and moved from Tier 3 to Tier 1 for regional universities in U.S. News & World Report’s ranking. LeBlanc has been asked to speak on innovation, online learning and higher education reform by the New England Board of Higher Education, the Lumina Foundation, Rhode Island’s Board of Higher Education, Harvard University’s Schools of Business and of Education, IBM and the CTO Forum, among others. LeBlanc won a New England Higher Education Excellence Award in 2012 and was named one of New Hampshire’s Most Influential People by the New Hampshire Business Review. Before joining Marlboro College, he was vice president for new technology at Houghton Mifflin Company. He also served as chair of the humanities department at Springfield College in Massachusetts. An authority on technology and education, he is also the author or editor of three books.
Robert Martin is professor emeritus of economics at Centre College, where he has held a Boles Professorship since 1996. Martin began his teaching career at Louisiana State University Student Union, where he taught graduate microeconomic theory and mathematical economics for 13 years. Following that position, he served for a time at the University of Texas at Arlington, where he was a professor and interim dean of the business school. In 2005, he received the Kirk Award for excellence in teaching at Centre College, which is where he completed his teaching career in 2008. Martin has also worked as a corporate development manager and served as a senior executive in a publicly held firm where he was responsible for financial planning, budgeting, mergers and acquisitions. He has also published 2 books and over 40 articles on the diverse topics of behavior under risk and uncertainty, recycling, externality regulation, medical economics, franchising, enrollment management and tuition discounting. The bulk of these publications are in academic journals such as the American Economic Review, the Journal of Public Economics, Economic Inquiry, Southern Economic Journal, Applied Economics and the Journal of Comparative Economics. Martin continues to pursue an active higher education research agenda.
Raymund A. Paredes is the commissioner of higher education for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Paredes spent most of his academic career at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he served as an English professor, associate vice chancellor for academic development and as special assistant to the president. Before coming to the Coordinating Board in July 2004, Paredes was vice president for programs at the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF), where he was responsible for scholarship and outreach programs. Before joining the HSF, he was director of creativity and culture at The Rockefeller Foundation from 2001 to 2003. Since joining the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in 2004, Paredes’s primary focus has been closing the education gaps in student participation and success. He has traveled across Texas building partnerships with the K-12 education community, including developing a strong relationship with the Texas Education Agency, two-year and four-year institutions of higher education, elected officials, educational leaders, the business community and community-based organizations. Paredes also served in the U.S. Army for two years, including a 14-month tour with the First Infantry Division in Vietnam. He was included in the Hispanic Business 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the October 2007 issue of Hispanic Business magazine.
Jeff Selingo has been the vice president and editorial director of The Chronicle of Higher Education since August 2011. Selingo is a leading authority on higher education worldwide, campus leadership, college and university governance, fundraising and trustees, executive compensation and state-government policy and politics. He writes a regular blog and column for The Chronicle and The Huffington Post called Next, where he explores innovation in higher education and offers insights on the future of college. Before coming to The Chronicle, he covered environmental issues as a reporter for the Wilmington Star-News (1995–1997) and worked for The Ithaca Journal (1994–1995). As a recipient of a Pulliam Journalism Fellowship, he covered business technology for The Arizona Republic. For the past 15 years, Selingo has worked in a variety of roles at The Chronicle, including as editor from 2007 to 2011. His work has been honored with awards from the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Associated Press. He was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists. He has been a featured speaker before dozens of national higher education groups and appears regularly on regional and national radio and television programs, including NPR, PBS, ABC, MSNBC and CBS. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Selingo is currently working on his first book “College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students,” which will be published by Amazon and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the spring of 2013.
Burck Smith is the CEO of StraighterLine, which he founded in 2009. 10 years before launching StraighterLine, he co-founded SMARTHINKING, the largest online tutoring provider for schools and colleges. Smith has written chapters for two books on education policy for AEI. Before starting SMARTHINKING, Smith worked as an independent consultant contracting with for-profit and nonprofit educational organizations, including clients such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft, Computer Curriculum Corporation, the CEO Forum on Education and Technology, the Milken Exchange on Education and Technology, Teaching Matters Inc. and Converge Magazine, among others. As an education and technology issues writer, Smith has been published by Wired Magazine, Wired News, Converge Magazine, University Business and the National School Boards Association. In the early 1990s, he wrote articles on a variety of subjects including creating community telecommunication networks, electronic access to political information, telecommunications deregulation and the ability of utilities to serve as telecommunications service providers.
Zakiya Smith is a senior adviser for education at the White House Domestic Policy Council. Before her current appointment, Smith worked at the U.S. Department of Education in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, where she developed programmatic, policy and budget solutions to respond to pressing challenges in college access, affordability and completion. She also worked to align the Department of Education’s initiatives and activities with the President Obama’s higher education agenda. Before her work in the current administration, she was director of government relations at the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, where she conducted research on college access programs, community colleges and the ability of low- and moderate-income families to afford college. She has also worked for Teach for America helping to train new teachers and for the federal GEAR UP program in East Boston, Massachusetts, providing college preparation and financial aid information to high school students.
Michael Staton is founder and CEO of Inigral. An educator turned Internet entrepreneur, he has led Inigral through three rounds of investment and brought on 90 partner institutions. Inigral is considered the leading company in developing social software for student recruitment and retention in higher education. It has also been named one of the top 10 innovative companies in education by Fast Company and has attracted a program-related venture investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As the leader of Inigral's strategic direction, he thinks about the transformation of institutions to adapt to the coming wave of technology and disruptive market forces. Staton has been a panelist and speaker at the Arizona State University Innovation in Education Summit, South by Southwest, Internet Week, National College Access Network, the White House and the President’s Council on the Advancement of Science and Technology. He tries to help other education entrepreneurs get off the ground and functions as an adviser to various startups in the education space, including the New Schools Venture Fund Seed Fund. Before starting Inigral, he was an innovative educator and curriculum designer focused on building a college readiness curriculum framework.
Ben Wildavsky is a senior scholar in research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of “The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities Are Reshaping the World” (Princeton University Press, 2010), which won the Frandson Award for Literature in the Field of Continuing Higher Education and is being translated into Chinese, Vietnamese and Arabic. He is also co-editor of” Reinventing Higher Education: The Promise of Innovation” (Harvard Education Press, April 2011). Before joining the Kauffman Foundation in 2006, Wildavsky was the education editor of U.S. News & World Report, where he was the top editor of America's Best Colleges and America's Best Graduate Schools. Before joining U.S. News, he was a budget, tax and trade correspondent for National Journal; a higher education reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle and executive editor of the Public Interest. His writing has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy and The New Republic, among other publications. He is a guest blogger for The Chronicle of Higher Education. As a consultant to national education reformers, he has written several influential reports, including the secretary of education’s Commission on the Future of Education’s “A Test of Leadership.” He appears regularly in the media, including on CNN, in The New York Times and in Marketplace. He has spoken to dozens of audiences in the U.S. and abroad, including at Google, Harvard University the London School of Economics, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Economist's Human Potential conference, the American College of Greece and the University of Melbourne.