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Shifting the High Costs of Higher Learning

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Higher education in America finds itself at a crossroads with
the costs of educating students a constant incremental skyward creep, student
loans spiraling out of control and employers finding college students unprepared
for the workforce. The system is in crisis; if not broken then certainly it's
sick and in need of reform.
PBS's Frontline has some great investigative reporting on
the subject. With full disclosure I did many interviews with college students who
did not complete their college education as a graduate student working for the
MacArthur Foundation. We learned that it's a complicated question, and like all
design problems it requires a systematic and rigorous look at the issues. Quite
simply, like healthcare, there was no simple panacea for the system.
Higher education is one of crown jewels of America; and many
of our institutions are the envy of the world. At present, Boston alone is home
to Harvard, MIT, and Boston University with Dartmouth a stones throw from the
FEI conference.
And so I attended Karl McDonnell's Maintaining America's Competitive Positions with a New Corporate
Academic Partnership.
The numbers presented are staggering:
- 22 million college grads have jobs that don't require a college
degree
- 50% of college students are unemployed
- 34% are of the unemployed are dislocated employees on
extended unemployment

These numbers were called into question in a way that seemed
unfair to the forum and presenter. Regardless, Karl McDonnell's Strayer University
has introduced a Degrees@Work program, a partnership between education and
industry where automakers try to fill the gaps between students trying to find
affordable education and business' needing a well-educated workforce. This constitutes
a partnership between Chrysler Fiat and Strayer where employees can receive
associates, bachelors and masters degrees free of charge. Zero fees for
employees for the degree, for books and expenses, an education valued at
approximately $42,000. The idea here is that Fiat's performance will improve
over time with a better-educated and better-prepared workforce. Truly this is
an interesting innovation, a clear investment of business into their human
capital and other companies, most recently Starbucks, are also experimenting.
These are encouraging signs for higher education.

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