Education’s highest purpose is to create well-informed, active, engaged citizens.
Given the premium our society places on higher education, colleges and universities must focus on more than their curriculum. They have a mandate to help students become engaged citizens, and to take responsibility for public life, starting in their own neighborhoods.
That means more than enabling students to log service hours. A civic education should teach students how to solve public problems. How to identify stakeholders, build consensus, and work constructively with the opposition. How to raise money, cut through bureaucracy, and mobilize support.
In short, how to build a world we can share.
In addition, higher education must increasingly demonstrate its value to a more skeptical public., As many have pointed out, we are educating generations of workers for jobs that won’t exist, while failing to educate them for those that will.
For instance, we know that in the years ahead, the service and information sectors will grow even as the job market shrinks. And yet, every year, students graduate without the core competencies necessary to participate in—let alone lead—the job market of the 21st century.
Our world is changing fast. Higher education is not. To help tomorrow’s workers get the skills they need today, Dr. Rodin’s ongoing work and advising focuses on two waves of reform:
The Long Wave
Longer-term reforms to higher education should address both the affordability of, and alternatives to, college.
Between inflated tuitions, overpriced textbooks, and predatory loan programs, the barriers to higher education are simply too high. The majority of degree-seeking Americans can’t afford college—that isn’t just a moral failure, it’s an existential problem for our workforce.
University administrators and faculty, state and federal policymakers, loan servicers, and employers all need to work together to make college education more affordable.
What’s more, the United States should follow the example of other countries, where professional development opportunities—apprenticeships, trade schools, and technical education—are not less respected alternatives to college, but credible pathways to success.
The Short Wave
In the near-term, universities and employers should partner with initiatives that help a broad spectrum of students and current workers adapt to our 21st-century job market.
Reskilling boot camps and professional certification programs are demonstrably helping workers pick up core digital fluencies, like cybersecurity, analytics, and web design. By sharing assets like classrooms and computers on weekends and evenings, universities can generate revenue, create pipelines for employers, and make good on their commitment to upward mobility.