College Leaders Discuss Student Retention and Cost of Higher Education

On December 5, President Obama met with a group of college presidents to discuss the rising costs of college tuition and the issue of student retention, according to an article in the New York Times. The increasing cost of higher education has raised political concern, as graduate rates have decreased and students are finding it increasingly difficult to afford education. It was, according to the article, a topic addressed by the Occupy movement, which brought the issue to the forefront for many officials. With government financing for education projected to be "scarce," universities are being forced to consider new, more affordable ways of conducting higher education.

According to the article, there are 37 million adults with some college, but no degree. This number serves as a testament to the poor retention and graduation rates seen in colleges and universities. One of the issues addressed was the link between K-12 education and higher education, and how important it is to foster that connection to encourage students to attend college. If students are better-prepared for college throughout the K-12 levels, they will be more likely to meet the demands of higher education, and therefore more likely to stay enrolled through to graduation.

Participants also discussed improving upon the traditional system of higher education by changing the role of instructors and becoming more reliant on technological innovations. Blending technology with instruction in the form of hybrid and online models can offer up a solution to the costs faced by students and colleges alike. The use of online models of education can keep the price of instruction low for universities, which in turn will allow them to keep tuition rates low.

President Obama and the college presidents hope that increasing affordability and accessibility through online and blended programs will improve upon the number of college graduates entering the workforce. However, such a transition requires time and experimentation, often in the form of pilot programs. Results will vary until this new system has been fully implemented.

Though the transition to a technologically-based curriculum will not be easy, the first step has already been taken by those present at the meeting. College presidents have been made aware of the two important issues facing higher education today and now recognize that they need to change their traditional views of education. As Jared L. Cohon said in the Times article, it is now time for educators to start thinking differently about higher education. Educational leaders must "question all [their] strongly held assumptions" about education, and bring about changes that will benefit colleges and students alike.

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