Authors@Google: Rich DeMillo

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 01.02.2012

>>Female presenter: I'm really happy to introduce Rich DeMillo who's the Distinguished Professor
of Computing and Professor of Management, the former John. P. Imlay Dean of Computing,
and the director of the new Center for 21st Century universities at Georgia Tech. , Previously,
he had academic positions at Purdue, University of Wisconsin, and University of Padua. He
directed the Computer and Computation Research Division of NSF. And was Hewlett Packard's
first CTO. The author of over 100 articles and books, he's here to talk today about his
new book Abelard to Apple. Thanks so much for coming here, Rich.
>>Rich: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for coming. I want to talk to you about what I'm
thinking of as the fate -- future fate of American higher education. I'm sort of an
unlikely person to write a book about university. If you think about the famous books about
higher education, they're usually written by college presidents. The college presidents
leave and write a memoir of their experience. Sometimes they're written by people who do
research in education so they present original research results. Policy people, economists
who have kind of deep things to say about education. And of course, I'm none of those.
And to be honest, I didn't set out to write this book. When I stepped down as dean in
2009, I really had a very different book in mind. I was going to write a book about innovation.
Because they're just aren't enough books out there about innovation. And unfortunately,
I was saved from that fate. When I did step down, I decided to write as a lot of deans
do a valedictory. So I wanted to summarize in four or five pages things I had learned
as a dean to hand off to my boss and my fellow deans at Georgia Tech So I wrote this four
or five page little thing and circulated it and started to get questions from people.
I don't know that or I didn't believe that. So grumble, grumble. I'd go back and expand
on something I had said and pretty soon my little 5-page memo, was a 10-page memo, then
a 15-page memo, then 100 page memo and at some point I decided to stop because I was
just tired about writing about being a dean. And happened to make a trip to see my editor
at MIT press for my innovation book. And she happened to ask over lunch so what else are
you working on? And I said, "well, really nothing, except I've got this 100-page thing
that I don't know what to do with." And she said oh, what's it about. And I said it's
about why college costs so much, why the outcomes are so bad, why universities are slow to change.
And she said oh, well, that's really interesting, because that's the number one thing we hear
about these days as an opportunity for books. So I quite wisely dropped by book on innovation
and spent the next year putting together this book on the future of universities. And I
was a little ways into the project. I sort of anticipated this book to be a book written
by a professor for other professors and I was a little ways into the project and was
at a social gathering and someone said, "oh, what are you working on" and I told this story.
And they said, "well give me an example", so I gave some examples. Eyes glazed over.
Not because they were – well, they were probably bored with the conversation, but
they had no idea what I was talking about. And these were people that were on my advisory
board, that had advanced degrees from Georgia Tech and Carnegie Mellon and MIT. They just
had no idea what this conversation was all about. So a couple months into writing the
book, I made a right turn and the right turn was to stop writing a book for people in academia
and start writing a book for my friends. So, the book I'm going to talk to you about today
is really a book that was intended to be a conversation starter for everyone else in
the world who's not deeply involved in the minutia and processes of higher education.
And you know, we'll talk along the ways about some of the things that people are concerned
about. I guess the first thing to do is explain the title of the book. Abelard to Apple. First
of all, why Apple? Well, I searched really hard for a medieval scholar that began with
G or Y. And sorry there aren't any. There are barely any with M. But there are a lot
with A. Anselm, Aquinas. Peter Abelard, who it turns out, has an interesting story independent
of the history of western universities. So Peter Abelard was an 11th century French monk.
And he's mainly known for his unfortunate love affair with a woman named Heloise. It
ended badly for both of them. That's how most people know about Peter Abelard. I'm the product
of a Catholic liberal arts education, so I knew about Peter Abelard from early day. But
I had a chance to get reacquainted with him when HP bought Compaq, because they had code
names. HP was called Heloise. . And Compaq was called Abelard. It was unfortunate. [laughter]
And it was entirely Michael Capellas' own doing for not Googling Peter Abelard to realize
that Carly Fiorina who, of course, was the classic scholar knew the history completely
and knew that as a result of this love affair Peter Abelard was castrated. [laughter] So,
I did a little digging around that time. Sort of stuck in the back of my mind as I was looking
for a title for this book. So, that's the Abelard of Abelard to Apple. Apple is the
Apple of Abelard to Apple. Sort of inspired by iTunes U. And really the book is about
this historical arc -- I'm not only not an economist I'm not a historian -- but I do
talk about the historical arc from this 11th century monk who's arguably the first true
pure university professor to what's happening in education today. At the time that I wrote
the book, that was kind of epitomized by iTunes, iTunes U. Peter Abelard was physically imposing,
compelling, handsome guy who would draw thousands of people to hear his lectures. He was an
iconoclast. He thought nothing of tweaking the nose of the ecclesiastical establishment.
His master work is something called 'yes and no'. 'Sic et non' in Latin. And it's really
a way of using the inherent contradictions of the church hierarchy of the day to form
these arguments and students would learn how to argue on that basis. So it was all about
mentoring. It was all about the physical presence of Peter Abelard and what he had to offer
to his students. And what's that got to do with iTunes U or YouTube edu? Well, in many
ways what we're talking about is projecting modern day Peter Abelards out to, not an audience
of thousands of people who come from medieval towns in Europe, but to a global audience
who are looking for that kind of engagement. The subtitle of the book is "the Fate of American
Colleges and universities." So why not the future of American colleges and universities?
As one of the reviewers of the book said fate is a much more interesting word than future.
Sort of draws you into a discussion of what the fate [audience member comments] -- yes,
well, so the fate of universities, it turns out, is to be subject to the same economic,
political, geographic forces as every other human institution. And from that premise,
a lot of things follow. And we'll talk about some of them today. Believe it or not, believe
it or not, you can get into a very good argument in faculty lounges about whether or not that
proposition is true. Maybe we'll have that discussion today. But my view on this is not
that I'm making a prediction about where universities are going to go. I'm not making a prediction
about higher education. I'm simply making the observation that higher education, whether
it's here or in China or in Europe, is a human endeavor. And it's going to be following paths
that we have seen historically and we kind of know how things are going to turn out in
some of those cases.
Well, let me kind of get into it. There are some controversial things in this book. And
let me just begin by facing those head on. Not nearly as controversial as I thought some
of my arguments were going to be. I was with a colleague -- so I'm very hard about criticizing,
for example, accrediting agencies and the idea of accreditation in higher education.
And I thought I was really going to be edgy about this. And I was with a colleague last
week who said, "well, why did you pull your punches about accreditation?" So take this
idea of controversy with a grain of salt. But some of the things that people have mentioned
and talked about have to do with comparisons that I make. So for example, I talk a lot
about faculty-centrism and student-centrism in universities. And I do this in a way that
could very easily be misunderstood which is great for selling books. But the idea is that
very early in the history of western universities, there was a schism in the idea of a university.
So the Italian universities -- the first universities were what are called student-centered universities.
Students would come from all over Europe, all over the world actually to places like
Bologna because there was a concentration of scholars who knew about law in Bologna.
But the university played virtually no role in that at all. Students would show up. They
would decide whether or not they wanted to pay to attend. They would decide whether or
not a professor was giving them value for what they sought. The state provided sanctions
for non-performance. The students sort of ran the show. Then, the French got a hold
of the idea of universities and the whole picture changed. French became what are called
master universities. And the idea of a master university is that the faculty members are
in charge. And of course what happens when a profession takes over an institution is
the minutia of the profession tends to dominate the internal discussion. So you'll find these
letters among French professors from the 13th century that talk, for example, about how
fast they should write -- you know, write out their notes. You want students to actually
be able to take notes contemporaneously. There's a group that says yes; there's a group that
says no. There's a lot of the sociology of the way the university works that owes directly
to this kind of contradictory view of university. Southern universities in Europe were basically
run by and for students. Northern universities, by and for faculty members. When the U.S.
kind of imported the idea of a university, what universities did they look toward? Oxford,
Cambridge, Johns Hopkins looked toward the German research university. So this idea of
a faculty-centric culture kind of is carried along in that way. And Frederick Rudolph,
who has a wonderful history of higher education in the U.S., makes the point that at the point
in which the Johns Hopkins faculty just after the civil war was deciding how they were going
to work, they decided that it was the purpose of the students to stimulate the faculty rather
than the other way around. And that's kind of a metaphor for how universities develop,
particularly research universities. I'm critical of presidents in this book. In fact, I have
a whole chapter called the Smartest Kid in Class. And I think the title kind of says
it all. Presidents are the people who are most able to change directions when they see
universities heading off in unproductive ways. And some of them have in the past. You know,
when Harvard abolished its required curriculum, it was because Charles Elliot, much to the
surprise of the people that hired him as president said, "we're not going to have required courses
anymore." And sort of brought the required classical Latin based curriculum of American
higher education down. And I really do lament the -- I think decreasingly small fraction
of American presidents that are willing to do bold things. There are relatively few.
And we'll come back to that. I mentioned some of them in the book as well. I guess the other
thing that tends to draw incoming fire is actually not something I say in the book,
not something I intended, but it's a kind of made-up clash between the sciences and
the humanities. So I talk in the book a lot, for example, about the value of a university.
I'm not the first person to talk about the value of a university. Discussion's been going
on for a long time. But liberal arts professors have interpreted this as me requiring a dollar
value to be placed on the output of a university on the university degree. And I guess the
unwritten assumption there is that if you're in the arts, if you're in the humanities it's
much more difficult to quantify the value of your degree. That's an interesting discussion.
It's not one that I intended. Although given the dramatic increase in cost of a college
education, sort of a timely discussion to have. Because when you're paying $2,000 a
year for a college education and you decide that you want to major in art history, it
becomes relatively less important about how you're going to pay off that college loan
than when you're paying $50,000 a year which is the situation that we have now. It's only
been a couple of months since student loan debt crossed over credit card debt as a major
source of indebtedness for American families. So a lot of the things that we believe about
the value of a college education has this context around it which says well, the college
education is relatively cheap. It's a place where post adolescents go, grow and learn
this stuff and then they leave and do other things. And that world has certainly changed.
[pause] Yeah, I talked about kind of backyard summer picnic conversations I had with neighbors.
There's a big discussion that's taking place kind of outside earshot of college professors
about colleges. And a lot of it is informed by what you see in the media. A lot of it
is informed by assumptions about the way universities work. If you spend any time, for example,
watching cable news broadcasts, you'll see someone get up and say, "we're producing too
few college students, we're producing college students that flip burgers for a living. Cost
of college is driven by the availability of student loans." A lot of statements made about
the way higher education works. So I wanted, in this book, to not be a textbook about how
universities work, but to be a story. That's how I got to this Abelard to Apple title.
I wanted it to be a story that kind of conveys not only the sweep of what's happened over
the last thousand years in higher education, but also drills down on some of these issues.
So this issue, for example, of how many college students should we be producing. Are we producing
college students that flip burgers for a living? Is kind of conditioned on the fact that no
one has ever checked to see. How many college graduates should we be producing? A guy named
Anthony Carnevale from Georgetown university decided to do a horizontal study, a macroeconomic
study of the production of college graduates -- and it turns out that the U.S. has been
under-producing college graduates for the last 30 years. To the tune of about a million
students a year. So, we sit here today in 2012 and we are probably 20 million short.
>>Male#1: [inaudible]
>>Rich: So the question is what does it mean to say you're under-producing? The demand
for college graduates exceeds the supply by about a million students a year. Now, you
know that's the number that you can look at and say, 'yeah, but where are those students
going to go?' And they went further than that. So what they did is they looked at the Department
of Labor ranking of skill levels that are required for jobs. So just, you know, kind
of in rough terms there are jobs that have very low threshold for skill requirements.
Retail clerks, for example. There are highly skilled jobs. Rocket scientists. Google engineers.
And there are in the middle jobs that may or may not be filled by people with college
degrees. So, if you look at the lowest skill level for example, indeed, you will find college
graduates filling some of the -- there are college graduates that flip burgers for a
living but not many. Not many. Somewhere to one and two percent of those jobs are held
by college graduates. And it turns out, if you're flipping burgers for a living you're
better off having a college degree than not. Because over the lifetime of your burger flipping
career, you will end up financially better off than someone with only a high school degree.
So, you can kind of look at the coffee, you know, coffee table discussions of what's going
on in higher education. Say, well, there are things that are true we can measure. There
are things that are not true we can only ponder. And then there are trends and direction. And
that's really what I want to talk about. And I want to tell you a story. And I'll read
a short passage from the book. But the story, in order to make sense of the story, you sort
of have to understand that higher education in this country in most countries of the world
is a class system. Kind of a jarring concept. You think of universities as being meritocracies
s and egalitarian and all this. They're a class system. And one of the manifestations
of being a class system is that there are universities at the top. There are elite universities.
And we all know who is in that class. The Ivy Leagues, for example, are in that class.
Georgia Tech may or may not be in that class. But Dade Community College is certainly not
in that class. That is the middle. There are somewhere between three and four thousand
universities in the middle. universities that are not distinguished by the size of their
endowment. By the distinguished nature of their alumni. By the scholarly achievements
of their faculty. They're in the middle. And life in the middle is not terrific right now.
It's a financial struggle. It's a cultural struggle. It's a political struggle.
So let me kind of turn to a passage in the book from a chapter entitled Beware the Well-Oiled
Machine. Because I think it will tell you a little bit about the middle..
[reading] Linda's first challenge when she was named department head was to reform the
curriculum. Students were required to take the introductory courses in her department.
This requirement meant that the instructional workload for the introductory teachers amounted
to thousands of credit hours per year, many more contact hours that would be consistent
with effective mentoring. Over time, the department had to figure out how to cope with such a
high workload. They decided to become sort of a factory. Part-time instructors, usually
retired professionals, were handed an hour by hour lesson plan in a large stack of overhead
transparencies for recitation to 100 freshmen. Projects were carried out in smaller groups
under the supervision of teaching assistants many of them students themselves. Tenure track
faculty had virtually no contact with freshmen. And there was no faculty supervision of the
introductory course sequence. A student services organization staffed entirely by non-faculty
academic professionals and advisors oversaw the entire operation which consumed a sizable
fraction of the department's operating budget. By 2002, the results were indisputable. A
cheating scandal was exposed to the glare of national media. Lab assignments and projects
designed as a rite of passage by upper class men and graduate students required an unreasonable
amount of time to complete and were wildly out of sync with the academic goals of most
students. Business, science, and engineering students, for example, were barred from using
tools that the instructors did not like. Even though familiarity with those tools will be
required in later courses on campus. Student complaints far exceeded any other unit on
campus and the attrition rate in Linda's department was well-above 50 percent. Even worse, the
introductory courses alienated female students. Male teaching assistants assigned project
tasks by gender. Women were assigned writing and documentation tasks; men were assigned
leadership roles. Female enrollment was a full ten points lower than the national average
and 20 points below the levels in the other departments in the university. Open-ended
comments from students confirmed that there were few mature guiding hands in the introductory
courses. So Linda's first step was to hire Mark, a respected senior professor who had
a reputation as a sort of turn around expert, to guide the reorganization of the of the
student services. Mark began to review operations of the student services organization, but
long time staffers immediately warned him that he should not mess around with how things
were currently being done because it's a well-oiled machine.
It was a revelation. Even the support staff thought of themselves as workers on the factory
floor. And the learning spaces reflected it. Students hung out on long wooden benches in
a large lobby area with a shabby green carpet. To get to instructor's offices students had
to pass under a hand-lettered sign that said 'swamp'. This was a remarkably effective setup
for the students who chose to remain. But students on campus and off campus were choosing
other paths in increasingly large numbers. Students liked but did not respect their instructors
and their ratings were alarmingly low. Despite a public scandal, an alarming retention rate
among the best students, an increasingly hostile environment for females, and poor ratings
from students and faculty members in other departments, students services staff members
received consistently high marks from their supervisors during annual performance reviews.
It did not take Mark long to figure out why the supervisors loved the well-oiled machine.
The cost of instruction for the introductory courses was low and advisors who effectively
moved the few students who chose to remain through the program without a lot of hassle.
Accreditation teams routinely approved the curriculum without requiring much from the
department. And best of all, tenured faculty members were rarely bothered by undergraduates.
While students, alumni and an alarmed public were letting Mark know that the well-oiled
machine was not doing its job. The department's research reputation continued to rise in national
rankings. In the strange accounting of the middle, things were going well. [finishes
So, this is a story that's repeated many thousands of times around the country. And it is a metaphor
for a lot of the discussions about where higher education is going to take us. So where is
it going? I want to talk about disruption. There are a lot of books about disruption
out there. It seems like every week there's a new book about disruption in higher education.
And I don't mean to add to that list of books. A lot of books look at the situation say more
funding -- that's going to help. Or more technology. Stop coddling professors. There are certainly
a lot of books that look at the alarming increase in tuition costs and have suggestions about
how to fix that; get rid of tenure, stop paying professors, use part-time faculty members.
Very few people have looked for example about what's driving the increase in costs in higher
education. The number one cost driver in higher education is making up for lost revenue. So
you saw in the 2008 crash endowments go down. You saw states slashing university budgets.
universities continued to spend as if that money were there. And the only source of funds
to do that is student tuition. So that was the driver -- initial driver for tuition increases.
The easy answer -- the things that people talk to you about -- if we just had more productive
professors, if we paid professors less, -- don't even make the top 15. Don't even make the
top 15. Intercollegiate athletics is a bigger contributor to tuition increases than faculty
salaries. This is an interesting side bar. I don't mean to get into intercollegiate athletics,
because I love Georgia Tech football. But the fact of the matter is -- if you look at
what is it? 119 BCS schools. 119 bowl-eligible schools, football schools -- half of them
lose money. Half of them lose money. I'm sorry -- two thirds of them lose money. Half of
them lose ten million dollars or more a year. Where does that money come from? Comes from
academics. The only fundable source of revenue in the university is the stuff that goes classrooms.
So when you look at the layers of kind of cause-effect for why tuitions are going through
the roof, there are 14 or 15 drivers like that that contribute. Yes?
>>Male #2: [inaudible] 10 million dollar donation. [inaudible]
>>Rich: Yeah, so presidents will say -- presidents have been known to say -- my president has
been known to say -- this is being recorded. [laughter] That athletics is a front porch
to the university. That donations to athletics don't compete with academics because those
people would never contribute to athletics anyway. It's a hypothesis that's never been
tested and every dean in the country will be able to tell you stories about a potential
academic donor that was swiped by athletics. Why put your nail on this chemistry lab when
you don't understand what's going on when you can have this beautiful sky box in our
football stadium. So there's an extraction of value -- an extraction of wealth from one
part of the university -- a non-core activity by the way -- from a core activity -- academics
-- to a non-core activity. Research -- let's just spend a couple of seconds talking about
research. There's a firm belief in universities that research adds to the bottom line of the
university -- sponsored research. If we just had a bigger research program, we could fix
our finances. I was driving across -- what's that little part of Texas that sticks up?
Is that the pan handle? Driving across the Texas pan handle and I saw a sign for a local
university that said 'University X Y Z -- the next great research University'. And I had
to stop the car and call my wife. [laughter] In the first place, this is a university that
has no chance at all of being the next great research university. And they already have
some great undergraduate programs. I know what it's going to cost them to pursue that
goal. It costs a university 2.5 dollars to bring in every dollar of sponsored research.
It's a number that people have a hard time getting their arms around, but it's true.
If you just take a look at the productivity decrease, long sales cycle, the large costs
of sales, the low success rate on contracts, and did a P and L for the university, you
would find that that dollar of revenue costs you two and a half dollars to bring in. That's
why industrial research labs cost the government two or three times what a university research
lab will cost, because they can't take money from academic programs to cover the cost of
research. So there are lots of books about disruption. What do you do about this? A lot
of books say change who you are. A lot of say, as it's Clayton Christensen's new book
which I happen to love, says change the DNA of the university. It never works that way.
It's hard to change who you are. And when I have this kind of discussion with, you know,
presidents who are doing, you know, off-site planning sessions for their senior leadership
teams, the first thing I say is, "you can't change who you are." You can discover who
you are. You can figure out what your value is. It's a very difficult thing to do. There's
an easy exercise for college presidents. And you can sometimes get away with it. I will
print hard copies of strategic plans from two universities. The one I'm visiting and
just another university and x out the names of the identifying names in the document and
show them to leadership team, 'so which is which? You tell me'. And, as you might expect,
you can just freely substitute the names of universities between strategic plans and it
doesn't make any difference. How can you make a cogent argument about your value if you
have a completely generic view about what you're doing? We're going to empower students.
We're going to promote success. We're going to have a diverse campus. All the things you
find in strategic plans for universities, they're the same from university to university.
With the exception of places who have thought through who they are. In those universities
just shined like stars. They're not necessarily going to be successful, but they shine like
stars. So, if you look at Harvey Mudd's strategic plan for example, it talks about the liberal
arts education of an engineer scientist. It talks about producing people that can go into
policy positions, that can go into law school. It talks about teaching liberal arts subjects
in an integral fashion with technical subjects. It talks about teaching writing as part of
a math course. That's a new idea. If you look at the strategic plan for Arizona State University,
sort of a university that's in the middle. Near the top of the middle, but it's in the
middle. What does it say? It says our goal is to provide access to all qualified students
in the state of Arizona. And what do they mean by "qualified students?" They don't mean
they're doing an increasingly strict selection of freshman. It means they looked at what
the admission requirements were for students at Berkeley in 1960. B average, good test
scores, good recommendations for high school students. That's the bar at Arizona State.
Now, it's a big number. It's a frightening large number. And they have to figure out
how to deal with that. But it's an example of a university that's rooted -- it's a public
university. It's rooted in the place. They understand the place that they exist in and
their mission is dedicated to providing value to those students. So you can see university
after university that's thought through this, that's not the 2000, that's not the 3,000.
Those are the shining stars. Those are the universities that have an idea of what students
will get when they get their degree. Georgia Tech is one of those universities. So there's
a lot of data known, for example, about return on investment for tuition. You can look at
what you paid for tuition versus what you'll earn over the next 30 years. And people have
collected this data. There's a handful of universities at the top. It used to be that
those numbers overwhelmingly favored a university education. If you got a university degree,
you were guaranteed to get a good return return on your tuition investment. That number has
gone down. But there are some universities at the top. Cal Tech is at the top. MIT is
at the top. Berkeley is at the top. The number one expressed as a percentage return on investment
over 30 years. Number one university in the country is Georgia Tech. 14 percent return
on investment even with the raised tuition, that's not a bad return on investment. So
what is Georgia Tech's value proposition? Georgia Tech's value proposition is when you
come out of Georgia Tech as a bench engineer. We certainly produce people who get Rhodes
scholarships and go onto graduate school and become great scientists. But our strong suit
is that we produce tough, competitive, knowledgeable, flexible engineers. And that's why they do
well over their career. So this idea of knowing your value is extremely important. So, you
know, there are these books that will lay out the problems for you. I think everyone
kind of recognizes what the problems are. I want to concentrate in the little time I
have left by kind of talking about what's going on and what can be done about it. You
should have, I think, been able to figure out by now that in a lot of ways higher education
-- particularly in the United States -- is an economic bubble. Tuition is growing four
times cost of living. There's a sense of entitlement on the part of institutions. There's a lack
of genuine oversight by agencies that are supposed to make sure that what's going on
is what's supposed to. It has all the characteristics of an economic bubble. And higher education
is 4 percent of GDP. So high a collapsing bubble in higher education is a pretty big
deal for the U.S. economy. What can you do about that? I would like to think -- and this
gets back to what I was saying a few minutes ago about presidents. I would like to think
that the things that made American higher education great can be reignited. So what
are those things? If I had to talk to you about just one thing, it would be the idea
of experimentation. Where are the experiments in higher education? Where is the new Williams
college? If you go back 1,000 years and trace this history -- trace this history through.
In the Middle Ages, there were dozens of universities. You can keep them all in your head. There
was Bologna and Padua; Barcelona and Paris. Later on Oxford. There were just dozens of
them. Not a large number. And they went through the same kinds of processes that we're talking
about now. They became inwardly focused. They became entitled. They became ossified. A lot
of people called them 'homes of out-moded knowledge', reading the critics of the day.
Until the Jesuits came along. Jesuits in the south, the academies in the north. They said
"wait a minute, wait a minute. We have a new way of educating students. You guys have written
all the textbooks. We know what it means to teach a student." And so, they attracted a
whole new kind of student who was willing to pay a different amount of money for education.
And it upset the apple cart by the time the colonial universities got going in the U.S.,
there were hundreds of universities. Hundreds here. England only had two, three. We had
hundreds. After the civil war, there were thousands. I talk in the book about 1852.
1852 is, in my way of thinking, a banner year for American higher education, because the
number of brilliantly conceived universities that were founded in 1852 is phenomenal. Tufts
was founded. Mills was founded. Sort of unclear when Amherst and Williams were founded, but
it was in that same period of time. At the turn of the century, between the U.S. and
Asia, tens of thousands of universities -- so a lot of these places don't exist today. They
were experiments. When you have experiments, sometimes you have success, sometimes you
have failures. But we have had, in this country, no experiments since 1960. There has been
literally no increase in capacity since 1960. There has been one new research university
since the turn of the century. Since 2000. UC Merced and UC Merced is kind of on life-support
at the moment because of the California economic situation. Meanwhile, what's happening? India
has announced plans to open 37,000 new universities. Why 37,000? Well, they did the arithmetic.
India currently sends 11 to 12 percent of their high school students to college. They
know that in order to be internationally competitive, the number has to be closer to 50 percent.
Do the math, that's about 300 million students. Divide that up among 10,000 student universities,
it's about 30,000 universities. Now you can't open that many universities in ten years.
There's not enough bricks in India to do that probably. So they must have something else
in mind. They do. They don't know exactly what. So there's going to be lots of experimentation
and there's going to be a lot of innovation in India that will change what it means to
be a university. For a large population that is just gathering steam in western economies.
And the same thing holds true with China. At the same time, the U.S. is withdrawing
and not carrying out this kind of experimentation. Except for, dare we say it, the for profit
institutions which everyone thinks of as the low cost supplier of continuing education
for the country. There's a hot bed of innovation that's taking place there. You would hope
that that would ignite a hot bed of innovation in American universities. And the fact is,
it hasn't. There are a few. Stanford is doing a massively open online course in AI. MIT
has announced MITx and was the first out of the gate with open course ware. There are
a lot of universities in that top category -- in that elite category -- that feel they
have the freedom to spread their wings in experiment. But for the most part, institutions
in the middle are not experimenting. They're sort of stuck in the past. And at the end
of the book, I sort of talk about the consequences of this. And we don't have time for me to
read the entire passage. So let me just tell you what I'm talking about here and then we
can open this up to questions or discussion. So one of these schools that was founded in
1852, was Antioch College. Founded by Horace Mann. The great progressive leader of American
higher education of the 19th century and for most of its history Antioch College was a
beacon of progressive thought. Coretta Scott King went there. It enrolled the first African
American classes for the first truly integrated African-American classes. They became a place
where people thought they could go to become part of a movement. In fact, I was -- this
is interesting history here. I was driving across the country in 1969. And happened to
stop in Antioch. I didn't happen to stop in Antioch. I wanted to stop in Antioch. And
just sort of absorb the culture. It was kind of a cross between Berkeley and Madison. It
was a really cool place to be and I hadn't thought about Antioch much until I was finishing
the book. And as I was finishing the book, I saw this Op Ed piece in the New York Times.
It said Antioch was written as an obituary. 'Antioch: where the arts were too liberal'.
So Antioch College closed in 2009. Closed its doors. And there was a big investigation
about why it was so -- the faculty lodged complaints with the AAU, talking about the
lack of processes for closing the university. Well, the fact of the matter is, that the
Antioch faculty had pushed through a strategic plan two years before. And the strategic plan
was aimed at narrowing the scope of students that would be acceptable to Antioch faculty.
Hence, the title on the obituary 'where the arts were too liberal'. You sort of had to
pass a litmus test. And the predictable thing happened. Their endowments went away. Their
applications went away. When they closed their doors, their freshman class had 50 students.
They had 200 students enrolled. Their endowment had shrunk to 5 million dollars. And they
still had plans to re-open. Probably still do have plans to re-open in the same way.
And no one during this whole process thought to ask what the role of that strategic plan
was in the failure of Antioch. And the subtext to this story is that Antioch is a wholly
owned subsidiary of Antioch University, an online university, whose enrollments just
continue to grow. So Horace Mann's university winked out of existence while the online university
grew. And the bookends with a little story that I want to read to you. So I've completed
the book. I'm talking to colleagues about it. In an epilogue, I say this. [reading]
The Antioch college story came up at dinner one evening. I was visiting the chair of a
a well-respected department at a large land grant college in the middle, near the top
of the middle but struggling like most public universities with budget cuts that threatened
to reverse gains in research stature made during the last ten years. At the end of the
story, my host said, "that's not our problem, we're at capacity. There's no way we can absorb
more students." I asked if there were more students that could be admitted. He said,
"sure," but they'll find somewhere else to go." "Where?" I asked. He thought for a minute.
And came up with a list of alternatives. Some were above his institution in the reputational
pyramid, some were in competitors and some were in China and India. Then he said, "a
lot will get online degrees". "So you're getting a smaller share of a growing number of students,"
I said. And he was quick with his reply. "Those are students we don't want. You don't understand,
Rich, we have no more capacity." We went on like this for a little while and finally I
asked why they were not figuring out how to give those students access? What happens in
a growing marketplace when you're losing market share to your competitors who are building
capacity? He stopped. I pressed it. Where will those students go in 100 years? What
will universities that have capacity for those students that you turn away look like. He
realized like I was asking him what the university of the 21st century would look like. After
a long pause, he said, "it will not look like us". And that's the moral of the story. Thank
[Applause] [female speaks indistinctly]
>>Rich: Yes?
>>Male #3: So I realized this is a broad question, but what do you view as a sort of idea should
there be a range of different kinds of universities? Like, is Vo-tech and the University of Phoenixes
and the Harvards, do they all fulfill different niches or do you want to see more niches or
do you want to see them all converging into one sort of thing.
>>Rich: Converging into one sort of thing is not a winning proposition. One of the reasons
that we're in this situation is what I call institutional envy. If you're a public university
in the middle, you look at the University of Michigan and that's who you want to behave
like. If you're a private university, you look at Williams or Harvard depending on your
size. That's who you want to emulate. So there's a strong tendency for a lot of economic and
social reasons to try to push up into this hierarchy to create a canonical public university,
a canonical private university. And it's been deadly for American higher education. It gets
to this issue of experimentation. You want lots of different options. The demographics
of higher ed is favoring that. The current predictions are by 2020, the demographic for
-- currently colleges and universities aim at what's called the 18 to 24 year old range.
So colleges are built to cater to these post adolescents. By 2020, half of the students
will be over the age of 24. So they will be people returning to school. They will be single
parents. They will be Gulf War veterans that are returning. They will be recent immigrants.
They will be an aging population that are returning to school. They'll be people that
aren't going to be impressed by football teams and dormitories. And so, where is the money
going to be? The money is going to be in catering to where most of the students are. That's
where most of the students are going to be. So it really doesn't make any sense to say
just like the Jesuits said 600 years ago. It doesn't make any sense to say, "well, this
is what it means to be a faculty member. This is what it means to be a student and here's
the cost of doing that" when you have this wide array of people that you are now looking
at. I think the for-profits will be continuing on for the foreseeable future. I think the
competitive pressure for online universities, Open university in the UK enrolls couple hundred
thousand students. That's not a bad number. You get a pretty good degree of out of Open
university. That portfolio will continue. The question for us is are we going to concentrate
on this path that we've been on trying to move up reputational hierarchy or are we going
to say it really is a much broader spectrum out there than we previously imagined..
>>Male #4: I have two seniors. One graduated from high school. One graduated from college
this year. One is considering engineering school. One is at liberal arts school. I'm
quite aware that getting the degree is only a small part of going to college. For many
parents, it's sending students off to a relatively safe place to grow up and be experimental
within bounds. How will that work when the students are not maturing in that 18 to 24-year-old
range, when they're older. And how will universities have to evolve.
>>Rich: It's a great question. And I don't know the answer to that. I mean, you can see
there are a few models that are evolving. You know, the Florida system, for example,
has a large community college network that feeds the 4-year institutions. And they're
hitting this problem right now. So they have recently arrived immigrants. They have high
school students that want to go to Central Florida. Central Florida has a capacity problem.
How do those students enter into the system. That's where technology is going to play a
role. Do you sort of change the entry point to universities. Is there something called
articulated curricula so you take into account the fact that students enter into a college
curriculum for a variety of reasons at a variety points that have similarly diverse off ramps.
Sometimes they leave with a degree. Sometimes they don't leave with a degree. Can you capture
the value of each of those streams and say that's really what higher education is going
to evolve into? Some of them will get on ships and airplanes and go to Bangalore or go to
Seoul and find really, really terrific universities that are well-funded by public funds. We just
-- we don't know.
>>Male #5: Hi. So how would you comment on universities here that are opening branches
in other countries that have the money and supposedly each of these universities have
the know-how, too. And they're trying to basically jump the hurdle of the finance here by opening
there. And I don't know how they'll be doing in like ten, 20 years.
>>Rich: It's a mixed bag. And the experience has been very mixed. And the Carnegie Mellon,
for example, I'm looking at my friend, Jeff. Carnegie Mellon has been sort of out there
and opening international campuses. I don't think it's been a great experience. I think
financially and intellectually, it just sort of has a forced feeling to it. There are universities
that have the brand where they can -- Harvard can open an MBA program anywhere in the world
and attract students. That's not what we're talking about. We're talking about University
of New South Wales that decides to build a 200 million dollar campus in Singapore and
three months later closes because the students that were supposed to be there never materialized.
And it's probably the case that there will be a few global presences. You know, the -- I
don't have any inside information, but the overwhelming sense that you get from Stanford's
foray into the New York competition, for example, was Stanford expressing an interest in becoming
a more global presence than it is. You can already see that with Cornell. Those are experiments.
Who knows how they're going to turn out. The more interesting thing, I think, is to take
a look at who's populating the new iTunes U app from Apple. Who are the first universities
that are there. Well, Stanford is there. But it's Open university. The pretty complete
set of offerings. And a little small university that's offering IOS software development courses
in pretty complete format. So those are the kinds of experiments that I think are going
to be interesting. There are a lot of financial incentives for opening foreign campuses that
dry up once you kind of look behind the curtains. I think the experience has not been great.
>>Male #6: You alluded to it a little bit earlier about the share of what people are
going into. So the exam you used is the value of an art degree when you're paying 50,000
dollars a year. And I was listening to the State of the Union last night and Obama was
talking about the irony we have high unemployment yet open jobs for people that are not sufficiently
technically prepared for it. In his -- he was talking about people getting associates
degrees for technical fields like that. But what about the model that you talked about
-- dismissing the core curriculum. The question of -- how do I state this? How do we refer
this model that not only the number of college graduates that we have but the ones that are
in the fields that are necessary and how do we affect that model. To me in my college
career, it was always what are your interests you should follow that which is is not necessarily
the best model for this.
>>Rich: It's not necessarily the best model. As I said when I started. It's a great question
to ask when you're paying $2,000 a year. It's a completely academic question, if I can use
that phrase, when you're paying 50,000 dollars a year. It may be great to pursue a curriculum
in the classics, if your education is free. Or if you're not expecting that college degree
to be tied to a career goal. I used to teach in Padua and I had this discussion with my
Italian students over the years as I was preparing the book. And the model in Italy and through
most of Europe is that there is no direct tie between a university education and a career
goal. In all of the surveys make that point clear. [male in audience murmurs] Also, there's
no tuition. So it gets back to this. If you're not putting anything in and you're looking
at it as a growth experience that the state is providing for you, you can afford to spend
this time growing up. If it's a 250,000 dollar investment for a family that's making 75,000
dollars a year, it's a completely different issue. Also, I have to say -- and I don't
say it in the book, but it's one of the things that causes a sharp discussion with my friends
in the humanities that the art histories and the literature curricula are not doing a terrific
job. As much as we'd like to think university education is a great place to learn a liberal
arts background, the fact of the matter is it doesn't happen. There's a study by a guy
named Richard [indistinct] looked at 2300 students across multiple years across a wide
range of institutions to determine whether or not the general ed requirements in a typical
college curriculum had any effect at all. And the sad fact is half the time, you can't
tell whether a student has been through the first two years of college or not. You're
measuring critical reading skills, writing skills, reading skills -- all the things that
you're supposed to get out of the first two years which are largely liberal arts are not
being done well. So that seems to be a field that's ripe for ferment. But to get to where
I think your question is going, you're much better off with a college degree. And you're
much, much better off with a college degree that's in a marketable area. Yes?
>>Male #6: So you talked about the skyrocketing cost of a college education. I wonder -- how
do you think financial aid figures into that. Because students are sort of insulated from
the actual cost of their education. I guess the connection these for profit universities
don't actually have to do it. You actually have to pay for the education.
>>Rich: No. The ones that are accredited are in the same model. So accreditation entitles
students to receive Title 4 funds. So federally-backed loans. People go into debt. I mean, as I said,
the amount of debt that's being accrued for higher education is frightening and growing.
>>Male #3: Sort of along the same lines. Your observation about skyrocketing tuition over
the past three or four years being caused by vanishing endowments and things like that
was interesting and vanishing budgets and things like that. What do you think universities
should have done, given that all this money disappeared?
>>Rich: It's a great question. So a lot of what you see in higher ed today is the result
of what Clark Kerr who ran the University of California system a generation ago called
the appearance of multiversity. You get all these different stake holders together on
campus. They're professional schools, undergraduate institutions, and graduate schools. And they
all sort of share in the same pie. And as long as the pie is growing, that tends to
work pretty well. But we're in a period of contraction now. And not everyone is paying
his or her fair share of operating the university. So we'll take sponsored research as a case
in point. The National Science Foundation, major source of funding for basic research
in academic computer science, comes nowhere near covering the cost of the research. And
I'm not talking about overhead. I'm talking about the absolute cost of the research. They
know that to fund a 3-year project with these goals requires this many professors and this
many students. And they will arbitrarily give you one professor and one student to carry
out the same goal while you're still responsible for that research. And universities take it
on themselves to pull that money from somewhere. It gets pulled from academic programs. So
activity by activity, a non-core activity on campus does not necessarily pay its own
way. If you simply had the ability to reverse that negative part of the multiversity and
say well we agree these are good activities to have on campus but let's make sure everyone
pays his way, it will clarify a lot of the economics. Hey, Jeff.
>>Jeff: Hey rich I want to thank you again for coming to Google and giving such a thought
provoking talk on a very relevant subject.
>>Rich: Thank you, I appreciate it