Selingo speaksCaption: Jeffrey J. Selingo speaks at CSUF’s President’s Symposium. Photo: Matt Gush Download

The Coming Disruption

Selingo Addresses The Unbundling of American Education

The following is a transcript of a talk at the Feb. 22 CSUF President’s Symposium, “Appraising the Future, Understanding Costs: Envisioning the New Normal in Higher Education,” given by Jeffrey J. Selingo, vice president and editorial director of the Chronicle of Higher Education.


Selingo: So we saw, between 2005 and 2009, this fall in household wealth, and basically families could no longer use their homes as ATMs. Let's combine that with the squeeze in the states. You're all seeing that in California. Combine that with federal deficits at the federal level and what impact that might have on student aid. I think what this all equals in the end is that families are paying or are going to be paying more out of pocket for higher education. When that happens, I think perhaps they're going to be making different choices.

They're going to be asking a lot more about value of higher education. So we're going to see a shift from simply talking about price of higher education to asking more about the value of higher education. This is where the public and college presidents in particular disagree.

I think this is a very similar slide to what Jane Wellman had in her presentation this morning. We asked, last spring, the Chronicle and the Pew Research Center, asked college presidents and the public at large about the value of American higher education.

We asked them, "Can you rate the job the American higher education system does in providing value for your money?" We didn't ask them straight about cost. We asked them about value. We asked the same question of college presidents and of the public.

On this slide, the public is represented by the orange rust color and blue represents presidents. As you can see, presidents are mostly at the top. They think excellent, good value. Public, mostly at the bottom ‑‑ they think only fair or poor.

I think there's obviously a big divide between college presidents and the public on this question. I think that this is key to where American higher education is going in asking about the value of what you get for what you pay.

So what are some of the questions that the public is now asking when they think about American higher ed? How and what will I learn? Bob talked a little bit this morning about "Academically Adrift," and I understand there's some skepticism about that book. But I think personally that the authors did a very good job at trying to measure a very difficult thing to measure in American higher ed, which is learning.

Will I get a job? I think that there is obviously this debate in American higher ed about whether its purpose is to get a job or to be broadly educated. I personally think you can do both. I don't think it's an either/or argument, although some people try to force it into an either/or argument.

Then finally, will I make enough money to pay off my debt? I think this is becoming a much bigger question in the minds of families. We saw it last fall in the Occupy Wall Street movement, where debt, and where college debt in particular, became a very big question during those debates.

Finally, I think that traditional colleges have a hard time answering a lot of these questions. I think that some colleges have a really hard time explaining to families what students learn in the classroom. I don't think they can necessarily prove that what they're going to do will necessarily lead to a job. Of course, some schools are graduating students with high debt burdens, and obviously then they have a hard time explaining how those students are going to pay off that debt.

So I think that this is going to lead in the coming years to a more fundamental question about what is college. I think everybody in this room has a version or a definition about what is college. I think they're probably all correct in some way.

But since I'm talking about disruption in the higher ed category today, I want to approach this more from a market standpoint. To me, college is a bundle of services that result in an education with internal and external value.

The internal value is all obviously to the individual. We talk a lot about whether higher ed is a private good or a public good. The internal is more about what you learn as an individual and the external value is what you give to the marketplace, what you give to employers as a signal that you know what you're doing potentially for the job.

So this is obviously a more practical definition. I think if I asked any of you what you think college is, we would hear a lot of good comments on that. But this is what I think is a bundle of services that result in an education with internal and external value.

So to me, as we think about what is the future of higher ed and where the disruption in a higher ed market could happen, I think we have to ask what are the less tangible aspects that define the college experience that can't be easily replaced by fragmented, simplified services on the Internet?

So, let's think about what the Internet and what the web did to newspapers, to music, and to bookstores. It took this bundled approach and went after what I would call the low‑hanging fruit at first. So as you think about the college experience, what are the things that are most at risk in the traditional college experience today and what potentially are least at risk in the traditional college experience?

Here's what I think is potentially most at risk as we think about the traditional college experience. First are lower level and core courses. Any one of us today can go online and find high quality courses in history, math, economics, philosophy, or on basically any topic that interests us.

Some of the courses are pretty bad. In fact, some of the courses are really bad. But some of them I think are better than what you'll find at many colleges these days. The result is that I think the intro courses at most colleges are quickly turning into commodities.

About the only thing protecting them right now are the pricing and credit models for most colleges. Obviously, most colleges charge students by the semester. Of course, the big one is that colleges have the final authority of which credits to accept.

The second thing is the network. Colleges sell the experience ‑‑ and I'll talk a little bit more about that in a second. Part of that experience is being part of a network, an alumni network that allows you to leverage common connections for various gains in your personal life and professional life.

But online networks today I think enable anyone to create their own affinity groups, very much like they would have created on college campuses. In some ways, they can narrowly tailor these groups and interests more than if they could do them through alumni groups.

So I think there's one advantage that colleges do hold here over social networks online, is that they have this ability to bring together alumni face‑to‑face, where online, you can't do that, at least not yet.

Finally, what I think is most at risk is this idea of a credential. I still think that we all know that a college credential is probably the best signal to employers that you're ready for work. But if employers increasingly get dissatisfied with the quality of some college graduates ‑‑ and there is a lot of evidence out there that they are unhappy with the quality of some, not all, college graduates ‑‑ I think that some employers are going to begin turning to alternatives that signal to them somebody has acquired skills and expertise.

We've heard a lot about two big areas in this realm. One is badges, and this is this idea that you can take online course and be certified in a different way through an online badge. This has been very popular over the years in the technology field, so if that you learned a specific programming language, you would be certified in that language.

I actually thought this was kind of a goofy concept, to be honest with you, in higher ed, for the longest time. But last fall, this got a big boost by the MacArthur Foundation, the same foundation that gives out the Genius Awards, as they think about how to come up with a national system of badges.
Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, is also a big fan of these badges. So if you could come up with a system to kind of certify badges, what happens then? I think also that you are going to see other institutions, besides higher ed institutions, give out these badges.

The other thing on the credential is places like MIT. MIT announced in the fall, or in December, MITX, where, again, MIT was of course a leader in the OpenCourseWare movement about a decade ago. You could take courses at MIT but you had nothing to show for it at the end of the day.

Now, they're actually going to give out not an MIT degree but a credential to certify learning. As more and more institutions move in that direction and you potentially can see other institutions besides colleges kind of chip away at the margins.

Do I think that a CSU degree from Long Beach is necessarily at risk? Probably not. But how about a lot of these credential programs that I talked about that were started in the last 10 years, short‑term certificates, even some two‑year degrees and some four‑year degrees in areas that we didn't quite need a credential for 20 years ago? Could those potentially be at risk by these alternatives? Perhaps.

So I think those are the three biggest things at risk in the coming disruption.

What do I think is least at risk? So I talked a little bit about the experience. For many who go to a residential college, the time spent there is often one of the most rewarding parts of their lives.

Friendships are born, marriages are set, and business relationships begin. A lot has been made of people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg who dropped out of Harvard to start these multibillion dollar businesses, and isn't that great? Everybody should follow their lead.

But the key I think for, especially somebody like Mark Zuckerberg, if you saw the movie "Social Network," is that he would not have been able to create Facebook if he had not been living at Harvard during that time. It was the relationships that were built in the resident's halls, in classes, and elsewhere that allowed him to build Facebook.

Or, if you believe the alternative, obviously, he just stole the idea from somebody else.

But anyway, I think that there are the relationships that are born not only in the residential experience, but even in that face‑to‑face classroom experience. That can't be easily copied online.

Secondly is this idea of maturing students. This is one of my biggest issues about this don't go to college movement, because I think it really ignores one key argument for 18 to 24‑year‑olds.  I know I wasn't quite ready to move into the workforce and begin life at the age of 18. I think there's this important part of college that matures students. That, again, cannot be easily copied by other providers of higher education

Finally, and probably the most important thing colleges have going for them is this idea of the student‑professor relationship. If you ask almost any college graduate about their college experience, they will always talk about a professor or professors that changed their lives. I think that's really hard to replicate in a DIY educational environment, where you're kind of cobbling together your own educational experiences because you're never going to have those student‑professor relationships.

I think that one of the most ironic things is this is actually what differentiates colleges most from these new competitors. Probably, most ironic about this is, again, if you look at Jane's slides from this morning, is that this is actually where colleges have been investing the least amount of money. We've been adding more adjuncts, more part‑time professors, which in some cases may break down those student‑professor relationships, and we might not have what we used to have 10 or 15 years ago. This is actually one of the pieces, I think, that differentiates traditional colleges more than anything.

The climbing wall, I think, has been the symbol of American higher education over the last 20 years. This idea that there's been this huge growth in student services. I think that the academically adrift folks talk about this a lot, that colleges got away from their core mission over the last 10, 15, 20 years.

If you believe that we are about to move into a period where colleges will begin to unbundle their services, and let others, maybe, takeover for where they may not be able to perform well, perhaps the next decade could actually be defined more by academic rigor. This is where I think, again, what differentiates colleges from these other providers?

I think this is one area where the classroom experience might once again become what institutions sell as they try to compete against all these new competitors entering the marketplace.

I want to go back to the last decade, because I don't think that Higher Ed is necessarily starting from a position of strength right now. What you see in Jane's numbers, and what King Alexander talked about this morning, the last couple of years in particular have been really tough for Higher Ed.

I always wonder now if the years right before the great recession were kind of a lost decade for higher ed. We had all these new students entering the system. We had these credential programs being created. We had this huge demand. That was really a time for higher ed to reflect, figure out what it was doing right, figure out what it was doing wrong, and become more focused.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to participate in a conversation about the future of higher education. There were people from institutions, from the government, and entrepreneurs. One of the things that really surprised me in the last couple of months is the amount of private equity money, Wall Street money, and just money in general that wants to get into this market because of the opportunities that they see.

But one of the things that everyone in the room agreed with is that this is really hard work, trying to figure out what's next in higher ed. So we came up with a series of questions that we think can potentially higher ed as we move in the next couple of years as a guide.

One of them is, "What's your ambition?" This could mean for a department, it could mean for an institution. You're trying to figure out what is really your ambition. Is your ambition, as I think some presidents think, to move up in the US News and World Report rankings? I have a lot of presidents who come through my office who say that's a goal.

Well, that's fine. Then say that publicly. You'll have to figure out how to do that. But what is your ambition? Where are you going to play, meaning, what are you going to focus on?

How are you going to win in those areas? I think one of the things we saw over the last decade is that higher education tried to play everywhere and win everywhere, and that was really not possible. What actions are going to enable you to do that?

Finally, how do you drive change within your organization?

These are the guiding questions. We didn't have answers to many of them, but they help try to frame the conversation that we were having about the future of higher ed.

Moderator:  Why don't we go straight to the questions? I'm very anxious to hear what you have to say, and you're not anxious to hear my throaty voice.

Audience Question:  One of the challenges for traditional universities like ours is online education. For‑profits are way ahead in terms of technology and skills. We have a challenge, because online education is not cheap for us, in fact, it's more expensive. What do you see the challenge and how to deal with it in the context of a traditional university like a Cal State?

Selingo:  Well, I wrote a piece a couple of weeks ago. As Jane said this morning, "A lot of people think that the silver bullets or the cost question in higher ed is alternative delivery methods, and the most easy one for many people to think about is distance education." So you've seen all these institutions jump on this bandwagon over the last couple of years trying to copy everyone else. I think we're not only potentially going to see disruption in the traditional higher‑education market, but I think we potentially can see disruption in the online education market as well.

You've seen over the last couple of months a lot of coverage of these massively online open courses. A famous one here just up the state by the Stanford professor who had 50,000 students in one of his courses, and, of course, has just left his job at Stanford to be part of a new online education company.

I'm actually participating in one of those courses right now, offered by a professor at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He already has 25,000 students enrolled in this course on systems thinking.

I guess the bottom line here is that one institution offering a course for 15, 20, 30 students is going to be quickly overwhelmed by institutions that are able to offer these big courses and potentially do them well.

I think that I mentioned in the beginning, there's a lot of good stuff in terms of online courses, and there's a lot of really bad stuff out there. We've all seen it. I think that you're going to see a shakeout over the next couple of years, especially on the quality question. Just like you're going to see a shakeout in traditional Higher Ed on the quality question, I think you're going to see that on online education as well.

So part of this idea for traditional higher ed is, "If you can't do it well, why do it?" Are you doing it just because everyone else is doing it? Are you doing it because you could deliver education in a cheaper way? Are you doing it because it adds value to what you're already doing on campus?

For example, I think that in terms of traditional higher ed, there is some arguments for this idea of a hybrid education, where some of the pieces of education could and should be delivered online because, potentially, students learn better that way in terms of certain courses. That's probably the way to go.

But just to jump on that bandwagon because everyone else is on it and you think you're going to save money, you're probably too late to that game, and I'm not quite sure I would argue for going in that way.

We had somebody in our office who has worked in traditional higher ed for about the last 30 years recently. He was in last week.

He was talking about how he's meeting with a lot of Wall Street investors who are interested in starting an online engineering program through a traditional university. They're interested in doing that only at a top‑20, 25 university. Actually, it's going to be a public that they're thinking about doing this at.

They want to build the perfect online engineering program. They basically want to essentially blow everyone else out of the water by doing this.

So competing against that, competing against something like that, I'm not exactly sure why somebody with not as many resources, not as much expertise would want to do that. Why don't you, again, figure out what are your ambitions, where can you play, where you can be good at what you're doing instead of trying to do what everyone else is doing.

Audience Question:  :  Hi there. I was listening to your last slide when you were talking about the questions that education needs to ask itself. How do you respond to people in higher education that say that higher education is not a business and that we shouldn't think of it that way?

Selingo: There are key differences. As I said earlier when I was comparing it to other industries, yes, we're non‑profits with specific missions. I think that's really important to think about. But higher ed is now competing in a market that is incredibly different than it was 20 or 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago. I think the Internet has really changed that. People now can get an education anywhere at any time. I think that's much different than it was even with the old correspondence courses that you used to have available to you 20 or 30 years ago.
So you're competing against these other providers. As a result I think that traditional institutions need to think in some business ways. Knowing that, again, mission drives them. Your mission should continue to drive everything that you do, but at the same time, that doesn't necessarily mean that you ignore the business aspects of your institutions.

Audience Question:   Can you define what you mean by "education"?

Selingo:  Sure. To me, one of the services that higher ed is providing is obviously learning. To me education, there's a big debate right now and I mentioned it earlier ‑‑ are you training people for a job, or are you providing them the tools to learn not necessarily for their first job, but for their fifth job? I think it's a combination of both. To me, education at its basic level, education is providing students with the tools to help them make the critical decisions in their personal life and in their professional life over their lifetimes. But over the course of your lifetime, you're going to also need specific skills that you're actually going to need to learn.

That's why, to me, education, there's not this either/or argument. I think it's a very dangerous argument that we're having right now, because I think that institutions of higher education need to provide both.

I think that you need to provide to a certain segment of students kind of that basic foundation. To another group of students, who may have had maybe 10 years earlier, had that basic level or that basic foundation, they now need to come back to have specific skills.

So I don't think there's on specific definition of higher ed. But whenever I write or other talk about the outcomes of higher ed, there always is kind of a response by some who say you can't measure learning.

I think that is really where some of this stuff that Bob was talking about this morning about earnings by major or employment by major, I think having this as one measure, just one measure, helps families decide, or other people in higher ed who may potentially be older going back to school, help them make that decision about where to go.

Does that answer your question? OK.

Audience Question:  Jeff, thank you for your presentation. I want to hit on the value, the question of value and of becoming a much more important variable. Because we in the CSU, at least for last decade, have been working to try to make the right information, because market imperfection in higher education has certainly been generated by a lack of information.

Every time we've forced the issues, and we've had many victories and we've had had many defeats on this, it's been the traditional higher ed establishment that we have had to fight to prove the value of whether it's a CSU education, it's earnings potential, it's student loan indebtedness, much of what's on the present scorecard, the college scorecard.

Do you see that pressure on the traditional battles that we have subsiding or do you see it folding in at some point? What's going to make that happen? Because those battles go on every time we go to Washington.

Selingo:  I think the key was that slide that I showed about ‑‑ at the end of the day it's to equal that parents and students are going to be paying more out of pocket. OK? So if students and parents can't be using their house as an ATM, if states are going to be pressured and you're going to get less in appropriations or Cal Grants are going to remain stable, or at the federal level if the maximum Pell award is not going to be able to be increased like it has been in the last couple of years, all that's going to leave to students and parents being forced to potentially pay more of their higher education out of pocket. When that happens I think they're going to demand, like most consumers do, more information about the institutions that they're attending. I think ‑‑ I could be wrong on this ‑‑ I think that institutions are going to be forced to give that information.

If CSU is doing that but your competitors are not, parents are going to respond to that. So I think that the days of higher ed saying "Trust us," especially private ed. "Trust us, we're going to provide value to you." I think those days are rapidly coming to an end.
I'm a product of private higher educations. I was just mentioning to somebody that my alma mater yesterday surpassed the $50,000 mark. They just announced tuition for next year is $50,000. I graduated about 20 years ago, and when I graduated they had just surpassed the $20,000 mark. So that's more than double in just about 20 years.

I have a daughter who's three months old. So she will be going to higher ed in about 18 years. I wonder are we headed in a direction ‑‑ I know I'm not an economist. Are we headed in a direction where it's going to be a $100,000 degree, $100,000 a year in 18 years.

Parents and students are just going to say enough is enough, and they're going to demand this information. If schools are unwilling to provide it, I think that they're going to say, "We're going to go elsewhere."
You're already seeing this. You're already seeing this at what I would call the third and fourth tier small privates, all of those presidents are talking about how they're having a hard time filling seats. Because those parents and students are making that choice now. They're saying, "You know what? It's not worth it."

Audience Question:  In that regard, there are some data available. In 2000, the premium for a bachelor's degree over, say, just a high school diploma, was about 87 percent In other words, you could on average ‑‑ and that's over all kinds of majors and so forth ‑‑ 87 percent more with a bachelor's degree than just a high school diploma. By 2009, that number had dropped to only 60 percent. With the rising costs, do you think that's going to have a big impact on what parents say about the value of a college degree?

Selingo:  It might. It might in a couple of cases. You saw in that slide that I showed from the college board, the payoff from the degree. One thing that I didn't mention, when I showed that slide that took into account debt. So you will that, for example, I think it was a bachelor's degree didn't surpass the high school diploma until 31 or 32 years of age. Mainly that's because in the 20s that person was paying off their student loan. But you had just mentioned it's gone from 80‑something percent to 60 percent. That's still a huge premium. It's going down. Maybe if it goes down to 10 percent or 20 percent, perhaps people will be making those decisions. But I think that as long as there's this significant payoff, I think that people will take that into account, especially in terms of going into debt. Also post college plans. So if they're going into graduate school, they might say, hey, I want to spend less on the undergraduate degree.

But I think that as long as the premium remains 20‑30‑plus percent, I think it's going to be a really hard argument to say that doesn't help colleges.

Woman 2:  One of the big complaints that I know students have is the cost of textbooks and other materials of that sort keeps going up and up and up. Since you kind of bridge both publishing and the education business, how you think that's going to break? I mean, something's going to break. But what do you predict in that area?

Selingo:  One thing I didn't mention about publishing, I'm going to be publishing a book on higher ed for the consumer audience in the spring. So I've spent the last couple of months getting to know a lot about the publishing industry, the book publishing industry. On the consumer side, the book publishing industry is controlled by six big publishing houses. Amazon recently moved into the publishing industry, actually into book publishing. I'm actually going to be published by them, by kind of this new disruptor on the scene, and they're not very well liked in the publishing world, because they're starting to do things differently.

For example, if I had gone with a traditional publisher, it would have taken two years to publish my book. Amazon's going to be able to do it in a year. There's all these things that Amazon is doing on the marketing side and everything else that the traditional publishers have not done.

So, I think we are headed in a direction. We've seen, in a couple of recent examples, one was the announcement by Apple of their new iBooks software.

You've also seen, I mean, I think one place where this potentially can happen is at the institutional level, where you see a number of institutions now experimenting with this idea of rolling in the cost of textbooks as part of tuition, and then, essentially, they're doing this bulk purchasing. I think potentially you will see that.

So, I think that between technology and this idea of colleges finally using their pricing power and their purchasing power, I think that you're going to see some changes to this in the next couple of years.

I think in iBooks, especially. It's not just going to be Apple, but it's going to be other technology companies, this ability to kind of create your own textbook, working with institutions, I think that has the potential to bring down textbook costs.

Again, I think colleges and students are just going to say, enough is enough on that front as well.

Audience Question:  I'm wondering if you have disaggregated the public perception by first generation and underrepresented and those who are middle class. I would suspect, especially in California, where we're becoming a minority majority state, the public perception of the value of higher ed would be different.

Selingo:  We haven't. That data does exist, but we haven't done that. So, I don't know what, you might be right. It might be different in LA, but we have not done that. It's actually a good idea. Maybe Jane has something to say.

Audience Question:  On that very point, there has been, I think, Cal and the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Ed had some disaggregated poll data, and they show that the demand and the value perception is highest among first generation families. So, the disaggregation by race and income was pretty vivid. So, those who haven't historically had it, give it the highest value.

Selingo: There was one up here...

Audience Question:  How's it going? I just sort of had, I guess, a couple points here. One of the things I overall like, indecipherable 0:37:19 watching Trenna is trying to establish his, and I know it's not your general like, it's not your entirety of your opinion, but I kind of want to caution against the notion that education can be summed up as a business. I know that's not your sort of perspective. But the thing of the matter is that there's sort of a social cultural value to education that I think is being left out of the equation when we try and view it in this perspective.
If you look at it just in terms of American history, just because I'm an American historian, we had sort of the gilded age, where basically, people who had high education advocating for an eight hour work day and a weekend. Then, you move on to the '60s, you have a civil rights movement led, and I know, a lot of the time, students getting beat up or advocating for civil rights. You can't easily quantify this is terms of dollars and cents value.
Psychology, I'm sure most of us would agree, has drastically improved people's lives. These things just aren't easily quantifiable, and I think it goes a little bit above and beyond sort of individual and familial value establishments. So, I just sort of wanted to, I guess, caution against that.

Selingo: Well, and as I said in answer to the previous question about what is education. Obviously, there is a societal value to higher ed. There is a public good to higher ed. I will also argue, though, that states, in particular, have given up on that idea, and are now treating higher education as a private good. You will hear lawmakers talk about that a lot of times when they try to cut the budgets of public institutions. You talk to lawmakers about student debt, and when you say, "Well, the average student debt is $25,000."
They'll say, "Oh, the cost of a new car." So on the political level, politicians and people who fund higher ed really believe that it's a private good.
On the college side, you know, the college board and others put out publications every couple of years, talking about how higher education pays. In a lot of it, they talk about the societal good. But a lot of it is in bottom line dollars and cents.
So, I think on both sides, both the higher education community and the government community have already put it in those terms. We seem to have kind of lost that public good argument in some ways. I don't know. Some people might disagree and say it's not worth giving up that fight, but I think that we have, on so many levels, lost that fight about the public good.

Audience Question:  Have you looked at the needs and the value of higher education for returning adults? Also, the growth or the need for more graduate programs to honor those particular professional goals of returning adults as the evolution of different disciplines and professions in society will emerge?

Selingo: I am not familiar. Jane might know this, hopefully. In terms of the payoff for returning adults, I'm sure there's information on that, but maybe not. OK. No, I don't, on that front. There has been, obviously, a large increase in graduate programs and other programs for returning adults. A lot of that credential, the great credential race that I showed for the last decade was focused on kind of lower level certificate programs and on a higher level, graduate programs.
This is also where, the for‑profits in particular had a huge increase in the last decade by going after a kind of credential lysine, areas that, 20 years ago, we didn't have credentials for.
I know, I've written a lot of pieces about for‑profits over the years, so, I've been in classrooms, for‑profit classrooms. In talking to most of those students, it's really about the credential to get ahead. So, you're talking to somebody who has a bachelor's degree, or you're talking to somebody who has a high school diploma, and their stories are very similar in that, "I was up for a promotion and I needed to have a master's degree," or "I need that bachelor's degree and I didn't. So, I went back for that."
So, if you're measuring it just by kind of, not necessarily on the earnings, but on career progression, that has obviously been incredibly important to them, and I think that's where the for‑profits have, they went after that market during their great growth era of the last decade.

Moderator:  One more, and then we'll have a break.

Audience Question:  So, what do you think are the key lessons higher ed should learn from the disruptions and/or recoveries that occurred in the three industries you mentioned?

Selingo: Oh, I hope you do better than we did. You know, I wanted to be a journalist my whole life, and the journalism industry is still strong, but it's much different. The fact that newsrooms are a third smaller than they were 10 years ago is, in some ways, good because you kind of democratize news reporting and writing. But at
the same time, I think some of the great debates ‑‑ I think the stuff that King was talking about, what's happening in Sacramento here. I think that if you had, perhaps, stronger newspapers and stronger news organizations that better inform the public, would we have that much dysfunction today?
I don't know, that's a good question, right? Newspapers maybe didn't do a good job covering that 20 years ago. But I would argue that you probably wouldn't have as much dysfunction today as if we had better and more reporters in state houses covering what's actually happening.

So, the lesson to me goes back to those first couple of questions, is, people in the news business had this hubris that, and they had monopolies in many towns and felt, you know, we own the corner on this market and we're always going to own the corner on this market, so we don't have to change. They were unwilling to realize what was happening with the Internet, especially. They were unwilling to charge for their product, which I think is the biggest mistake that newspapers made.

So, my, I would go back to those meaty questions that I put up in the beginning, this idea, don't think you're necessarily the best in the world. Be willing to listen to alternative ideas, and be open to research that might go against your long held convictions. I think on all three of those fronts, I think that higher ed might be more open to it.

I don't know. Every time I write about this, people in higher ed tell me, I always here this is the new normal, I've been hearing that for 20 years. I keep hearing, this time it's different. I've been hearing that for 20 years. I could be sitting here in 10 years and you could be laughing at this presentation, because everything is the same.

I don't know if you want to take that risk. I'm not saying that higher ed needs to change drastically, but it at least needs to be open to these alternative ideas, it needs to focus on what it does well and kind of figure out how to shed the rest. It needs to be of more value to the people who use it.

Top of Story