Sunday, February 14, 2010

Higher Education Financial Woes

Foellinger Auditorium detailImage via Wikipedia
I received an unsettling email this week.  It was from the Chancellor of the University of Illinois in Champaign-Illinois--directed to University of Illinois alums.  Here's the opening paragraph:

Dear University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Alumni:
Due to an excessive delay in the payment of our appropriation by the State of Illinois and uncertainty over what lies ahead, your university is facing unprecedented fiscal challenges. In the coming weeks and months, we will be taking a critical look at all aspects of our campus operations, re-examining everything from our administration to small academic units assembled years ago to meet specific needs. An extensive review process will underwrite each decision we make, and every decision will be strategic - designed to transform your university to meet the challenges of the future.

I had heard about the Illinois fiscal woes in other news media--the state hadn't paid bills for six months and agencies with shallow pockets were closing down programs  because they couldn't pay for staff and other services.  But this email brought it home.  I had never received a message like this in the years I've been an alum and thought that the circumstances must be dire indeed. 

If I can send one message out to the world, it is:  FUND EDUCATION!!  Give more, not less.  Don't let institutions like this falter.

As I went on to think about this plea, I thought about the concluding phrase "...designed to transform your university to meet the challenges of the future."  My interest in QDAS and QDAS 2.0 has given me opportunity to give a lot of thought to where technology might be taking education.  

The university of the 20th century was a thing of bricks and mortar (note the photo above).  You think back to the grounds, the buildings, and the trees.  The university of the 21st century is going to be much more diffuse, located in multiple virtual settings as well as physical settings. 

I imagine that the 21st century university will include:
  • Much more online learning and virtual experiences
  • Far more emphasis on personal learning plans; and the individual clustering of personal tool kits for learning
  • More individual competency and performance assessments, coupled with group standardized assessment for baseline information
These changes are going to require teachers who are flexible, knowledgeable, and CONSTANTLY retooling.  I think that the spatial and temporal structures of higher education will be significantly restructured.  We see the first stages of this now.  

The struggles of the University of Illinois are going to be the struggles of all in higher education.  I have no idea of how it will come out in the end. 

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Anonymous said...


Judith Davidson said...

I wish I understood Chinese! But thanks for the feedback. Judy