MHP   |  October 27, 2012

Traditional college structure faces drive for reinvention

Melissa Harris-Perry and her guests key in on an article written in Time magazine on "Reinventing College." Should the U.S. break from it's traditional college structure?

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> as the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. what if it is broke or at the very least in need of repair. that's the question of a recent "time" magazine cover story asking, reinventing college . the article poses that the next frontier in college education may not be in the traditional classroom, but rather a virtual one. as a professor, i can see the merits of new and innovative methods and how they can provide for those who might otherwise not have a chance to attend college , especially in 2006 and 2011 states across the country reduced student funding to public colleges an universities. the percent of students who graduate at time is 58% at four-year schools and only 30% at two-year schools. the percentage of students with debt has risen from 46 to 66% between 1993 and 2011 . with the average amount of that debt increasing by more than $12,000. so, yes, the numbers students are facing right no are staggering. let's not rush to abandon the traditional classroom yet. i love the traditional classroom. we should see how the new and old can be melded together to provide quality education for all students pursuing higher education . at the table, ben cohen , ceo and founder of ben & jerry 's, valerie kore, matt segal president of ourtime.org and felicia wong. you were talking a bit about this angst with the presidential election and whether or not they're addressing issues of students. this "time" magazine cover, i think this might be the second copy.

>> even assigns homework.

>> talk to me about that. is it time to reinvent college ?

>> i think the one thing the president did exceptionally well in his state of the union address was, yes --

>> your mic is dead. we're having a mic issue today. i promise i'll let you come back.

>> valerie, is it time to reinvent college ?

>> i think it's time to reinvent, but not replace. i come from a farming family. i had the incredible privilege of getting my education at stanford, harvard and yale. that kind of access to knowledge , to mentorship, to networks is something i think every hard working student should have a shot at. that means a traditional college experience. but absolutely we need to innovate college so they're stepping up their game, so they're making it less expensive for students to attend, so they're making learning more relevant, we're actually teaching skills more about learning and the doing, that are relevant. and so they're not staggering over so much debt. this point that i come from a farming family but here i come with this college education . i have to say the number that blew me away here was only 3%, 3% are the percentage of students in the top 146 colleges that comes from families in the bottom fourth of household incomes. poor students are not getting this opportunity to end up in college classrooms.

>> you know what? that's a political choice. that's the wrong political choice, but it's a choice that we have made, and we need to actually reinvent college in part by looking backward. if you look at my family story. my family, similarly very poor. my parents were both born and grew up in oakland, chinatown. but they were able to go to uc berkeley .

>> it was affordable, state school .

>> that's right, that's right because it was free to the top 12% of all students in california in the 1950s and 1960s . they were able to go because it was down the street from them. that's the kind of system we need to get back to. in california in the middle of this century we saw obviously the building of the ucs, but we also saw the building of california state schools and of community colleges . i think it's worth us talking about how to preserve those systems, too. those are the real ladders for access.

>> it's interesting felicia talks about free access that is down the street from you. i think, well, that's the internet. free access that's down the street from you isn't your local college anymore. it is internet classes.

>> which is an interesting point, because as the cost of learning is becoming cheaper, ironically the cost of education keeps going up and up and up. so why might that be?

>> interesting.

>> one of the problems -- this is what i like to call the " u.s. news & world report " industrial complex.

>> oh, i know this one.

>> people rank schools on not only how much money they can raise but how much money they can spend, like political campaigns , and on top of that, selectivity. so we're valuing prestige over quality access to learning, over the core competency of the college which is education. the schools are being prioritize prioritized to do the wrong thing. furthermore, we're investing in football fields at university of florida but cutting computer science classes. that makes zero sense.

>> this is not a small point, the selectivity question. if selectivity itself is considered a value, then all you have to do is up the number of people who are applying. one of the ways you up the number of people who are applying is by having a more popular sports team . young people watching the ncaa or watching their acc football, they think i'm going to apply to that school. you're 17, you don't have a ton of information in the world. more people applying, keep your admissions the same, selectivity goes up, but without any fundamental change in what's happening in the classroom.

>> consumers buy a home based on price indices. we need disclosures from schools, what are your job placement statistics? allow consumers to fix that with information and knowledge. what are your debt levels, default levels. if everyone going to the school is defaulting on their loans, that's a problem. that should be public information. i think a few democrats in the senate have a bill to actually ask colleges -- i think it's ron widen to disclose those statistics. to getting to the first thing you said, at the president's state of the union address , he said we can keep protecting the pell grant , but that's going to skyrocket to the point where it doesn't make sense anymore. at a certain point you have to force colleges to keep their costs in check. and the way to do that is ultimately going to be, you know, a tough decision and holding higher administrators of these colleges and universities accountable for the next decade or so.

>> when we come back, i want to ask what would be the metrics you want to have if selectivity isn't it. i value liberal arts education for itself. up next, is the education that students receive worth the money they pay for it. with the