Thesis: Education reform will be one of the most important innovations of the next 50 years and will be best accomplished using the teacher as a reference point with most learning done individually.
Most people when asked about education, specifically college education, say it is way too expensive. College education, while valuable, needs to be reformed both from a pricing standpoint but more importantly, from a structural standpoint. Individual learning aided with the help of teachers is in my opinion, the future of education.
My argument, while being able to decrease the cost of college education, is more focused on the learning aspect of education. When I go to a large lecture, it is very difficult to pay attention. Between the thousands of websites and social media applications available to kids today, it is no wonder many people report this exact problem. Even if I do pay close attention, I think I could teach myself most of the material in less time. With the help of textbooks and the internet, along with slides provided by the professor, there is no doubt I could teach myself the material. This is why my solution to the problem of education is to make the teacher a reference point for questions. The teacher would assign weekly readings and add lecture slides at the beginning of the week. The entirety of lecture would be online and be dedicated to answering students questions, similar to office hours. This way, the student would “teach” him or herself all of the material before “class” and any material they do not understand could be answered with the help of the teacher. All students could engage in the forum and ask questions while other people watched and benefited from the experience.
The cost of college education has risen to around $23,000 dollars per year. This number is sure to increase if something does not change. Just ten years ago, the average price was $13,000 dollars. http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76. This is a substantial increase and unless structural change takes place, the cost will keep rising. The University of Texas School of Architecture has an interesting breakdown of the cost of college education. According to them, nearly 60% of the cost of tuition is for university professors and staff’s salaries and benefits. http://www.utexas.edu/tuition/breakdown.php. While my proposal will not eliminate these costs, it should substantially decrease them. The teacher would benefit from this design by not having to go to lecture and teach the same thing repeatedly. They could use slides from previous years and benefit themselves from the potentially thought provoking discussions on the forum. This could lead to a decrease in salaries. In addition, teachers could have more time for research and because of this, administrators could lessen their salaries as they push for a research based compensation. In addition, operating expenses make up around 17% of the total cost of college. This could be nearly eliminated as the infrastructure needs at a traditional university are lessened. Classrooms would be nonexistent and the overall cost of maintenance would drop.
Overall, college is a time of great learning and growth. However, the system is flawed and I think change is in order. With my proposed plan, the cost of college education could fall and the overall learning and efficiency would increase dramatically. Unless this change occurs, I fear prices will continue to increase and the US will continue to fall behind other countries from a learning standpoint.