iSCHOOLGUIDE: Stanford Education Professor Mitchell Stevens Questions Value of Four-Year College Education

Career College Central Summary:

  • Stanford Education Professor Mitchell Stevens is pushing for a more flexible education model than focuses more on for-profit institutions and less on the Ivy League. In an article he co-edited with fellow professor Michael Kirst, they questioned the traditional four-year college education that surfaced after World War II.
  • Stevens said prestigious universities like Stanford have been too slow in adjusting to the changing times, Jason Song of Los Angeles Times reported. The Stanford professor said earning a four-year undergraduate degree as key to prepare students for success in their chosen career path is among the biggest presumptions in U.S education.
  • "We are in a golden age for U.S. higher education, but it is only for a very small number of highly endowed and internationally visible research universities," said Stevens. "In terms of prestige, academic selectivity, and endowments, we are moving ever closer to a winner-take-all system."
  • Stevens cited problems like undergraduates who do not learn much (based on studies), the astronomical costs, and the colleges' struggle in dealing with sexual assault cases.
  • "It's not a pretty picture," the professor said.
  • While many wealthy Americans believe letting off their kids at a form will help them learn better, Stevens said "fewer and fewer students actually go to school full time and live on campus."
  • More than half of first year undergraduate students attended two-year colleges in 2008, based on a book that Stevens co-edited. However, a data from the U.S Education Department revealed over 39 percent of young people attended community colleges in the fall of 1988.
  • According to Stevens, these institutions provide "new versions of college that fit more comfortably into people's lives" through online courses. The Stanford professor, however, said some for-profit colleges are "bad players" due to poor financial management and lending tectics.

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