Let's begin by rekindling a public appreciation for democratic education, and let's make education for democracy central to the function of a 21st century college or university, not just an option for especially enthusiastic students.
Colleges and universities should linger in the hard work of community development, where engagement means, over the long --term graduating students who, by their example, help to fix the system that created our national conundrum.
You remember the great teachers because they touched something inside you. They opened vistas and cleared new pathways. They made your world larger and richer. Can you get that same experience from a computer?
As a president of a major public university, I'm a strong advocate of the value of a four-year bachelor's degree, and studies do bear out the proposition that those who have that degree fare better in life than those who don't.
While summer reading is normally light or frothy stuff for the beach, one of the more widely reviewed books of this past summer, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to A Meaningful Life, was nothing of the sort.
For those who took the path most traveled which led them to a college degree that's offered them nothing more than debt and a smile from mom and dad, it's not too late for you. You can change things. You can put your life back on track. It's not over.
We wouldn't dare give a young person who is just starting out the same advice today about bank interest rates or real estate values that we did ten years ago. So why are we still giving out the same old advice about college?
Andrew Rossi's new documentary, Ivory Tower, looks at higher education today, especially the vertiginously escalating tuition costs and the consequences of those costs, from crushing debt burdens on young graduates to the compromises schools make to attract students who are able to pay full price.
Let me be clear. College is not right for everyone, but it undisputedly remains the ticket to socioeconomic mobility. We need to stop debating its value, and instead focus on ensuring more students have access to college.
Higher education is a mature industry that is on the cusp of major transformations in the next two decades, and every college and university will need to prepare to maintain their quality, efficiency and relevancy in this climate.
I don't mean to imply that NYU Abu Dhabi is a panacea. It is a new institution that has had a luxury that no existing college can have: starting from scratch and dreaming of what an undergraduate education should be in the 21st century.
Some of the attacks on U.S. higher education, although in many cases well-intentioned, have the potential to do real damage to this sector of our national educational system at a time when a college degree is increasingly seen as the gateway to a meaningful and rewarding life and career.
As far as the colleges and universities are concerned, higher accountability should be demanded from educators, students, parents and really any Americans that want the best economy and highest-educated population.