From the UC student protests over fee hikes, to community colleges holding midnight classes due to increased demand, to repeated warnings from business and policy leaders that we are not graduating enough competitive workers, America is facing a crisis in higher education.
Why? Because the last great social shift to impact higher education was back in 1944 with the introduction of the GI Bill that transformed access to higher education for many generations following.
Today, technology and communication advances have transformed everything from ecommerce (Amazon.com) to interpersonal relationships (Match.com) over the past 20 years, while higher education remains constrained in the old industrial factory model.
Unable to graduate the number of applicants who are seeking degrees, higher education institutions still rely on a linear approach to education - tied to a fixed infrastructure, limited by financial, space and time constraints, and measuring success by increases in endowments and publishing rather than increases in student achievement.
If higher education were a company today, it would still be Henry Ford's first automobile factory when instead it ought to resemble Apple - fully leveraging today's technology and information resources both off-line and online in the home and at work--for all stages of life.
Now is the time for another great shift - to rethink higher education and create a fresh vision and new model for learning.
Imagine a world where higher education doesn't end with a diploma, but starts at 18 and continues through life, as the world changes around us. Imagine a United States where we can dramatically increase the number of citizens who can access higher education in just a few years by combining the full power of technology and the Internet with the best teaching and learning approaches in the world to craft a student-centered educational ecosystem.
To be sure, there will be a some need to continue with the existing academic institutions that we know of today. However, there is a greater need to rethink how education is delivered throughout one's lifetime. We believe in creating a student-centric initiative for a new ecosystem around high education that blends the best of Silicon Valley, entrepreneurial thinking and higher education. Changing higher education in America must begin with changing the conversation we are having about it and now is the time to initiate dialogue, ideation and action around rethinking higher education and the policies, infrastructure and innovations needed to reinvent it.
We already have all the intellectual, technological and entrepreneurial resources we need to bring our higher education system into the 21st century and ensure it serves all of our citizens. We just need to begin the dialogue to do it.
Follow Tara Lemmey on Twitter: www.twitter.com/taralemmey