The American way of life stresses the need for college education among its citizens. Currently, people from all walks of life seek higher education for several reasons, including economical and social reasons. About five decades ago, college education provided a viable avenue for improving the economic status of the citizens and the country in general. Higher education has since evolved from being a tool for economic empowerment to being a tool for self-improvement.
There are various criticisms to higher education and its place in today’s American social and economic environment. Most critics feel that there is a need to overhaul Americans’ perceptions of higher education. Some of the forwarded solutions to the burden of higher education include providing viable alternatives to higher education and providing cost-cutting mechanisms. Higher education faces several challenges as a result of globalization and changing economic environment. This paper argues that there is a need to align higher education with globalization issues and today’s economic realities.
Higher education in the United States is often made possible by investments from both individuals and the government. The government usually shoulders about forty percent of the higher education investment burden while scholars shoulder the rest (Altucher 32). The quality of higher education in America is reputable as the country is the world’s biggest exporter of higher education. However, globalization is weighing heavily on the ability of the country to remain as the world’s leader in higher education. The reason why the investments made under higher education are under scrutiny is that it is becoming harder for students and the government to recoup these investments.
The rate of unemployment for college and university graduates is on the rise. This means that most students are not able to repay their education loans after they graduate. Globalization has often been blamed for the rising unemployment rates among graduates. Therefore, it is hard to make higher education investments a priority in a globalized economy. Higher education stakeholders have the responsibility of making the investments made on postsecondary education realistic. It is no longer prudent to assume that the current unemployment trends will turn around. The best way to achieve this is to re-evaluate higher education to align it with the students’ prospects. For instance, the three-year program that has been suggested by Senator Lamar Alexander is a viable alternative (Alexander 28).
Previously, when students left institutions of higher learning, they had a clear advantage. However, in a globalized environment, this advantage seems to be diminishing. The purpose of education in the current economy is also dependent on several factors. Experts are constantly questioning the purpose of a college degree in the prevailing economic conditions (Steinberg 25). Currently, when most students graduate, they are proceeding to a job market that prominently features self-employed non-college graduates. In some instances, the non-graduates have clear advantages over those who have sought higher education.
This development has since complicated the stature of higher education in the United States. For instance, there are various success stories of non-college graduates in the business sector. Sometimes, these non-graduates end up employing college graduates. The essence of a college education is that it offers graduates a clear advantage in the job market over those who do not seek higher education. If this trend continues, the stature of higher education in the United States is likely to keep dropping. There are two ways of combating this trend. The first one is by restructuring the overall concept of higher education, and the second one is by incorporating independence into higher education. These strategies will level the playing field for both graduates and non-graduates.
Globalization has led to a simpler means of achieving personal goals and objectives. The same applies to personal training and self-education. In the past, people had had to rely on higher education as the only avenue of tertiary training. However, the situation has changed with the advent of globalization and global economies. Those who complete their secondary education can involve themselves in self-training because educational materials have since become readily available. Today, short online courses are the norm for those people who forego higher education. Some of these courses are specifically tailored to supplement American Higher education. Also, postsecondary students can use readily available educational materials from the internet. While these forms of self-training cannot match the quality of American higher education, they can still be able to mimic its success with considerable results.
Lately, there have been cases of individuals who have been able to improve their educational repertoire using these avenues. The ease of accessing educational materials and a wholesome education using unorthodox means contributes to downplaying the effectiveness of higher education. Therefore, there is need to alienate the higher educational system and highlight its benefits to avoid cases where its quality can be compromised. Although online courses are supposed to compliment higher education, there is a need to regulate them so that their informal nature does not compromise the quality of higher education.
Senator Alexander refers to the enviable standards of higher education that were witnessed in America during the 1960s (Alexander 27). However, globalization has since neutralized the higher education field. Within the last three decades, countries around the world have been able to replicate the standards of higher education that were only found in America. This has meant that the global demand for American higher education has considerably gone down. One of the reasons why this has happened is because there have been very few improvements to the higher educational system within the last three decades. Also, unwarranted focus on higher education that concerns information technology has seen other fields of study lag behind improvement-wise. If this trend continues, there is a likelihood of American higher education being overtaken by upcoming forces like India.
One of the reasons why there are no revolutions when it comes to the higher educational system is because the American educational system is largely governmental. This means there is very little entrepreneurship in the higher education sector. Entrepreneurship is known for fostering change and promoting competition. Most changes to the educational system are usually engineered by the government. Mistrust of government systems is one of the factors that make the educational system less popular with some students. Some students opt for other alternatives to college instead of enrolling in a government certified program (Bollinger, Crow, and Zemsky 32). The government needs to lessen its grip on the higher educational system and encourage private involvement in line with the globalization agenda.
As higher education globalizes with the rest of the country’s products, the higher education product faces more competition from other education systems around the world. Therefore, there is a need for higher education to become more competitive. The government’s grip on the higher education system makes it hard for institutions of higher learning to become more competitive. Moreover, in global economies, institutions of higher learning are just like business enterprises, and they have to adapt to competitive environments. For example, if the demand for the quality of education being produced by a certain institution rises, that institution might have to adapt. The institution can maintain its competitiveness by remaining exclusive or by increasing the number of its graduates.
Nevertheless, either of these choices is subject to government interference. This makes the input of the government in higher education matters very relevant in the advent of globalization. While governments in Europe are taking advantage of their most competitive institutions of higher learning, the United States government is yet to follow suit (Altbach and Knight 301).
The standards of higher education in America are closely connected with a student’s prospects. The stakeholders of the American education system are always trying to present analyses that promote persuasion of higher education. Stakeholders use globalization to tout the relevance of higher education in globalized economies of the future. According to the stakeholders of higher education, the higher the level of the education that is pursued by a student, the better the expected results. Several studies have been conducted to show the relevance of higher education. The figure below is a pie-chart representation of the relationship between the level of education and the likelihood of getting a job in future America.
Description: This pie chart represents the least educational requirements for most jobs in the next five years. The job market in that is covered by this pie chart is that of the United States. According to this chart, the future of the job market will be dominated by those people with higher education. In the next five years, only twenty-eight percent of jobs will be available to those people without higher education. The rest of the jobs will only be available to those who have some degree of higher education. The chart indicates that the higher the level of education, the easier it is to secure a job in the United States. The data used in formulating the chart comes from a study that was conducted courtesy of Georgetown University.
Although the data represented in the above pie chart is believable, the study it represents fails to put several factors into account. For instance, it is not easy to determine what types of jobs are covered by this study. Also, it is not possible to determine the economic value of the covered jobs. The relevance of higher education in the United States cannot be ignored. However, it is also important to focus on the finer details of the issue. Currently, it seems that globalized economies are promoting the need for higher education without offering students clearly outlined benefits.
Soon, the supremacy of the higher educational system will be outdated. Eventually, globalization will neutralize the nature and purpose of a higher educational system unless changes are effected on the system. Therefore, it is up to the government and other educational stakeholders to accord the higher educational system the much-needed facelift.
Alexander, Lamar. “The Three Year Solution: How the Reinventions of Higher Education Benefits Parents, Students, and Schools.” Newsweek Oct. 26, 2009: 26-29. Print.
Altbach, Philip, and Jane Knight. “The internationalization of higher education: Motivations and realities.” Journal of Studies in International Education 11.3 (2007): 290-305. Print.
Altucher, James. “Skip the Diploma: 8 Alternatives to College.” MSNBC. 2011: 32. Print.
Bollinger, Lee, Michael Crow, and Robert Zemsky. “What’s College for Anyway?: A Symposium.” Newsweek. 2009: 30-33. Print.
Carnevale, Anthony, Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl. Help Wanted: Projections of Job and Education Requirements through 2018, New York, NY: Lumina Foundation, 2010. Print.
Steinberg, Jacques. “Plan B: Skip College.” The New York Times. 2010: 23-25. Print.