The End of College | Kevin Carey

Summary of: The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere
By: Kevin Carey


Embark on a journey exploring the flaws of the traditional American higher education system and the revolutionary alternative presented by the University of Everywhere. In ‘The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere,’ Kevin Carey unveils issues such as high dropout rates, lack of adaptable skills, and the outdated model on which universities are built. Carey proposes a solution in the form of accessible, free online courses, opening up the opportunity for personalized, flexible, and debt-free learning.

University of Everywhere

The American higher education system is not meeting its purpose, with too many student dropouts, extended degree programs, and limited subject matter. Studies show that only a fraction of enrolled students graduate within four years, and many have not graduated even after six years. Sociologists’ research shows that almost half of college students have not progressed in fundamental disciplines even after four years. However, there is a solution. The author proposes the “University of Everywhere,” an affordable and egalitarian way to get educated via free online courses available to everyone, anytime, anywhere with 24/7 availability. The University of Everywhere offers an opportunity for education without the burden of debt and is already in existence via organizations such as edX, an online education platform established by MIT and Harvard.

Evolution of Universities

The first universities placed students at the forefront, with strict rules for teachers. However, as knowledge became a commodity, universities shifted towards professor-centered structures. Professors became gatekeepers of intellectual capital, and universities were in high demand. Books were expensive and difficult to come by, making universities the main source of education. Consequently, students lost control over their learning as universities sold themselves as high-end products.

The Dominance of Universities

The emergence of the printing press in the fifteenth century failed to shift the power structures in academia. Books, although more widely circulated, remained inaccessible to most people. The university model became more firmly entrenched, and all the brains were concentrated within these institutions. Even with colleges being established in America by individual states, universities continued to develop as private institutions. By the start of the Civil War, there were close to 250 private universities in the United States.

Three Types of Universities

The history and development of three university models – land grant, research, and liberal arts – have all influenced higher education in the United States.

What makes a university? It’s a question that has yet to be resolved. However, in the United States, the beginnings of higher education were guided by three principles. These principles led to the formation of three different university models, each with its unique aims.

First, there were the land grant universities. The Morrill Land-Grant Act in 1862 allowed states to use federal lands to establish universities. These institutions focused on training the working classes in agriculture and the mechanical arts, emphasizing practical job skills needed in the new era of industrialization.

The second university model was the research institution, inspired by nineteenth-century Germany and Wilhelm von Humboldt. These universities were focused on scholarship, using scholars to advance knowledge for the betterment of humanity. Students learned from the knowledge of academics.

The third model was liberal arts universities, influenced by Cardinal Newman’s ideas in Britain. These institutions emphasized universal knowledge and the interconnectedness of the world. Students received broad-based learning in many disciplines, rather than specializing in one particular field.

While no particular model won out in the United States, all three models have influenced higher education today. The history and development of these university models have shaped the principles and aims of higher education in the United States.

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