SCOTT GALLOWAY: How to make higher education more accessible

  • Scott Galloway is a bestselling author, entrepreneur, and professor of marketing at NYU Stern. The following is an excerpt from his new book, “POST CORONA: From Crisis to Opportunity.
  • In it, he explains how the pandemic has catalyzed a question American households have been afraid to ask: Is the traditional college experience worth it?
  • While the changes might be disruptive for some, many students could stand to benefit from these adjustments, Galloway says, especially women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ communities at universities. 
  • From decreasing costs of four-year universities and junior colleges to taxing private K-12 schools and endowments over $1 billion, he suggests nine different ways to make higher education more accessible and equitable. 
  • “Only 32{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} of Americans go to college, and cost is not what keeps the most exceptional kids of any income level from getting to college,” Galloway writes. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

When we can let all this restart, and give the on-campus experience a chance to compete with the virtual, a generation that comes of age in the pandemic may not perceive the same value in the proximity my generation cherished. By the time the virus is contained, we may have raised a micro-generation of innate distancers. Even post-corona, and a return to proximity, the temporary elimination of the college experience will have catalyzed a question American households were afraid to ask: Is it worth it?

After a month taking classes at home, most students were likely desperate to get back to campus. After a year without the “traditional” college experience, plenty of people will begin to wonder how much they miss it, and what it’s really worth.

Moreover, the need to rethink how campuses are utilized, and the injection of online tools into the college toolbox, is going to expand the notion of the college experience.

For many students, it already looks nothing like the brochures.

Around 20{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} of college students live with their parents, and over half don’t live in college housing. Twenty-seven percent of full-time students work at least 20 hours per week. In the near future, schools looking to reduce density on campus are likely to move toward rotating schedules (such as four-to-six-week modules rather than four-month semesters). Schools could encourage or even require students to spend a year or more away from campus, or invest in satellite campuses, as my school, NYU, has done in Dubai and Shanghai.

Finally, we cannot overlook that even for those participating in the “traditional” college experience of lecture halls and discussion sections, dorms and dining halls, there have long been inequalities and inefficiencies.

Disruption is an opportunity to better serve the broader community. Women, people of color, gay, and transgender students have had to fight, and still have to fight, for an equal place on our campuses. So we shouldn’t be surprised that women are 50{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} more likely than men to say they would choose an online college option, or that Blacks are 50{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} more likely than whites to say they are confident in the quality of online coursework.

Simply put, they have less to lose, as the status quo was different for them, and as a result they stand to benefit the most from a rethinking of higher ed.

Read more: Experts predict MBA programs post-COVID-19 will invest in more advanced virtual learning and courses on leading during crises — and experience a drop in international applicants


What needs to happen:

  • The US needs a Marshall Plan to partner with states to dramatically increase the number of seats at state schools while decreasing cost for four-year universities and junior colleges. Only a third of the US population has college degrees, and less than 10{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} have graduate degrees.
  • Tax private K–12 schools to supplement public K–12 education. Higher education has become a caste system in substantial part because the rich now have a private educational system greasing the skids for entry to the best schools, and poor kids, except the truly exceptional among them, can’t compete. We should be investing vastly more in our public primary and secondary schools.
  • Endowments over $1 billion should be taxed if the university doesn’t grow freshman seats at 1.5 times the rate of population growth. Harvard, MIT, and Yale have combined endowments (approximately $85 billion) greater than the GDP of many Latin American nations. If an organization is growing cash at a faster rate than the value they are providing, they aren’t a nonprofit, but a private enterprise. Senator Elizabeth Warren taught in the mother of all wine caves — Harvard.
  • A dean of a top-10 school needs to be a class traitor and reevaluate tenure so as to limit it to cases where it’s truly needed to secure academic freedom, rather than the expensive and innovation-killing employment perk it has become. This would require greater comp in the short run to attract world-class academics, but productivity would skyrocket, as academics would find that the market, while a harsh arbiter, often brings out great things in people when they face competition.
  • We need firms (like Apple) to seize the greatest business opportunity in decades and open tuition-free universities that leverage their brand and their tech expertise to create certification programs (Apple in arts, Google in computer science, and Amazon in operations). The business model is to flip the model and charge firms to recruit (shifting costs from students to firms), bypassing the cartel that is university accreditation. Apple training, certification, testing, and reporting would lead to bidding wars among their graduates—the secret sauce for any university. I first wrote about this in 2017, and one of the silver linings of the pandemic has been Google announcing, in August 2020, that the company will offer courses awarding career certificates that it and other participating employers will consider equivalent to a four-year degree in that area.
  • Gap years should be the norm, not the exception. An increasingly ugly secret of campus life is that a mix of helicopter parenting and social media has rendered many 18-year-olds unfit for college. Ninety percent of kids who defer and take a gap year return to college and are more likely to graduate, with better grades.

Read more: 3 Great Recession grads who have earned 6 figures while working for Netflix and Bank of America share the steps they took to land a job during a downturn


Scott Galloway

Courtesy of Scott Galloway

  • We need national service programs. I talk more about this in chapter 5, but in brief, we should start with the Corona Corps and expand from there. National service programs of all kinds, from military to education, provide exceptional returns on investment for both the nation and those who serve.
  • We fetishize a university degree, but for many it’s prohibitively expensive and unnecessary. A two-year community college degree in business management, marketing, or similar field is a sufficient prerequisite for many office jobs. Computer programming, UX/UI, and product management are hot fields that will get hotter, and certification programs including General Assembly and Lambda School are a gangster way of preparing a person of any age for a career in those fields in a matter of months. Many front-end developers are also self-taught through Khan Academy, YouTube, and other free resources.
  • Expanding the variety and efficiency of certification programs can not only retrain workers in dying industries, but can position a young person for a rewarding entrepreneurial career. We need a nationwide vocational training system in the US, similar to programs in Germany, where four times more people per capita have vocational training than in the US. With a shifting economic and labor landscape, vocational programs could provide a changing workforce with options and purpose. Our declining life expectancy is mostly due to deaths of despair (drugs, alcohol, suicide). Many of them could be prevented if people are given dignified work options through affordable, focused training.

Read more: How to decide if now’s a good time to go to grad school — and the pros and cons of applying during the pandemic

One thing we should not do? Free college. That’s a populist slogan and a bad idea. It’s a further transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. Only 32{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} of Americans go to college, and cost is not what keeps the most exceptional kids of any income level from getting to college. Improve K–12 education, strengthen two-year programs, expand the seats at the best universities, and college becomes an engine of upward mobility — without leaving behind the two thirds of people whom (better) high school serves well. College needs to be more affordable, but we don’t need to subsidize the wealthiest households in America, who send 88{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} of their children to college.

Excerpted from “POST CORONA: From Crisis to Opportunity” by Scott Galloway, in agreement with Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © Scott Galloway, 2020.

scott galloway color

Scott Galloway.

Scott Galloway

Scott Galloway is the New York Times bestselling author of “The Four” and “The Algebra of Happiness” and a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. A serial entrepreneur, he has founded nine firms, including L2, Red Envelope, and Section4. He is host of “The Prof G Show” and of “Pivot,” with Kara Swisher.

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).

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