The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published a letter by Ryan Stowers that calls for reform of the postsecondary education system for the benefit of all learners — not just those who have the time and money to pursue a college degree. Change will allow institutions to unlock the potential of more Americans, helping them use their unique talents to contribute to their own lives and the lives of others.
Stowers says the type of competency-based learning options deployed by Purdue and Western Governors University offer learners the individualized academic support and flexibility they need to discover and develop their unique aptitudes. Reforming transfer of credit policies so people can easily move in and out of the academy will make postsecondary education more accessible to modern learners who must balance work obligations, caring for family, and financial pressures.
“Colleges and universities are missing an opportunity if they do not help nontraditional or lifelong learners develop their aptitudes and find purpose in work,” Stowers says.
A key part of preparing learners to fill the jobs of today, and pivot to the jobs of tomorrow, is fostering a growth mindset. Stowers says openness is key to that growth, but on campuses today too many students feel that they need to self-censor — that they cannot engage in open discussion or debate.
“Employers are looking for workers with soft skills — the ability to communicate, empathize, and compromise,” Stowers says. “In addition to fomenting intolerance, the proliferation of safe spaces and disinvitation of speakers contributes to the belief that the academy is not preparing learners for a complex and often scary world.”
Stowers’ letter was written in response to Brian Rosenberg’s essay, “Higher Ed’s Ruinous Resistance to Change,” which outlines Rosenberg’s courageous attempts to change one institution’s approach to teaching and learning.
If you are a Chronicle of Higher Education subscriber, read the full letter here.