Here we are in the 21st century. And you know what? We still treat education like we have for hundreds of years. In America, we equate success with the completion of the Bachelor’s degree. For many it is completed in a four year (or 5, or 6 year) sprint at the end of our teenage years. Others will wait and go back later in life. But still it is completed in a narrow finite span of time. Seems quaint frankly in a world of daily exponential growth of human knowledge. Take for example YouTube (yes, I know it is not a bastion of academic knowledge), according to their statistics page as of January 2013 there are 72 hours of video uploaded every minute! Cat videos and dance videos aside, that’s a lot of information being shared on just one website. As a computer engineering major at UMBC I was told flat out that everything I learned in my freshman year would be outdated by my senior year. In reality, it was outdated by the fall of my junior year. So why do we still educate in way that guarantees you will be stale before you graduate!?
Couple this fact that college education is expensive. Very expensive. And it is only going up. So how do instituions of higher education remain relevant while also justifying their astronomical price tag? First it is also important to note that many professions, engineering being one, requires continuing education to renew professional licensure. With that in mind, I propose the following.
College education can still start with a 4 year bachelor’s program, if for no other reason to help teenagers get the crazy out and begin the transition to adulthood. And for those who so choose, they can continue on for master’s and doctoral studies. But for a great majority, the bachelor’s degree will remain the pinnacle of academic expense. For those folks, and for those who stop academic pursuit after acquiring a master’s degree, I believe colleges should offer continuing education training to their graduates, free of charge. A new breed of certification could be developed. Graduates could remain up to date on the latest innovations in their chosen field of study. In return for the free continuing education courses and certification, graduates who partake in the training would be required to mentor a current student. This gives students a real-world perspetive of what they will face upon earning their sheepskin. In short, a mutually beneficial relationship. Society would also benefit from having a workforce that doesn’t grow stale shortly after graduating. Who knows what innovations would be brought to life?
Yes, much of this exists today but I believe it needs to be more formally developed. Education cannot be treated as finite and segmented experience. It must be a lifelong commitment by all parties.