|By Alan Hall | Excerpted from the March 2012 Socionomist
Originally published under the title, “The Education Industry is Traversing a Broad, Multi-Decade Social Mood Peak”
In this timely update of his February 2011 study, Alan Hall reports on the status of seven developments in higher education that reveal an advancing monumental transformation in the industry: The reversal of a century-long, upward trend in the popularity and cost of higher education. Five developments are on track with his previous forecasts, one is evolving, and the emergence of the last one surprised even him. The following excerpt details a few of these developments.
1. The “Creative Destruction” of the Industry Has Begun
What We Said
Traditional educational institutions may eventually lose control of the manufacture and distribution of education much as the music and publishing industries lost their grip on music and text. Bear markets topple dominant players and open the field to nimbler entrepreneurs, who will develop alternatives to institutional education.1
What Has Happened Since
… Today’s technological breakthrough is the Internet, of course, which the July 1998 Theorist called “a massive engine for falling prices in countless businesses and professions.” Education is no exception. On March 4, 2012, The New York Times took note of the trend:
Welcome to the brave new world of Massive Open Online Courses — known as MOOCs — a tool for democratizing higher education. … in the past few months hundreds of thousands of motivated students around the world who lack access to elite universities have been embracing them … without paying tuition or collecting a college degree. And in what some see as a threat to traditional institutions, several of these courses now come with an informal credential….3
… 2. Education’s Image is Shifting
What We Said
“Society’s feelings about education shift in concert with social mood,” we wrote. We presented evidence that the public becomes critical of colleges and universities during negative trends in the social mood.
What Has Happened Since
Six months later, USA Today reported the results of a new study by the educators’ association Phi Delta Kappa International:
Since 2001, Americans have soured on schools in general: When 1,002 adults were asked June 4-13 to give a letter grade to “public schools in the nation as a whole,” only 17 percent gave them an A or B, down from 23 percent in 2001 and 27 percent in 1985.7 …
In the remainder of this six-page article, author Alan Hall examines five more trends in the education industry – surrounding academic performance, student debt, academic scandal, tuition prices, and “The College Sugar Daddy” – that point to the forthcoming collapse of the higher education business.
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the opposite: that social mood regulates the character of social events. The
events of history—such as investment booms and busts, political events,
macroeconomic trends and even peace and war—are the products of a naturally
occurring pattern of social-mood fluctuation. Such events, therefore, are not
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meter of a society’s aggregate mood, that news is irrelevant to social
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