Beki Grinter

Education: those next 20 years…

In academia, computer science, research on March 5, 2010 at 9:49 am

I’m getting closer to my colleague Mark Guzdial’s intellectual turf here, but I saw two things recently that made me pause and take a moment.

The first was an update on a fluid situation, the question of how much of a budget cut the University System of Georgia will take next year. It’s still a work in progress, note that the article says that there’s another meeting on Wednesday which concluded with a still fluid situation. The list of cuts, from each University appears towards the end of the article and it makes for sobering reading. I say that as a State employee myself, one who works for Georgia Tech.

The second was the announcement that Hawaii’s schools will be moving to a four day school week. I’m not a parent, but I can imagine that this is going to be something else for the dual-income parents of Hawaii. There’s always been an alignment between the school week and the work week, not perhaps a complete one, but this is certainly going to expose more of the assumptions that come with that alignment. And that’s not even a thought about education. As the article comments, people are concerned about the educational impact on Hawaii’s children with less instruction time.

Together they paint a picture of an educational system that is in transformation. No-one is predicting that this recession will end soon. Many suggest that there will be recovery, but it will be slow. The effects of this could be as long lasting as the generation experiencing it (those in education at this time). Intriguingly (and somewhat politically I’ll observe) it is the people who are largely not in education who are deciding the fate of those who are.

Recently, Dick Lipton posted an article about education, asking could Universities become extinct in the next 25 years, one that Mark and I built on. I have to wonder whether these are just two data points, in a sea of others that set up the conditions for just such an event. If we’re optimistic, we can hope that at the end of this time we’ll look back and be able to see innovations that set up better conditions for the next generation. I’m trying to keep focused on that. And, one bright spot, the University of Michigan.

  1. Interesting post! The Univ. of California took pretty severe cuts last year, and will likely do so again this coming year, so that gives me a lot of appreciation for what Georgia will be facing. For Univ. of California, the main impacts have been fewer undergraduate classes, many administrative staff let go, a freeze on faculty hiring and no replacement of faculty that leave, and a temporary reduction in faculty salaries. There have also been reductions in available TAs for classes. My guess is this, or something similar, is what will happen in Georgia as well.

    It seems unlikely that universities will disappear. The largest private universities have enormous endowments, and will likely last for hundreds of years, if not longer.

    What will happen at universities is likely a reduction in staff of all kinds, including tenured faculty. There are only so many cuts that can be made before you need to reduce faculty headcount, and the number of degrees.

    What would be interesting is whether really disruptive university business models will take off. So far, there is no highly respected distance learning university in the US, similar to the Open University in the UK.

  2. Usually, around here, when schools shift to a 4-day week, they don’t have fewer hours. Extending the school day definitely impacts extra-curricular activities, and students get pretty tired after such a long day. They save some money on busing, heat, and electricity, but the school is usually not completely shut down on Fridays.

    I’m concerned that even though there may not be fewer hours, the quality of those hours that are tacked on at the end of an already long day might not be very effective. I could not tell from the article you linked to… is Hawaii keeping the same number of hours in the school day and simply cutting Fridays?

  3. You’re welcome to wander into computing education turf, Beki. It’s only fair — I clearly wondered into your people turf with my post today: http://computinged.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/the-future-of-computing-is-people-people-and-people/

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