Diverse Conversations: Preparation for College 2025

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by Matthew Lynch

Education, corporate and philanthropic leaders from around the world say they believe that many colleges will be unrecognizable in another decade and that the U.S. will face a global economic crisis unless millions more low-income students attain college degrees.

Participating in a two-day summit in Essex, N.Y., were 60 individuals from China, Ireland, Great Britain, Canada, Germany, France and the United States, representing a dozen colleges and universities, eight foundations, six corporations and 15 secondary schools, including executives from Google, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, GE Foundation, Ernst & Young, University of Michigan, Harvard, Trinity College Dublin and Beijing Normal University, among others.

“Our outstanding participants included five lead speakers who framed the key issues surrounding college 2025,” said Rick Dalton, president and CEO of College For Every Student, the organization that sponsored the Summit with Trinity College Dublin. “These speakers are futurists, experts in teaching and learning, recognized globally.  We even had a 10-time Oscar winner.”

Emerging Technology Trends

Dr. Nicholas Haan, a futurist from Singularity University in California, said, “We must leverage the exponential technology trends and the disruption that’s upon us to solve today’s inequalities and inefficiencies in education.”

Haan provided examples of the technology trends that will affect education in the near future, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics, as well as Digital Manufacturing. He urged attendees to view challenges as problems that can be solved.

“We need to throw out our old thinking and prepare ourselves for a world that is collaborative, ongoing and personalized.”

Lord David Puttnam of Queensgate, film producer, educationalist and Labour peer (UK), told summit participants, “Today’s students are embarking on a journey with no map. Today’s teachers are working in a scenario that has never been seen before—they are doing a job no one has ever been asked to do. They are becoming digital learners, interested in creating, sharing and delivering content with their students.”

Revolutionizing the Engine of Education

Paul Reville, former Massachusetts Secretary of Education and current professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, said the “engine of education” should be re-configured.

“We need to tackle the problem of differentiation, extend the entitlement of education and create a braided system that addresses—and includes—the challenges of social, physical and mental health services. A solution that focuses on instruction alone, simply will not work.”

Cliona Hannon, director of Trinity Access Programmes (TAP) at Trinity College Dublin, said, “We are talking about developing innovative opportunities for low-income students. We need the talent of all young people engaged in civic society.”

The Recruiting Revolution

Dr. William Fitzsimmons, Harvard College’s Dean of Admissions, in discussing the range of strategies and programs Harvard is undertaking to recruit low-income students and to support them once they’re enrolled, emphasized that “this is a human rights issue—it’s an outrage to waste the talent of these young people.”

From Harvard’s continued work on strengthening its financial aid structure, to actively recruiting low-income students in cities across the country, to creating and implementing student support programs, Fitzsimmons concluded that “we can’t just bring students in and hope it works—it’s imperative we provide substantial support throughout.”

Professor Les Ebdon, director of the Office of Fair Access in the UK, shared insights on his country’s approach to making fair access and participation a reality through its development of comprehensive access agreements.

Solutions to the Challenges

Leaders of the Summit will produce a white paper that delivers strategies to increase access and support for low-income students for College 2025.

“We know the devastating price of inequality, and we gathered to do something about it,” said Dalton. “There’s a better world out there for our children. A college degree is still the best path to a world of opportunity.”

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