Leadership Voice: Myth Busters

William Bowen and Michael McPherson’s recent essay in Vox is a feisty and frank challenge to the negative hype about higher ed that seems so prevalent today.

Image for myth busters blog“Commentators, politicians and journalists have thrown themselves—and, in turn, the public—into a state of persistent panic about the future of higher education with scary talk about spiraling student-load debt, worthless degrees, and reckless spending by colleges. But the doomsday is overblown.”

This piece is not just well considered and well written, it is one of the clearest explanations I have yet seen about some of the real challenges facing higher education versus the sensationalized and sometimes inaccurate public dialogue often fueled by media and politicians.

The two take on commonly-spouted arguments about university spending, student debt and affordability. “With apologies to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton: Tuition-free college is way less help than some people need and way more than others require.”

At the same time, though, the authors argue that we are not addressing the actual and serious challenges facing higher education and its students today, including college completion rates, the adjunct track and the disconnect between PhD programs and academic jobs available.

The Vox piece offers smart, plain-language commentary and suggestions for change, placed in one of the newer digital channels offering online “explanatory journalism.” Alternative news sources can be a platform for important content and perspective that otherwise might not see the light of day, which can be shared widely within social media networks to spark additional interest and dialogue down the road.

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