Deficit narrative surrounding higher ed is holding the industry back
- At a recent "UT in DC" event convened to introduce perspectives from the University of Texas System into national policy and defense conversations, Chancellor Bill McRaven challenged higher ed leaders to take back the narrative surrounding the value proposition for higher ed. "I think you can do this statistically — if you get a bachelor’s degree, you'll earn $1 million more in your lifetime than someone who doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree. So there’s a numerical value — no kidding — to higher education. For me to invest $23,000 in debt for a four-year education to earn $1M more over the course of the lifetime" is a good return on investment, he said.
- "I think the issue is actually more fundamental than just financial," said McRaven, adding "I think the issue for us is convincing people of the value of higher education ... people need to understand what higher education does for you." McRaven pointed out "everything gets better with a bachelor's degree" — it "changes the way you view the world. Your health. Your relationships."
"The value that I see here across our institutions is the material that you learn will be immaterial in a short time ... But we have to teach people how to think critically. You have to have these critical thinking skills to be not only a good leader, but successful in your career," McRaven added.
Higher ed has been on the defensive for years, constantly answering to assaults on the relevance of the enterprise and return on investment comparative to the skyrocketing consumer-facing cost of a degree, thanks to declining public support. But it's important for administrators and leaders of advocacy organizations to own the conversation around the value of higher ed — instead of constantly reacting to attacks, leaders should be proactively releasing information which asserts the value of their individual institutions and higher ed as a whole. As we've seen with student achievement at all levels, it's often very difficult to overcome a deficit narrative to achieve successful outcomes. Similarly, constantly fighting from under a deficit narrative as an industry makes it hard to move forward and showcase the innovations and value-add of higher ed as a whole.
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