Recently, the University of Texas president Bill Powers addressed the need to lower the cost for college. He argued that is it already possible for some students to get a degree for $10,000 and that the cost model for innovation requires more funding not less. We believe that the University library is an agile way to deliver discovery tools for more not less. The library can provide virtual services that enables a paradigm shift away from costly models of discovery. The library can be part of a new way to educate our students and lower the cost of education.
The diagram below outlines the way a student in Texas can get a degree for $10,000. It shows that a student who completes credits outside of a traditional campus settings i.e. before entering college has an advantage. In Texas, they have found ways to lower the cost of education by allowing students to gain college credits in high schools and two year schools such as community colleges in preparation for University.
It is no secret that graduating college in debt limits our young people. Often, their debt is substantial. They have no job and they have difficulty paying off their student loan. To survive what David Brooks calls a “brutal cascade” – the colleges and universities need to embrace the collaborative environment both online and in the library. They need to find ways to integrate the library (learning commons) to enhance tutoring, mentoring, community and sharing.
Colleges need to move away from their standard and costly teaching models. They need to explore how the flipped classroom combined with a library/learning commons and/or blended learning environment creates a positive feedback loop. They need to provide connections in house. They need to use the library as a virtual connector, allowing the student access 24/7 while they go to school.
In all of the discussions about lowering the cost of education, we need to remember the personal one-on-one exchanges that can happen in a library or learning commons. There can be skills building opportunities, activated by people sharing a space. It can be a visualization space with flexible technology, tables and seats on casters. It can include media / technology carts and/or book trucks with pre-arranged materials. This blended learning environment is like no other – flexible and multifunctional.