The Future of Higher Education

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Topics:  Leadership, Education
Publication Date: 
02/03/2010

Moderated by Elliot Gerson, Executive Vice President of Policy and Public Programs, International Partnerships.

The Institute’s Washington Leadership Series welcomed Georgetown University President John DeGioia, Howard University President Sidney Ribeau, and University of Maryland President Daniel Mote to discuss the future of higher education in the United States today. As President Mote put it, “You can’t be an educated person in 2010 without a real, visceral knowledge of other cultures.”

On the cost of college:            

“The amount of debt you have at graduation will determine what you can do,” said President Mote, who acknowledged the cost of education beyond tuition—books, housing, and beer money. President Ribeau agreed, citing the difference between the “actual price versus the sticker price.” Both Ribeau and Mote stressed the need to make higher education more affordable. But President DeGioia was more blunt about the tuition expectations at Georgetown, by far the priciest of the three institutions at $53,000 a year. After need-blind acceptances have gone out, DeGioia said, “We figure out what the parents can afford and ask them to pay the maximum, then we ask the student to borrow the maximum amount he can,” then the university asks that student to work summers and during the year if necessary, and that is when the university steps in to cover the difference—about $25,000 a year to 40 percent of students.

College students and the recession:

“We evaluate our universities by what our students become,” said DeGioia. “But there’s also a recognition that, if you’re going to spend $50,000 a year, you better be employable when you leave.” And currently, Georgetown’s No. 1 employer the last two years has been Teach For America. Ribeau was concerned that interview opportunities are going down. “Our outstanding performers will be fine,” he said. “It’s the solid B-student who’s in trouble.” Ribeau also said that today’s student were more interested in entrepreneurialism than ever: “Students are much more interested in running their own operation regardless of the recession.” President Mote was more philosophical, adding that students “cannot be unglued by the fact that the world is changing—because the world is changing rapidly all the time. … The average student will have ten jobs by the time they are 30, and I think that number is increasing.”

On going to college in Washington:

“Our institutions have access to a national stage that others just don’t,” said Ribeau of getting an education in the nation’s capital. Mote agreed: “It’s our unfair advantage.” And DeGioia beamed, “Every day for our students is a civics lesson—you never know who is going to drop by!”