Higher Education Podcasts for 2022

My friend Bryan Alexander recently asked which podcasts relating to higher education I would recommend, and the list grew so long that I thought I’d better post it here rather than try to jam it into a comment somewhere else.

The list shows that my interests lean heavily toward educational technology and open education. I’m actually not including all of the ones to which I’m subscribed, since, like any program, some of them no longer produce new episodes and this is meant to be a list of what’s current. I’m providing links to their sites, but they should be discoverable by name through just about any podcast service.

Obviously at the top is The EdUp Experience. Their flagship show is a crown jewel of higher education podcasting, with hundreds of high quality episodes released in just a few years and more dropping all the time. As if that weren’t enough, host Joe Sallustio and producer Elvin Freytes have parlayed the wild success of this first podcast into a network of shows about education with various themes, including technology, K-12 issues, disruption, social justice, and many more.

IngenioUs is another great one. I enjoy the longer episodes hosted by Melissa Morriss-Olson, but I really appreciate David Staley’s outstanding short audio essays, many of which offer more insight in just a few minutes than one might ever think possible. He’s thought about higher education a lot, and it shows!

FutureU is very strong. Journalist Jeff Selingo and author Michael Horn have been around, seen it all, and are great communicators. I appreciate their unique format of having a short interview with a guest, then after a short break discussing it between themselves. The EdSurge Podcast, hosted by Jeff Young, also has a polished journalistic style one might expect from that organization.

There are a few podcasts that are great in terms of content, but I think deserve special mention for their presenters. These include The eLearning Podcast; because I really like host Stephen Ladek’s crisp, positive style; Teaching in Higher Ed , because listening to Bonni Stachowiak feels like listening to a friend you haven’t met yet; and Enrollment Growth University — despite the name, episodes range in topic and aren’t solely about enrollment growth, and Eric Olsen is a really affirming, sincere interviewer.

Other higher education podcasts I enjoy include the following:

Finally, I wasn’t planning to include any that are no longer producing episodes, but I feel like I’d be remiss not to at least mention 25 Years of Ed Tech. Martin Weller of the Open University expanded his important historical book into an audio series that really is fascinating listening, especially given that higher education as a culture often has “innovation amnesia” about which of its approaches that many believe are novel have actually been tried before.

Disruption In Higher Education

Note: This is something of a follow up to No, Google Won’t Replace Higher Education.

My friend Dave Robson over at SpiralMath pointed me to an article by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Becky Frankiewicz at HBR on 6 Reasons Why Higher Education Needs to Be Disrupted.

I’ve seen lists like this for decades, with slight variations, from many authors. They’re not wrong. But I think it’s important to make clear that these things are leading to change within higher education, not its demise. I say that because I’ve seen that the capacity of higher education as a societal institution to absorb alternatives into its existing framework is often underestimated.

When I was starting out professionally in the ’90s, technical certifications were huge. Get the right certification from Microsoft or Cisco and you were immediately employable with a salary as high or higher than many degree holders could command. But those certifications didn’t replace higher education, they were absorbed by it. Colleges and universities began to accept those certifications as transfer credit. At first it was the for profit schools, because that’s where so much of the innovation happens in higher education, but eventually it was commonplace. No longer was “certification or degree” presented as a choice, now it was the first leading to the second. The certification would get you in the door, but the degree would help a lot if you wanted to keep advancing.

It was the same with MOOCs. They too were trumpeted by the easily excitable as the end of higher education as we know it. But instead, MOOC providers have ended up remaining closely held by the higher education industry that spawned them, with OPM-style services becoming as big a part of what they do as the MOOCs themselves.

That’s not to say I don’t appreciate MOOCs for what they are: free or low cost continuing education. Although that does raise the question why anyone would pay $750 for a course from a company like, say, Section4 that they could more or less get nearly for free from Coursera or EdX.

Anyway, now it’s 2021 and we’ve gone full circle, with some people saying, “Why go to college when you can just get a certification from Google?” It sounds like a provocative and timely question only because in higher education journalism, memories are short and everything old is always new again. Here’s my prediction: people will get these certs, and it will help them professionally, yes, and then an awful lot of them will go on and earn degrees anyway.

What really is new, and will have a much more profound impact on higher education as an industry in high income countries, are demographic changes. There just aren’t enough Zoomers to fill all the colleges and universities that were needed forty or fifty years ago, even if more of them per capita decide to go to college. Also different now are the different paths to earning a degree. Residential schools are in bigger trouble than the rest, and COVID hasn’t helped. If young people aren’t going to get that “rite of passage” residential experience as part of their hundred grand, they have a lot of other paths by which to earn a degree that are cheaper and more convenient. That means Podunk College isn’t just competing against the state schools in its region anymore, but against the likes of SNHU who have a huge lead when it comes to distance learning — including marketing it. Some of those schools have folded already. A lot more of them are dead men walking.

So disruption? Perhaps. Development into different forms? Probably. But demise? Well, not as an industry at least.

No, Google Won’t Replace Higher Education

My friend Richard Eldredge drew my attention today to a piece by Jon Miltimore at FEE called Google’s Plan to Disrupt the College Degree Is Exactly What the Higher Education Market Needs. (If you want to read it, I’ll wait.)

When I first got into IT in the mid-’90s, it was the MCSE, or “Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer” certification that was having articles like this written about it. But higher education has a remarkable capacity to absorb potential challengers, and soon enough people were taking those MCSE awards and using them as transfer credit on the way to earning a degree. Sure enough, one can already do the same thing now with Google certifications.

Don’t get me wrong, having the certification was a lot better than not having it. It was certainly a boost for the start of my career, and one more quick than finishing a four year degree. But IT certifications weren’t a complete replacement in the labor market for an academic credential in the ’90s, and they aren’t today.

Moreover, Miltimore is basing his argument on a number of misconceptions. He says, “Unlike college, Google won’t just hand you a diploma and send you away, however. The company has promised to assist graduates in their job searches, connecting them with employers such as Intel, Bank of America, Hulu, Walmart, and Best Buy.” As someone who spent time working in Career Services at a university, I can assure you that colleges and universities do this too.

He also questions the value of earning a degree. It’s true that much of higher education is wildly overpriced, and that tuition, on average, has risen far faster than inflation has. But it’s also the case that the average person with a Bachelor’s degree earns something like a million dollars more in their career than someone who doesn’t. One disregards ROI like that at one’s peril.

That said, I do think that change is coming for higher education. But I don’t think degrees are going away, I just think that more and more people will wise up to how they can be earned for a small fraction of the cost of doing it traditionally. Well endowed top tier schools will feel little pressure to change and will do so the least. (As I remarked recently, Harvard Will Be Just Fine.) But a lot of the tuition-driven middle and lower tier institutions are sitting ducks for disruption from CBE-based institutions and other innovators, both within higher education and adjacent to it. But even if many of them have to adapt to survive and others fail and are absorbed by the survivors, higher education as a whole isn’t going away. Google and the like may pressure it in some ways and enhance it in others, just as technical certifications have done for decades, but they won’t replace it.

Harvard Will Be Just Fine

My colleague Dave Robson over at SpiralMath clued me in to an article by Brett Goldstein called The Unbundling of Harvard Has Begun. I had quite a few thoughts about it… okay, I have quite a few disagreements with it. But while I’ll admit that I’m about to give Goldstein a pretty hard time here, please read to the end, because I’ll close with something nice.

“There’s been a growing bubble in higher education for some time, but this may be the tipping point. The cost of tuition has been rising for years, but the value hasn’t.”

There are probably good examples to use for this, but Harvard isn’t one of them, because unlike less well-endowed institutions, it has a sliding scale. The families for whom fifty grand would be a big deal aren’t actually paying that. In fact, for middle class families, Harvard will now be effectively free because their share of tuition will be zero, and their kids won’t be burning cash in Cambridge.

“Online education is in its infancy.”

No, it’s not. Even if we don’t count things like PLATO, which debuted in 1960, universities were offering courses online by the mid-’90s. A quarter century is hardly “infancy”.

“Traditional higher education (as well as commerce and politics) is built on information scarcity. You pay to get access to information in universities that is impossible to get elsewhere.”

It’s true that much of what one would learn in college can be learned online. But the issue has never been the availability of knowledge, higher education is more than “content and conversation”. Once upon a time, public libraries were heralded as “people’s colleges” because of all the information contained within. But higher education survived the the public library, and it survived the Internet, despite periodic predictions for decades that it wouldn’t. It will survive the pandemic too.

The reason it survives is that the purpose of colleges and universities is not primarily to impart knowledge, it is to verify that knowledge through the credentials that they award. This is not something easily replicated, because the higher education system has shown a knack for absorbing potential competitors to its credentialing role. Back in the ’90s, a technical certification from Microsoft called MCSE was sought after by tech workers (including yours truly) because it essentially meant a decent paying job was guaranteed. A few other certifications were similarly important.

But rather than see that as competition, colleges and universities started accepting them as the equivalent to transfer credit, and offering credit-bearing courses that prepped students to sit the MCSE and other exams. Moreover, degrees do not expire, whereas technical certifications… well, let’s just say no one today cares that I’m certified as an expert system administrator for Windows NT 4.0.

“Also last week, the federal government made moves that confirmed growing sentiment that university degrees are becoming increasingly less important for successful employment.”

This is not because of the value of a degree (or lack thereof) this is because Trump perceives academia as an enemy of his administration. And while admitting that Trump is right about something isn’t exactly my default setting, in this case he definitely is.

“Keep in mind, this is all happening against the backdrop of continuous stories of individuals achieving incredible success despite lacking a traditional college education.”

Sure, that’s always been the case. But even now, on average, those who hold degrees make dramatically more money in their careers than those who do not. Just because a law is stochastic rather than deterministic doesn’t mean it can be ignored.

“This is the transition we’re beginning to make with online education. One-to-one translations of in person lectures to Zoom isn’t how remote learning should be done. Universities will need to reimagine education for this new medium to keep up.”

One of the reasons we make the point to refer to what’s happening as “remote learning”, is that it’s so different from what instructional designers and online educators have been doing for the last quarter century. Educational technologists will be the first to agree that what happened in Spring was mostly garbage. It takes time to build things right, so we’ll see whether having had the Summer to prepare leads to a better Fall.

“As universities continue to lose their relevance, students will seek alternatives. This spells immense opportunity for startups looking to unbundle the university experience.”

Again, higher education as an industry is much more diverse than this suggests. The stereotype may be of expensive campuses with climbing walls and lazy rivers and hordes of useless administrators driving up costs, but there’s a whole category of DEAC-accredited universities that offer only the basics, by distance learning, and at prices that often underbid even community colleges. (And Californians, did you know you can go to law school for about ten grand total? Because you can.) The scenario is not higher education vs. startups, because higher education contains startups.

So, I realize all that seems like I’m taking the pigeon approach of just flying around and crapping on everything. But I promised I’d close with something conciliatory.

Goldstein also says, “I launched Social Studies (currently as a newsletter) with the idea of unbundling Social Science education from universities and applying it to business.” One might think after that list of complaints that I wouldn’t be interested in learning more about what he plans. But the truth is that I’m actually his newest subscriber.

Why? Well, obviously I wish that people jumping into the EdTech space were better informed about its history, but I’m genuinely excited about the energy that people like Goldstein bring to education with their enthusiasm and willingness to experiment. I look forward to seeing what all these Davids build from their potshots at Goliath. I expect that higher education will absorb them, or be pushed in the right direction by them, as it has by other initiatives before. But maybe I’m wrong, and they’ll win. Either way, the increase in options for students makes for exciting times in higher education.

Academic Twitter Is For The Birds

Academia is a vibrant, healthy, global community consisting of people with a variety of origins, perspectives, and goals. But generally speaking, I believe we share a commitment to building a world where educators have access to the tools and skills we need to do what is best for students, and students are empowered to reach their goals without being exploited by the giant institutions that supposedly exist to serve them.

It’s interesting, then, that so many educators create content for closed, centralized, corporate platforms whose decision makers have amply shown that they do not have the best interests of our students or ourselves at heart. Scholarly publishing is the classic example of this, in that commercial publishers need us to conduct research, write articles about it, and provide peer review, all at our own expense, and then turn around and sell the results back to us. I’ve long believed that the existence of open source platforms like Janeway or OJS only highlight how unnecessary commercial publishers truly are if only we would show the confidence to abandon them in favor of community-run alternatives.

But scholarly publishing is not the only example. In honor of Open Education Week 2020, I’d rather focus on an activity that is very popular among those in higher education that I submit is not actually in our interest: Academic Twitter.

Don’t get me wrong, like most people I participate in social media. And I see the value of Twitter in its simplicity. It requires those posting to it to get to the point (not always an academic strong suit!). Through @ and # it enables easy tagging of people and ideas to draw other people, friends and strangers, into a conversation potentially of interest to them. And its mobile app means that it’s accessible nearly everywhere (“I wasn’t ignoring your conference presentation, I was live-tweeting!”).

But Twitter facilitates this rapid exchange of small ideas at the cost of control. It’s yet another centralized corporate entity that absorbs all the data it can find, agglomerating information about its users for resale to advertisers various and sundry. As the saying goes, when you use Twitter, you’re not the customer, you’re the product. And along with that centralized control comes top-down decision making that means that the approach taken by its corporate executives may differ from what many people in higher education might prefer.

Fortunately, Twitter is not the only platform that enables that sort of microblogging. A few years ago, Eugen “Gargron” Rochko took the programming code of an existing open source project and developed it into a platform called Mastodon. But instead of just using that code to set up a single alternative microblogging platform, he developed Mastodon to be free and its use to be decentralized. This means that different people or organizations can run their own Mastodon network, and set their own rules for their own particular community, and yet people with an account on one network can interact with people on other networks by following those other accounts, replying to them, and liking and boosting posts they liked, just as they can on Twitter. In networking terms, this constellation of different Mastodon networks is “federated”, and the sum of them together is often referred to as the “Fediverse”.

And the Fediverse isn’t just connective tissue for different Mastodon networks. Open networks that run on other software, designed for different purposes, are part of what’s being built. One of these is called Diaspora, it works similarly to Facebook. One is called PeerTube, it works similarly to YouTube. But developers of open networks aren’t just trying to copy the functionality of existing services, for example the fine people who develop Moodle LMS are building MoodleNet, which in will allow educators to collaboratively build curricular resources and share them openly, all while interacting with the rest of the Fediverse.

By this point you may be asking if the Fediverse is so great, why haven’t we all moved there yet? The sticking point is critical mass. Twitter has enormous first mover advantage, and most people who are interested in microblogging are already there, which means if you want your posts to reach the widest possible audience (and really, who doesn’t?) then that’s the best place to be. But as Tom from MySpace can tell you, getting there early and building critical mass aren’t unassailable advantages. If we want a social media world that we control, that’s built for us and meets our needs, it’s within our grasp.

As things are now, there are plenty of interesting people already posting in the Fediverse every day, many of which are listed by interest in a directory called Trunk. There are Mastodon networks aimed at people in almost every walk of life, including ones meant for people in higher education. A few are listed below.

There’s no need to make the leap all at once, as It’s also possible both to keep participating in Twitter for now while also getting involved in the Fediverse, there’s even a free tool that lets you connect your accounts so that you only have to post in one for it to appear on both. But I think you’ll find that once you start finding like-minded people in the Fediverse, you’ll appreciate interacting with them in an open environment.

As with alternatives to commercial publishers, all it would take for us to build a successful decentralized Academic Fediverse is the will to do so. So the next move is yours: you can keep devoting your productive energy for the benefit of surveillance capitalists, but I hope you’ll join me in helping to build a better world of open social media.

Fediverse Resources

  • Join Mastodon: an easy introduction to Mastodon
  • mastodon.social: a general interest Mastodon network that is open to all
  • scholar.social: a Mastodon network meant for those in higher education
  • https://social.fossdle.org: a Mastodon network for those in the open education community hosted by the OER Foundation, an outstanding organization that connects dozens of higher education institutions around the world to collaborate in developing and using open educational resources
  • Mastodon Twitter Crossposter: this free service allows you to automatically post your tweets to your Mastodon account, or your Mastodon posts to your Twitter account, your choice!
  • Trunk: a great way to find Fediverse accounts worth following, based on shared interests
  • My account: follow me and I’ll follow you!

Why Do Senior Citizens Get University Discounts?

Recently a friend on social media has commented repeatedly and negatively about the Baby Boomer generation, and as part of this asked for my comment about the University of Minnesota’s Senior Citizen Education Program, which allows state residents 62 and older to take courses and even earn degrees for a negligible cost. It’s similar to programs nationwide, both at public and private institutions, that offer very low cost university education to senior citizens.

My friend was outraged by this: “People desperately taking classes to try to find a decent job pay upwards of $2,500 a credit, whereas entitled fucks living a life of luxury and taking classes on a whim pay $10?”

(First of all, no matter how old you are, if you’re paying upwards of $2,500 a credit for university courses, you’re making a horrible mistake. There are ways to earn a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited U.S. university for less than ten thousand dollars total. But that’s a post for another day.)

Still, it’s not like he doesn’t have a point. It’s fair to ask, if higher education for credit can be provided to senior citizens at such a low cost, why can’t it be provided to younger people at that cost, especially since they’re the ones who will benefit the most from it?

The arguments that I recall seeing for low cost university programs for seniors include:

  • Those programs generally only allow seniors to sit in a class only after all the full price students have all been accommodated. They’re basically “flying standby”, so they’re not in anyone’s way.
  • On the opposite end, at most schools courses will be cancelled if enrollment isn’t high enough. By counting those seniors, sometimes a course will run that wouldn’t have otherwise, which improves access for full price younger students, particularly in the liberal arts.
  • Schools may make up for it in the long run, as seniors who feel a connection to a college or university may bequeath more to it on their deaths than they would have paid in tuition. (This would explain why some non-public institutions offer similar programs to seniors.)

But even if all of those reasons hold water and these programs can be shown not to cost taxpayers anything, I can’t help but agree with my friend in one respect: in an era when total student loan debt in the U.S. is now over $1.5 trillion, the optics of making that same service free to those who need it the least are absolutely terrible.

So that’s my response to this specific issue. But this is just a small part of a much more broad division within society, and for more on that, click/tap here.

Is A Degree Necessary?

My friend Michael Strong recently posted this video of T.K. Coleman on the topic of whether one can be taken seriously without holding a degree.

I found this interesting because degree-skepticism is pretty common among the more cutting edge educators I follow on social media. So, Coleman says that one shouldn’t make a hasty generalization from regulated professions like medicine and law to assume a degree is required in life, which is fair, but then makes a hasty generalization from programming and start up culture to assume that a degree isn’t required in life.
Coleman is right that the argument “no one will take you seriously without a degree” is false. But that hardly means that many people won’t—wrongly and foolishly, in my opinion, but that’s life. And I get it that he works for Praxis, an educational startup based on the idea that higher education isn’t necessary, encouraging young people instead to take apprenticeships with startups.
I understand that there are companies, a few of which are prominent, who are saying that they’re willing to consider undegreed applicants. But what are the real numbers of people in this category who have gone on to careers as successful as those of their degreed peers? That’s the needed comparison, not just whether one can become employed at an entry level.
Ultimately, it should be considered an individual decision. People often don’t think of it this way, but a degree isn’t a goal, it’s merely a tool that helps you reach a goal. Depending on what one’s goals are, a degree program might be vitally important, or it might simply be an expensive distraction. To insist that it’s always either one or the other is indefensible. Coleman makes a worthwhile argument, I just think he’s overplaying it.
It’s also worth noting higher education’s ability to absorb initiatives meant to circumvent it, a recent example of which is this partnership between a coding camp and a university. The first two sentences on the Praxis web site declare “The Degree is Dead. You Need Experience.” I’m guessing that identification of false dichotomies isn’t part of their curriculum.

Asking The Right Questions About For Profit Higher Education

“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.” — John C. Maxwell

Over at Quartz, commentator Matt Phillips has written a piece called Face it: America’s experiment with for-profit colleges has failed. As someone who has worked in American higher education for a number of years, including for-profit and non-profit institutions, I generally agree with Mr. Phillips that many of the marketing-driven for profit schools that participate in the federal system of guaranteed financial aid are overpriced and unremarkable.

However, as with most articles about higher education written by those who don’t come from our industry, it’s an article painted with too broad a brush. Sure, there are schools like Corinthian’s, but there are also schools like Sullivan University and American Military University that are for profit and participate in the federal financial aid system, yet have earned a good reputation for delivering a decent education at a price that compares with non-profit competitors.

Ultimately I believe that universities should be evaluated the same as people — as individuals rather than as members of a group. That said, if we are going to compare universities by category, I’ve come to wonder whether it might be worthwhile for journalists and commentators to take a look at the relative behavior of schools not based on whether they are for profit or not, but to compare those that are publicly traded with those that are privately held. My guess is that we would see the lion’s share of anti-social behavior at the schools that answer to Wall Street rather than those that answer to an owning family or partnership.

Also worthy of more reporting are those for profit universities accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission that do not particulate in the federal financial aid system, and who have much lower tuition rates as a result. In fact, some of these institutions are among the best values in all of American higher education. Their very existence suggests that guaranteed federal financial aid is a contributing factor in the high cost of going to college, that when that system makes tens of thousands of dollars available to anyone with a signature and a pulse, it introduces an ocean of money that tuition rates then rise to soak up.

But will journalists and commentators who write about American higher education ever go after these higher hanging fruit? One can only hope.

Take A Few Minutes To Help A Doctoral Student!

Editor’s note: A friend of mine needs a few more respondents for her doctoral research. If you meet the criteria and can spare a few minutes, please contact Aine Irbe at airbe@capellauniversity.edu.

My name is Aina G. Irbe and I am a doctoral student at Capella University in the School of Education. I am pursuing my degree in Instructional for Online Learning. Currently, I am working on my dissertation study, titled “Application of Universal Design for Learning in Corporate Technical Training Design : A Quantitative Study.” I would like to invite you to participate in my study. You will be able to participate in the study if you meet the following criteria:

  • You are a professional who currently works in a corporate or US Federal employment setting.
  • You are a professional who has worked in the corporate or Federal employment setting in the last 10 years.
  • You have worked in the corporate environment for at least one year.
  • You are between the ages of 18-65.

The purpose of this quantitative, experimental study is to examine the application of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles as an instructional design strategy to the design of a self-paced, online course focused on technical training in a corporate setting.

The study will use a randomized two-group design to compare and analyze adult posttest (Final Quiz) results for two self-paced online trainings on a technical topic (software training); one will include the checkpoints from the three principles of the UDL principles while the other training will apply traditional instructional design strategies based on the Department of Defense Interactive Media Instruction (IMI) Guidelines. The posttest (Final Quiz) will be the same for either training.

The second part of the study will explore to what extent the application of UDL as an instructional design strategy impacts participant achievement in the cognitive and psychomotor domains. The results of this study may identify specific instructional design strategies that instructional designers working in the field of online learning could use to guide their work, guide the future of instructional design practices and processes in organizations developing online self-paced courses, change the approach for delivering training on technical topics, and inform corporations on long-term strategic planning for training programs including online learning.

Please know that participation in this study is certainly voluntary. All data will be handled securely by the researcher. Privacy will be protected using anonymity throughout the data collection process. All the information about the participants, including name, job title and name of the organization will be kept confidential. Your Final Quiz results will be presented as part of a statistical analysis, and your name or any other demographic will not be identified or related to any score or information about Final Quiz results. In any written reports or publications, no one will be able to identify individual participants.

If you decide to be in this study, your participation will take about one hour by the end of April. The study will consist of completing a 30-45 minute online course and taking a Final Quiz. You are not required to come to any location for the study activities or own any specific software; a URL will be sent to you. All communications will be conducted via email unless you have other preference (for example, post mail).

I will first send you a demographic questionnaire, then a consent form, and finally the link and log in to the course site.

Your consideration for participating in this study will be greatly appreciated. If you have any question concerning the study, please feel free to contact me at airbe@capellauniversity.edu

Aina G. Irbe
Doctoral Learner, Capella University

Racism in American Higher Education

Consider the following quote:

With white birth rates falling, a major demographic shift is coming. Are colleges ready for a more diverse pool of prospective college students? This special issue looks at efforts under way at several colleges to serve underrepresented and underprepared students, who are more likely to need additional support to graduate. Meeting their needs may help some colleges preserve enrollment levels even if it means the occasional “hand-holding” is necessary to achieve success.

Who do you think described an expected increase of students of color in this way? Was it some Secretary of Education from a state with a Republican administration? Was it some ultraconservative commentator on one of those rightwing web sites that pretends to be news? Was it an argument used by segregationists in decades past?

No, it was the Chronicle of Higher Education, selling a special publication called Diversity in Academe Spring 2014. It might sound like it belongs more in 1964, or 1864 for that matter, but unfortunately this is supposed to be the state of the art of thinking in higher education administration.

I’ve worked in higher education for over ten years. In that time I’ve worked closely with many students who were the first in their families to attend university, many of whom needed somewhere to go for extra advice. But this lack of sophistication didn’t come from their skin color. I met many students of color who were perfectly comfortable in a higher education environment, and white students who didn’t really understand what was going on and needed a bit more support. In my observation, this was a function of the level of affluence from which these students came, not how much melanin was in their skin.

Now, I’m not unmindful that if grouped together that students of color are more likely than white students to have come from a working class background. But if you really want to help someone, you look at the whole person as an individual, you don’t just start with what color they are as a lazy and inaccurate substitute for finding out who they really are and what their strengths and weaknesses might be. Ethnicity might be part of the individual experience, and some people take it very seriously, but this is dwarfed by the variation that comes from being an individual and it shouldn’t define people. For the Chronicle of Higher Education to offer advice that uses race as a starting point isn’t just doing students a disservice, it’s nothing less than the soft bigotry of lower expectations writ large.