In the pandemic, disruption may be our silver lining

The pandemic has brought plenty of changes to our everyday routines. The same is true in higher education. Beginning as soon as we closed our campus buildings in March, we had to figure out how we could continue to provide instruction and support services to students – and we had a week to figure it out. Classes moved online and to “alternative delivery methods.” Advising moved to working with students by phone and in virtual meetings. Our remaining holdout paper forms were transformed into web forms overnight.

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The unfortunate commodification of higher education

The return on investment of higher education is under increased scrutiny today. This has led to a narrowed emphasis by colleges and universities on providing marketable skills that lead directly to jobs. Andrew Delbanco, in his 2012 book, College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be, suggests a broader set of qualities for colleges, however, beyond technical and vocational competencies. At the same time, we’ve experienced increasing economic inequality and a coarsening of our political discourse in the United States, so the diminishment of a “college” education as Delbanco describes it has profound implications for democracy.

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