Jim Wolfston – Is Higher Ed Worth the Money?

In this week's episode of, Andy Nash talks with Jim Wolfston, president and CEO of CollegeNET. Andy and Jim take a candid look at what the purpose of higher education was supposed to be, and whether it results in the innovative thinking that companies in our dynamic, ever-changing information age require.

Key Take-Aways
1:30 — Saving colleges money with CollegeNET, but schools are still too expensive (2 min)
3:30 — Is Higher Ed worth the money? (3 min, 30 sec)
7:05 — Prestige used to be derived from classical education, now consumer brand name (4 min, 30 sec)
12:00 — How do companies like CollegeNET gauge the qualifications of new college grads? (3 min, 30 sec)
15:40 — Providing scholarships for innovation – to pay school loans (2 min)

Andy's Show Notes

In his July 6th WSJ column, CollegeNET CEO Jim Wolfston opined on the value of today's college education, in the context of what should be one of its real purposes for students – learning a diversity of ideas and developing true innovative thinking. Jim likened college to the educational philosophy of Francis Bacon, saying that instead of merely collecting data, students should be abuzz like honey bees, spreading the pollen of knowledge and cultivating the honey for a nectar of innovation to sweeten our future world.

Jim argues that no matter where the road of college takes them, if students attend college they need to pursue their studies aggressively. Too often today with the rampant grade-inflation, lowering of standards in general education, and sky-rocketing tuition furthering a sense of entitlement for many students, we find a mindset among a growing number of students that they're merely engaging in a consumer transaction to be credentialed, as opposed to intellectually enriched or rigorously challenged. But while it is up to students to push themselves in that endeavor, many students don't, while institutions take their money and graduate them. Students instead pay huge sums of tuition never before heard of, and many fall into inordinate amounts of debt to end up working in jobs that did not require a degree and that do not pay well enough to allow the graduate to repay the debt fast enough and begin their lives.

CEOs and companies on the cutting edge of innovation are looking for dynamic young thinkers to pioneer new ideas and implement new ways of doing things. College may cultivate some of these people in certain areas, but there seems to be a growing number of attendees who do not undergo such an experience in their 4 to 5 years of seeking a degree. For many of these young people, college is in fact a "risky economic bet" as Jim puts it.

Does our consumer-driven approach to college today betray the essence of the human ethos of what higher education was supposed to be? What sort of purpose-driven educational experience should colleges and universities be striving toward to truly bestow future generations with Francis Bacon's model of learning and enrichment? Find out in our interview with Jim Wolfston on Inside Academia.

Matthew Tabor

Matthew Tabor

Matthew is a prolific, independent voice in the national education debate. He is a tireless advocate for high academic standards from pre-K through graduate school, fiscal sense and personal responsibility. He values parents’ and families’ rights and believes in accountability for teachers, administrators, politicians and all taxpayer-funded education entities. With a unique background that includes work in higher education, executive recruiting, professional sport and government, Matthew has consulted on new media and communication strategies for a broad range of clients. He writes the blog “Education for the Aughts” at , has contributed to National Journal’s ‘Expert’ blog for Education , and interacts with the education community on Twitter and Google+.
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