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The UnCollege Blog

The University of Everywhere: Reviewing Kevin Carey's "The End of College"

What will the future of education look like? Is the foundation of our current system stable?

Kevin Carey’s new book, The End of College, marvellously depicts the history of the modern American university. He shows readers that the hybrid of liberal arts, career training, and research institutions is floundering at best and possibly even detrimental to student learning.

In a page-turning, yet research-fueled style, Carey deconstructs the American university and its history to highlight that our idea of the benefits associated with higher education and the reality of those benefits are far removed from one another. He discusses the real problems in higher education including tuition costs, student loan debt and our country's dramatic dropout rate. Carey pinpoints both what matters to parents and students, and the hidden history and sources of these problems.


Carey paints a grim history of higher education, but his views for the future are bright. Carey showcases the new alternatives that are beginning to appear on the horizon and free of the gatekeepers that make our current system inaccessible to many. He chronicles his own experience with MOOCs, while using it as anecdotal evidence of the ways education is changing, and where it is lacking and still needs to change. For example, he found that while the lessons, problems sets, and resources that he was using as a part of the MOOC were top-grade, the interactive resources still weren’t individualized enough to help him know how he could improve. Clearly, the edtech world still has a ways to go, but it can be argued that less improvement is needed there than in the college world.

Learning is more accessible today than ever, and Carey goes into great detail discussing what he calls “the University of Everywhere,” which highlights the competitive alternatives popping up all over the world. He doesn’t leave any educational competitor out of the mix, speaking to the advantages of programs like Dev Bootcamp’s career training approach, the highly individualized UnCollege Gap Year Program, and even the elite 4-year college alternative, Minerva.

Yet, in this educational climate, more students than ever are going to college, getting degrees and going into debt for it. And, as Carey points out in his book, not always learning much from the four years they spend in university. But still, employers seek these under-educated and over-decorated college graduates to fill positions in the workforce, and pay them more and more as time goes on.

Carey suggests that the system has already changed andx that it will change even more in the coming years. He also believes that the new higher education isn’t based at a specific location and is tailored to the individual. Instead of one learning path trying to be all-inclusive to student needs (liberal arts), professor needs (research) and parent concerns (job training) at once, this new world of higher education includes many learning paths that can be traversed in tandem or separate.

At its core, The End of College is about the transformation and birth of a new higher education; a better higher education that will be available to more people in more places for less. It illustrates a future of education that we can all get on board with, that is on its way, and coming fast.