Some of the nation's most influential leaders in higher education met last week at the Higher Ed Leaders Forum hosted by The New York Times. They discussed an array of issues facing colleges and universities today, including high costs, free speech, addressing the skills gap, using big data and leading in a time of crisis. The excerpts below have been edited. Videos of the full sessions can be found online at www.nythigheredleaders.com.
Gina Raimondo, governor of Rhode Island, on reducing college costs
"Ninety-nine percent of good jobs that are being created in this country since the recession require a degree past high school. And so how can you say in order to get a good job you need a degree past high school, but oh, by the way, it's unaffordable."
"Too many students are being denied an opportunity to get a good job because they can't afford college. It's a crisis in this country; it's locking people out of economic opportunity, and we have to take action."
Ryan Craig, co-founder and managing director of University Ventures, on the need to bridge the skills gap
"We have, over the last decade, record levels of underemployment for college graduates, and the well-documented failure to launch — which, coupled with record student loandebt, has had spillover effects in terms of areas like home buying, in terms of new business creation."
"A decade ago if you'd surveyed matriculating students as to why they were pursuing a degree, you'd get lots of different answers. About half of them would say it was related to job or income or career. Today it's 92 percent."
"Virtually all job descriptions are now online. Each posted job generates 150 to 250 applications. That's too many for any single hiring manager to review. So most employers now have resorted to using applicant tracking systems as filters, and those are based on keyword filters. If applicants literally do not have in their résumés or CVs the keywords that are in those job descriptions, they will be invisible to human hiring managers."
Lawrence H. Summers, Charles W. Eliot university professor and emeritus president of Harvard University, on free speech on campuses
"I think President [Robert] Zimmer at the University of Chicago got it about right. There's a safe space with respect to hearing ideas you don't like. It's your parents' house. It is not any place on a college campus. It should not be. Demands that speakers be disinvited should be rejected. The obligation to maintain order and give every speaker a chance to be heard should be respected. And when those norms of civility are violated, there should be consequences for those who violate them."
Sheila Bair, president of Washington College and former chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, on college costs
"It's important to understand that when you hear about these high sticker prices of tuition, that generally is not the price that a student pays. Scholarships are typically provided by my college and others. But nonetheless, it's still really expensive. And why is that? Part of it, it was just too easy to raise tuition for a while. The demographics, the high school populations, were increasing for a while, and then when the federal government went to direct lending, it really opened up the spigot."
Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist at New York University's Stern School of Business, on free speech on campus
"There are so many things going on. But one of the most dangerous is this new culture of safety-ism. The most important psychological truth I think we all need to know for raising kids or educating students is anti-fragility. Nassim Taleb's book "Antifragile" says that human beings, like many systems in the world, only become strong by being repeatedly exposed to shocks, challenges, unpleasant events. We overcome them, we're stronger."