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Copying Harvard too costly, colleges need new model, say Clayton Christensen and Henry Eyring

Published: Friday, June 17 2011 5:01 p.m. MDT

Not everyone can be like Harvard. At least that's what Clayton Christensen and Henry Eyring believe.

Christensen, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, and Henry J. Eyring, advancement vice president at BYU-Idaho, expressed their thoughts on the changing nature of higher education in America in the special article they wrote for CNN called "Colleges should stop imitating Harvard." They believe many colleges are putting themselves at risk by making their education too expensive. The two authors insist the education inflation is caused by too many schools trying to imitate Harvard.

"Imitating Harvard is a problem for two reasons," the authors write. "If you don't have a multibillion-dollar endowment and government research funding, the only alternative is to raise tuition. The other problem is that the basic elements of the Harvard model of education are roughly 100 years old. Thus, its imitators have, with the best of intentions, become expensive, exclusive and distanced from the nonacademic world."

In the article, Christensen and Eyring offer possible changes to higher education that may improve quality. Some include eliminating summer breaks and resizing intercollegiate athletic programs. They also urge schools to embrace Internet learning.

BYU-Idaho, the school Eyring hails from, has implemented some of these new ideas.

According to the school's website, "BYU-Idaho is breaking down traditional classroom barriers while expanding educational opportunities for students both on- and off-campus. A distinctive hybrid of online and in-class environments provides students with a high-quality learning experience and greater flexibility."

A recent Deseret News article on Christensen's and Eyring's upcoming book mentions the concept of a hybrid class model.

"No competent, motivated teacher need fear," Eyring told Deseret News. "There is an almost unlimited need. This technology allows us to serve the world. Non-consumers will become consumers."

The article also reports that the new book encourages colleges to specialize in order to meet market demands.

Email: jferguson@desnews.com

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