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Temple president Jason Wingard challenges higher education in his new book.

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Jason Wingard believes higher education is in dire need of reform. It should be more responsive to workforce needs, and other options are proving to be worthy competitors.

“My estimate is that the value of a college degree has peaked and is declining,” he writes in his new book. University devaluation crisis, a copy of it lay on the coffee table in the Temple office. COVID19 Pandemic. “

When Wingard began writing his book, he had just completed his tenure as dean of Columbia University and was planning to invest in companies and platforms aimed at disrupting higher education. He thought it was the best way to go if you were outside of higher education.

Then came the opportunity to serve as the next president of Temple University, and suddenly he was back. He admitted that some might see his book and his new job at odds.Wingard called it an opportunity.

» Read more: Temple hires Chestnut Hill resident and former Ivy League principal as next president.

Earlier this month, just after Temple’s one-year anniversary as president, Wingard said in an hour-long interview in his office, “I believe Temple can be a leader in terms of what I argue in the book. I’m here.

Curricula need to lean more toward what employers want, he said, but they still need to give students a liberal arts education and equip them with critical thinking skills.

Wingard, who holds degrees in sociology and education and has worked in both business and academia, said: “What are the skills they need, and how do we incorporate them into our curriculum? How do we complement what we have been doing, rather than replace it?”

Temple is already planning to launch a new Institute on the Future of Work and aims to hire its first director this fall.

But Wingard, 50, a Chestnut Hill resident and former Wharton principal, has had more than that to think about over the past 13 months. In a difficult first year for any president, he has to manage a pandemic that hits near campus and a spate of gun violence in the city, including taking the life of 21-year-old student Samuel Collington. Last week, the university hired a Delaware police chief and educator as its first vice president for public safety.

» Read more: Temple Hires Delaware Police Lieutenant and Educator as Vice President of Public Safety

“He had to get into an urban college at a very difficult time, but I think he handled himself well,” said Faculty Senate President Kimika Williams Witherspoon. said.

Under his leadership, the university created several groups to address mental health needs, reduce violence, and increase anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses.

He identifies declining enrollment as the most pressing problem facing universities, including Temple, which is expected to lose about 1,500 undergraduates this fall. Part of the decline is due not only to declining high school graduates nationwide, but also the pandemic, rising tuition fees, and the gun violence crisis in Philadelphia. Gard said he doesn’t believe violence is a significant reason for the drop in student numbers.

“This certainly means that we need resources to ensure student safety,” he said.

Wingard has a strong presence on social media such as Twitter and Instagram, documenting their interactions with the campus community. He said his favorite part of his job was going out and meeting students – and the students noticed.

“He’s generally very good at connecting with students,” said Gianni Quattrocchi, president of the student union.

Wingard will be teaching a course on “Learning in the Metaverse,” an immersive virtual world, in the spring semester.

Quattrocchi, an up-and-coming junior political science major from Bristol, said he’s also excited about Wingard’s focus on workforce readiness.

“It’s important to stay competitive in an ever-evolving economy. I think President Wingard has done a great job in focusing Temple’s mission towards that.”

Wingard warned at a recent board meeting that the necessary changes he plans to implement could be disruptive. He said the board’s instructions differed from those he gave his predecessor, Richard M. Englert, with a mission to stabilize the school after the previous president was ousted in 2016. I was.

“My responsibility is to take Temple to the next level,” he said. “We need growth and innovation inspired by change. It is disruptive for those used to the status quo.”

He said he intends to push the campus to engage more with the community, spend money and staff time, and develop metrics to measure effort. , said that when he took a bike tour around the community a few months ago, he heard that, like Temple, more needs to be done, including providing more mentors to local community centers.

“Now our deans are expected to engage with voters in new and different ways,” he said.

Wingard isn’t the only one to question the role of higher education these days. According to a study by New America in Washington, D.C., by 2022, only 55% of Americans surveyed will say they believe college has a positive impact on the state of the country. That’s just down from 69% he was two years ago. based public policy think tank. The survey, reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education, also notes that far more Democrats than Republicans see the value of college. The survey showed growing concerns about affordability.

Also this month, a poll by Public Agenda and USA Today found that only half of Americans believe the financial benefits of college outweigh the costs.

“In an economy most people consider to be fundamentally unfair, Americans see college as expensive and time-consuming, and believe college is stuck in the past,” the report said. said.

Wingard writes in his book that universities have satisfied the market for years, but after the 2008 recession, the value proposition actually started to “flatten” and is now declining. said.

“We’re doing the same thing as before, but it’s not satisfying the market,” he said.

Companies such as Google have successfully developed their own employee training programs. In his book, he outlines other companies that have entered the education market and are helping students earn higher salaries.

Universities need to cut costs, expand access to more students, focus on skills development and assessment, and strengthen partnerships with employers, he argues. In his predictions in the book, he expects the university as a whole to cut tuition fees by 50% of his and restructure tenure.

Wingard said critics asked him How college presidents and professors could write books that question the value of colleges.

“How can we support day-to-day operations while profiling and defending the success of competitive alternatives?” he writes in the book. “Well, readers and friends, it’s a science — and the best solution may win!”