I find Malcolm Gladwell’s tireless inquisitiveness and unique perspective on social phenomena to be highly though-provoking. I was therefore pleased to discover not only our mutual focus on re-imagining higher education, but that we both identified the same core pain point of the current system: The outrageously high endowment of leading universities.
In the appendix of my book ‘Slingshot’, I include a section entitled ‘Radical Ideas’, which presents unconventional solutions to a couple of key social issues. One of these is higher education. My radical scheme is to ditch the current tuition fee-based model, and instead offer education in exchange for a portion of graduates’ future earnings. This would immediately align the interest of students and universities. To fund the start of the new system, I propose using the interest yield of college endowments, whose viability I demonstrate by actual calculations for my alma mater, Amherst College. This way, the utility of endowments would be transformed from armament races between universities to pillars of merit-based education.
Well, it turns out that Malcolm is equally dumbfounded by the sheer magnitude and seeming uselessness of endowments for promoting social progress in education. For Malcom’s stimulating exposé on higher education, listen to the episode entitled ‘My Little Hundred Million’ in his Revisionist History podcast series.
Click to access the episode here: