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CNN Films: Ivory Tower

Aired November 20, 2014 - 21:00   ET



ANDREW DELBANCO, COLLEGE "WHAT IT WAS, IS, AND SHOULD BE": I've always felt when I step onto a college campus a slight element of melancholy in the air. If you're a teacher, you arrive every fall semester for the New Year. And you know that you've gotten a year older. But the students are the same age as they always were. They keep replenishing themselves.

College is a way of trying to preserve cultural memory. It is an effort to cheat death. So it's a kind of struggle against time and mortality.

The United States has managed to provide a post secondary education to a larger percentage of its population than any society in history. But a lot of forces are converging at the present moment to create anxiety.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is college overrated? I'm saying it's a myth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's become a race for credentialism.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has college become too expensive?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's going to turn into the foreclosure situation. Students are gonna default.

DELBANCO: Every parent who tries to pay for their child's education is feeling sticker shock. And access and completion of college are more challenging in our time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of all the time bombs in the American economy set to explode, student loan debt in this country has reached $1 trillion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We may see a tsunami of student loan defaults.

DELBANCO: There are problems in all the sectors of higher education. And it's a perfectly fair expectation for students and their families to want to know that when they leave college they're going to have some skills that somebody's going to be willing to compensate them for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a lot of people with college degrees waiting tables cleaning toilets, you know, driving taxis.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nearly half of all students are showing no significant gains in learning.

DELBANCO: But there's an apocalyptic dimension to this as well. And that is the idea that the very concept of the institution of higher learning is about to be broken.

And only a very, very small handful of colleges will survive intact on the other side of this tidal wave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're at the point where people are saying, "Maybe you don't have to go to college."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is College worth it?

DELBANCO: There have been moments in human history when those who said the future's going to look a lot different very soon have been right. This might be one of them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the John Harvard statue. Now, people come from all over the world to take pictures with this statue.

PETER THIEL, CO-FOUNDER PAYPAL THIEL FELLOWSHIP: In education, there are these very powerful social forces at work where people just imitate what other people are doing without reflecting on why they're doing it, things like, "How do you get into the right college? How does your kid get on the right track?"

College has been sold and oversold as the key to a better future. And something's gone very wrong with it over the last few decades.

ANYA KAKEMETZ, AUSTIN DIY U: Higher education has had the privilege for a very long time of being a black box. It created this prestige and this mystique around it. But we've never really examined very closely the ingredients on the box.

THIEL: We need to really rethink, "What are the specific things that people are learning, and why are they valuable?"

DREW FAUST, PRESIDENT HARVARD UNIVERSITY: Welcome, Class of 2016. You may have sensed that some of us are expecting you to save the world, preferably by the time you graduate. But just remember, a key part of any success is the part of you that is willing to fail.

We at Harvard believe that the best kind of education for undergraduates is a liberal arts education. And that means a broad education across the fields of human inquiry. We aren't educating students for a first job. We want to give them the abilities to think and reason and question for a lifetime.

Technology increasingly is something that every educated person should be familiar with in the 21st century. We have an introductory computer science course that is known as CS50, and it is now the largest undergraduate course on campus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone on campus knows what CS50 is. It's definitely a course with a cult following. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think some of it is kind of related to the whole Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg being at Harvard. That's what's happening for our generation. People are growing up, and they're starting their own companies and creating their own websites, and doing all this amazing stuff with technology. And I think CS50, like, represent that.

DAVID MALAN, PROFESSOR, CS50: Today we begin our exploration of the fundamentals of computer science and the art of programming. You will have this very practical skill set that you can then take back to all sorts of fields. And realize, too, it is not so important where you end up relative to your classmates in this class but where you by semesters end in week 11 end up relative to yourself this very day.

DAVID BOONE: Sometimes it can be intimidating because there are plenty of people who have just more preparation. A lot of times, it's really easy to say, like, "How in the world can I do this?" Because I can't understand everything right away.

College, it's a completely different environment than what I was used to. My path has been a little bit rough. I come from a pretty modest background. When I entered ninth grade, the summer before, I had been, like, enticed to join a gang. I decided not to. They retaliated against my entire family shooting at my home. Because of my path and where I've come from like I'm just that much more driven.

And I remember those times and it just makes me all the more grateful for the things I do have now. Before I came here I hadn't had a bed for over a year. And so, like, coming into my dorm, like I'm legit, jumped on my bed. That was something that meant a lot to me. It's a real blessing like just being here alone, it's like I already changed my family dynamic.

MONEEKE DAVIS, DAVID'S MOTHER: I always told him "In order for us to get ahead as a family, each generation has to do better than the next." David was, like, "Mom, how are we going to pay for college? What happens if I get in and I can't pay for it?" I said, "Trust me. God will make a way."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You should see the video when we first got it. He was sitting there looking at the camera like he gonna be a star.

DAVIS: When we got on Harvard's campus, I mean, I was just like, "My baby is at Harvard."

DELBANCO: The first American college, Harvard College, was a child of the University of Cambridge in England. The Puritans had come over to New England in the early 1630s. And after they settled the basics of food and shelter they turned their attention to starting a college. In that sense the college was an offshoot of the Church. The lecture so central to college education is really a kind of modern version of the sermon. It was a commitment to the idea that students could be transformed to lead lives of meaning and purpose.

CHRISTENSEN: Harvard is the source of DNA for almost all of higher education in America. It laid out the model that a university needs to emulate in order to get better resources, better professors, better credentials, better students. As Harvard passed that DNA down to everybody else, it created a race.

DELBANCO: When the colonial colleges started to become universities and when brand-new institutions were founded as universities you begin to see a tension developing between the mission to educate young people and the competition for prestige, to out-build your rivals.

ANTHONY CARNEVALE, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: American colleges are driven by the pursuit of prestige. And the way you get prestige is that you get the highest ranking which expands your market and allows you to charge more.

CHRISTENSEN: So in order to go up the ladder everybody has to keep adding more programs and more facilities at a faster rate than the competitors.

KAKEMETZ: This really was the most sort of grandiose vision of what a university could be that it was a place of higher learning it was a place of research. It covered every single discipline under the sun. And there really was no end to its expansion.

CHRISTENSEN: And that became the model. You had to integrate doing research. You needed to provide the housing, the classrooms, all the food that they needed, and the facilities that are required in order to play in the game. And that's a tough game to keep playing.

MITCHELL STEVENS, STANDFORD UNIVERSITY: The system of elite residential higher education that Americans assembled over the course of the last centuries is extraordinarily effective. Nobody disputes that. But it's also extraordinarily inefficient in terms of the resources that are expended to produce these spectacular places.

CHRISTENSEN: Higher education in America has been very successful for centuries. But now things are changing because the scale and the cost is enormous. We have a product that is so expensive that a lot of people can't pay for it and they have to go into debt and it just isn't viable.

DELBANCO: The rise in student tuition is unsustainable. We cannot continue to charge significantly more year after year after year without running into some kind of a brick wall.

KAKEMETZ: College tuition has increased more than any other good or service in the entire US economy since 1978.

JEFF SELINGO, EDITOR AT LARGE FOR THE CHRONICLE FOR HIGHER EDUCATION: We're in an environment where we're cutting spending for higher education. And the states have essentially walked away. They have this great thing in college and universities called tuition. And it's been a great release valve, as appropriations have gone down in the states tuition at public colleges has gone up.

TERESA SULLIVAN, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: We've lost $100 million in funding and the board has replaced one out of every four of those dollars with tuition. Far more of the cost of education is now borne by the student. Student loans are certainly a really important part of this equation, too.

KAKEMETZ: The availability of student loans to pay for college makes families less sensitive to the price, makes colleges less likely to compete on the price.

CHRISTENSEN: All of the competition has been "We are better than we used to be and we're better than you."

KAKEMETZ: The University is being driven by perks wars. One offers an amenity and they all have to offer the amenity. They're adding the climbing walls, and they're adding the plasma screen TVs.

CARNEVALE: We're getting to the point where we're going to have a swimming pool in every room.

KAKEMETZ: They have pools with tanning ledges, they have tanning beds. The student tells us "I can take a five-hour bubble bath and no one will complain."

RICHARD ARUM, PROFESSOR, SOCIOLOGY & EDUCATION NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: There's a massive construction booming on U.S. colleges and universities today. It's an arms race, if you will in higher education.

CARNEVALE: It's a feeding frenzy to have a better student center a bigger football stadium. Sometimes it can be grotesque.

MICHAEL ROTH, PRESIDENT, WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY: What we've really seen is, I think colleges have kind of lost their way about who they are and what they are. And they've turned into these large businesses that have structures around them. They're mini cities. Families do desire a lot of the amenities that colleges have provided the proverbial rock wall.

To sustain those colleges have to borrow more money. They have to charge more tuition to pay $60,000 for a college tuition. You give momentum to this notion of the student as customer when you charge them so much money for their education.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We tend to focus a lot on student debt but over this last decade institutions themselves college and universities doubled the amount of debt that they took on. And in fact we've seen more people be hired that never step foot in a classroom. And that's where a lot of the rising cost of college has come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Administrations seem often to be the tail wagging the dog. Some of our leading presidents can be quite shameless in the size of their compensation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're now starting to question what we're buying. Are you really buying a better, higher-quality education?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that college educates are having some fun that's not really the problem. The problem is institutions are creating these party pathways through college and take their money but don't ask anything of them academically. In fact just give them beer and circuses.


MICHAEL CROW PRESIDENT ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY: It used to be, you'd that if you get through a public university, it wouldn't cost very much to go there. The University California used to have no tuition. The tuition cost here in Arizona used to be near zero. And we need to get back to the point where it's not a huge economic barrier they have to get over to gain access to a whole class university education.

As a public university, our responsibility is to take a broad cross- section of talent from around our society, move it forward with world- class learning experiences at the lowest possible cost. A lot of people had said that's not possible. We say it needs to be possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ASU was ranked as one top public research universities, but it also has another ranking that many people think.

CROW: Party School. You know, it's funny so we laugh about this Party School. I mean we literally laugh about it.

Our model for learning is the robed don at the Cambridge or Oxford or the -- that the kid on the East Coast in Boston or New York City or something, you know, who's huddle around their lamp like in the dark winter nights. When you live in a place with bright sunshine and palm trees and beautiful weather, people think you can't be too serious, but the whole party school thing is just bogus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the party school, come on, (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paradise, baby. What's not to love?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ASU is a big school, and of course people party and drink and get crazy and all that stuff. But you don't have to.

BRENDAN ARNOLD SENIOR ASU: They say that ASU is like one of the top party schools according to Playboy or whatever.

The average ASU student comes to get drunk out of their minds and be in this sort of, like, vapid, hedonistic area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In 2004 we started looking at the party scene at large, mid-tier state universities, and how it didn't fit in what the majority of students actually need to get out of college.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that college-age kids are having some fun, that's not really the problem. The problem is institutions are creating these party pathways through college and take their money, but don't ask anything of them academically. In fact just give them beer and circuses.

ELIZABETH ARMSTRONG, CO-AUTHOR PAYING FOR THE PARTY. In this moment of declining state support, students who can pay full, out-of-state tuition without seeking financial aid are very important for the university.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've got to cater. Choose out-of-state, less- studious students, who want to party.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We know how to party.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all know how to party.

ARMSTRONG: Students from out-of-state picked a school because of the social life. Big-time athletics, the really big Greek system. Increasing numbers of luxury condominium-style living.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But that has consequences for everybody else.

SEBASTIAN NAVARRO SOPHOMORE, ASU STUDENT MENTOR: The VUE is like one of these privatized living complexes. They have these pool parties every so often, where everyone just goes and gets wasted or high or whatever, and then they just start these fights in the pool.

ASU students romanticize staying at this private apartment complex, where you hang out by the pool and smoke cigars, when ideally you should be focusing on your schooling and actually getting a diploma

ARUM: 36 percent of the kids in our study say they studied less than five hours per week, less than an hour a day, a full-time college students. Half the kids in our study said they didn't have a single class where they wrote more than 20 pages. We are confronting a situation in this country where for large numbers of students, they are not doing much of anything academically.

NAVARRO: There's a lot of distractions here, and there's no one holding your hand. Some people, they're not ready for the college level. They fail classes, or they withdraw, drop classes midway through the semester because they're not doing so good in them. And they get discouraged by the fourth year, and they drop out or they just don't have the motivation to continue.

I mentor freshmen. You try to give them tips. You try to give them a way to study more efficiently. You give them ways to do their homework in a better method.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, (inaudible) these couple classes because I miss them and I wouldn't do my homework. So...

NAVARRO: You know, it's really easy to fall back in that trap keep the mindset that you got to graduate, you got to do good in college to be successful, right? That mind set.

ARUM: Many of these actors in higher education do not have a fundamental interest in promoting academic rigor and student learning. They're focus on something else. Faculty today are increasingly rewarded in terms of promotion, tenure, compensation by their research productivity and scholarship. A focus on teaching can get in the way of one's research and scholarship. And when these institutions assess one's teaching, they typically do it with course evaluations. At the end of the class, students are given a consumer satisfaction survey, "How much did you like the class?" "Would you recommend this class to a friend?" You're incentivizing faculty not to be rigorous but to be actually lenient with grades, because the only measure that the institutions are paying attention to is, "Are the students happy as consumers?"

At the same time, the number of full-time faculty in this country is in sharp decline, being replaced by part-time adjunct instructors. Many of them have limited resources for focusing on rigorous academic instruction. Institutions invest in these other things, thinking simply as a business. But these organizations are non-profits. They're accountable to the public. They're accountable to fulfilling their mission.

DELBANCO: It's perfectly appropriate that we shine a strong light on America's colleges and universities, and that we demand better of them. We should be outraged by the abuses and the distortions. But we do not want to erase the history of higher education and say, "These places are not about the formation of character or self discovery.

There are some colleges that have tried to go to the far end of the spectrum in terms of the intensity of the experience. For instance, Deep Springs College, where students make a two-year commitment to, in effect, dropout of the world.

BENNET BERGMAN, 2ND YEAR, DEEP SPRING: The mission of Deep Springs College is to provide a free education to young men in preparation for lives of service to humanity. That's accomplished through what are called the three pillars. And those are self-governance and academics and labor. We live in this small community. And we spend half of our time in class and spend the other half of our time working either on the ranch or in some way for the community.

In committee meetings throughout the week we exercise self-governance, which is basically taking responsibility for the community. We choose what classes we're going to take together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have Political Theory After Marx, Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School, Nietzsche.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there will be something incredibly rewarding about going in-depth onto one school of thought very intensely.

BERGMAN: Through this education we are, like, putting ourselves through a grinder of some sort.

JOHN STUART, 1ST YEAR, DEEP SPRING: I cared so little for the idea of going to college. It was kind of like Deep Springs are nothing.

It's a place that demands of you pretty constantly. And I like that. Because I think if I'd gone to another college I would become really self-absorbed and narcissistic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The main attraction of Deep Springs for me was self-governance, having to compromise with people, and having to put myself in other people's positions. And I don't think that's something natural for us. I think that that has to be taught. It has to be the result of an education.

BERGMAN: The college classroom is perhaps the best rehearsal space for democracy. Students learn to speak with civility, listen to one another with respect, and most of all, they learn that you can actually walk into a room with one point of view and walk out with another.

JOEL SCHLOSSER, PROFESSOR, DEEP SPRING: Hegel is saying you need to have a common identity as citizens because it creates the bonds of affection. We are not simply sons or brothers, students or doctors, but also citizens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bu t why are we talking about the state at all? Expression of the individual through the state, I don't feel that. That's because you're treated like a person already.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's being defined as personhood has previously been exactly the mode in which we have kept, you know, entire races of people outside of the state, so I agree with you in the sense, why are we talking about the state when, like, its definition of personhood isn't good enough here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you recognize that Hegel can be read against that argument very effectively?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right, yeah, I agree. But sometimes I think the best way to bring Hegel into the new day is to transgress him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Students actually have a lot to learn from each other. But what I think of as the most transformative events are, really at the end of the day, one-on-one experiences with a teacher who looks you in the eye.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had a shitty public school experience, right? Like, saw lots of racism, lots of sexism, got beat up, got in fights. Teachers can't do shit. Families can't do shit.

SCHLOSSER: You don't think families and teachers can do shit. Every time that I come in here and I say, "What do you guys think about this? Do you want to change these assignments? How do you like these readings?" I'm trying to give you opportunities for agency, so that I'm not just simply treating you as any old students. The purpose of this place is for you to create what you want here, right? And the problem is that for you to get what you want, you've got to cooperate with other people, which means trying to figure out a way to communicate your anger without being antagonistic.

Two and a half hours of Hegel. Take a half hour break, another hour and a half of Lacan. Absolutely. Yeah, I'm happy to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even as Deep Springs seems to become more and more obsolete or more and more of some kind of idyllic fancy, there's something there, and everybody feels it, having been through it. This school stands for something.

KAKEMETZ: Because of America's status as a country that's always reaching for higher and higher ambition and growth, in the 19th century, we started to have this idea that a university education could be of benefit to absolutely everyone, that we should be able to all have the learning that we need to have self-respect, to be able to support ourselves, and also to be able to be full citizens. That idea really culminated in the Morrill Act in the 1860s.

DELBANCO: In the middle of the Civil War, in 1 862, Congress of the United States, amazingly enough, found focus and attention to pass the Morrill Act, which funded the land grant colleges that later became the great state universities.

KAKEMETZ: The federal government provided for the expansion of this dream of higher education at an unprecedented scale.

This had never happened before in any human society that we'd have institutions of higher learning coast-to-coast, and it wouldn't just be for the nobility. Senator Morrill believed in education even for the sons of slaves, creating, post-Reconstruction, the historically black colleges and universities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Institutions arose at a time when we had racial segregation and we had gender segregation to ensure that black Americans and female Americans could get a higher education.

BEVERLYN TATUM PRESIDENT, SPELMAN COLLEGE: Spelman College was founded less than 20 years after the end of slavery with the idea of creating educational opportunity for women who had had none. It's a place where a young woman can say, "This place was built for me."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am a testimony.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every Spelman student is a testimony.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A testimony of prayers during slavery.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They themselves had been denied...




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As it had been prophesied.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the major things I think you get from being a young black student at a historically black college is that you get to have those conversations about race and about gender, how the two fit together and then how that affects what you're thinking, how you're feeling. When you're in a place for four years where there's people who look like you, and they're achieving, it does do something for your own confidence. So it's really a space where you can grow as a person.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I went to The Winsor School in Boston, and it's predominantly white. Coming from a minority experience to a majority experience,

I think it forces me to find an identity other than the obvious. At my high school, you know, "Who's Amirah?" "She's the black girl." But here I have to really figure it out. There are so many other intelligent black women here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want three other people bring the rest of the (inaudible) out here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: College being a place of mental growth, simultaneously can be a place of spiritual growth, because the two really go hand-in-hand.

My sense of self is stronger, and it's really helped cultivate who I am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: God's a-going to trouble the water. So wade in the water


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do think you can get that experience without going to college. You can travel the world and get that experience. You can merely migrate from your hometown and get that experience. But college is a place where that all comes together in one.

BOONE: Historically black colleges are very powerful. They have a strong connection between the students, the alumni, and the other fellow historically black colleges. But for me, in particular, I didn't apply to many HBCUs. I've been around black people my entire life. I went to a school that was more than, like, 90% African- American. I didn't know how to interact with white people, and I was afraid.

The biggest thing I think, that I've been able to pick up while being at Harvard is the ability to connect with people from all different walks of life. I don't want to just impact my community. I want to be able to impact the larger community.

DELBANCO: All of these institutions have made immense contributions to the history of our democracy. And if you cannot have a democracy without an educated citizenry, you want to see as many citizens as possible get as much education as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President makes in excess of $700,000 as total compensation. That at a school of only 1,000 students in tight financial times, one would have thought there would have been some proportionality. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe the President of Harvard makes $899,000, and she's overseeing 12,000 faculty, 21,000 students, and $30 billion endowment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She doesn't have a fraction of the problem we have. Not a fraction of the problems we have.


KAKEMETZ: The philanthropists of the Gilded Age gave us the idea of mass higher education as a basic human right. Peter Cooper was this industrialist who believed in education as free as water and air.

He founded The Cooper Union, a school of industrial arts and design in New York City, with the idea that it would be available to people, no matter what their background, to study useful and practical arts.

But today, the Cooper Union is one of the last examples of a free higher education institution in the country.

PETER BURKLEY, PROFESSOR COOPER UNION: A full scholarship for every enrolled student is the current mission statement of Cooper Union.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Peter Cooper wanted the school to be accessible to the working class, to women, to people of color.

I come from a lower-middle class family. My parents told me about Cooper, and when I found out, like I was like obsessed.

I didn't even think about going anywhere else.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nowadays, so much is against this 19th century model of a free education.

Ideologically, financially it's ancient.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Jamshed Bharucha, the current president, came into office, he announced to the Cooper community that we are running a large deficit and that tuition for the first time in 154 years would be on the table.

The current administration is trying to say that education as a right is not something that we should be focusing on.

JAMSHED BHARUCHA, 2011 PRESIDENT OF COOPER UNION: Being free, the financial model is extremely complicated.

You look at the financial statements and you can see. An extraordinarily large deficit.

I think Peter Cooper would have wanted us, if we had to talk about tuition, to be able to talk about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all acknowledge that we're in a financial strait right now, but the administration and the board failed to understand how tuition's going to destroy the school. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The administration must publicly affirm the college's commitment to free education.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bharucha's come from tuition-charging colleges, and he thinks that we should become like other colleges. It's covered by normal kinds of words like sustainability.

BHARUCHA: I'm here before you because the very survival of this institution is at stake.

We do not have a sustainable budget.

If you want free education, how are you going to structure it? I believe it's not compatible with small class size, highly- interpersonal interaction and with providing good compensation to people, and I believe in providing good compensation.

BURKLEY: The President makes in excess of $700,000 as total compensation. At a school of only 1,000 students in tight financial times, one would have thought there would have been some proportionality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe the President of Harvard makes $899,000, and she's overseeing 12,000 faculty, 21,000 students, and $30 billion endowment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She doesn't have a fraction of the problem we have. Not a fraction of the problems we have.

BURKLEY: Apparently we are the Harvard of Astor Place.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think that the model of free education doesn't work. There's all sorts of things that got us into this mess, and it wasn't the cost of educating the students.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of higher education believes in growth at all costs, growing their way out of difficulty.

And that becomes rather problematic when you are building a building at about $1,000 a square foot, which is more than a luxury hotel.

It's possible to have downsized, as Cooper Union has done in 150 years of ups and downs in the market. But that was not the decision that was made.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think it was wise to invest in hedge funds and to use the money borrowed in the $1 75 million loan for that purpose?

BHARUCHA: You know, I'm not an investment person. I mean, I'm good at budgets, but I'm not an investment person.

Were they risky decisions? Well, you know, one can ask if they were or not, but there is no question that loan is a -- yes, a challenge for the institution to pay back.

BURKLEY: Cooper Union is faced with a mortgage payment of $10 million a year.

It's a terrible irony that an institution which was supposed to get people out of debt gets into that kind of debt itself.

KAKEMETZ: The idea that Cooper Union would think about charging tuition really seemed like such a huge betrayal and a bellwether of where education is.

Students are not seen as having a right to their education, and institutions sort of feel free to continue to raise the price.

What's happening to higher education in this country? Why is it seen as being the province of the rich and the rich alone?

People are ignoring all of the functions that education has served throughout our history as a public good

ROOSEVELT: Certain economic truths have become self-evident. Among these, the right to a good education.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right after the Second World War, the GI Bill was passed, which made it possible for men, who would never have been allowed to walk onto a college campus, except perhaps as members of the custodial staff or as delivery boys, to actually walk through the gates as students.

LOUIS MENAND, AUTHOR OF METAPHYSICAL CLUB: Over two million veterans took advantage of the GI Bill. This was an opportunity that was free, given by the government. And it made a difference to the American middle class.

KAKEMETZ: That expansion of the franchise of higher education was really so unprecedented, and it led directly to the Higher Education Act of 1965, creating the Federal student aid programs.

LYNDON JOHNSON, 36TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This law means that a high school senior can apply to any college and not be turned away because his family is poor.

KAKEMETZ: But the rug was pulled out from under students in the 1970s. We shifted from seeing education as a public good to seeing it exclusively as a private good. Conservative governors, especially Governor Reagan of California, had really run on the idea that higher education was a wasteful way to spend taxpayer money.

Governor Reagan actually said the state should not subsidize intellectual curiosity. And he ran for president later on a promise to disband the Department of Education.

RONALD REAGAN, 4TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Certain advisors started to say that anything of a private advantage should be paid for.

MILTON FRIEDMAN, ECONOMIC ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT REAGAN: The word free is one of the most misused words. We speak of "free education." Education isn't free. It costs money. KAKEMETZ: If this is something that is going to be good for individuals to get a job and earn more money, they should finance it and make the investment themselves.

REAGAN: We need to keep government on the sidelines. Let the people develop their own skills, solve their own problems.

KAKEMETZ: We stopped expanding the franchise of higher education, graduation rates stopped rising, and access for the poor to higher education started going down.

In the 1970s, a Pell Grant was more than enough to pay for tuition at an average state institution. But today a Pell Grant pays for a fraction of tuition. This led to the growth of the student loan industry, which ended up being the largest source of money for all of tuition.

The student loan program was never intended to be this large.

STEPHANIE GRAY, HUNTER COLLEGE GRADUATE: The student debt crisis coupled with the rise in tuition rates over the past 30 years, it's just a perfect storm, it's a nightmare.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are the students

THIEL: It's like a subprime mortgage broker that ripped you off and talked you into buying a house you couldn't afford. Education in some ways is even more insidious than housing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've just hit an awful milestone. Our nation's combined student loan debt has now hit $1 trillion. It's now larger than credit card debt in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The average American student now graduates more than $25,000 in debt.

GRAY: I grew up in a low-income household. I was always told to work hard, and if you follow your dreams, it will pay off, and if you need to go into educational debt to achieve those dreams, then so be it.

A couple of months after I graduated, collectors started calling, and I told them that I could not pay.

Even with a master's, I couldn't get a job cleaning toilets at a local hotel. I was on food stamps. I was living off mostly beans and rice.

THIEL: Twenty years ago, we would have said all the kids who aren't going to college are being the victims, and now it's actually turning out that a lot of the kids who are going to college are also the victims.

It's like a subprime mortgage broker that ripped you off and talked you into buying a house you couldn't afford. Education in some ways is even more insidious than housing. KAKEMETZ: There actually isn't the same kind of safety valve in the student loan market that you see in the mortgage market, in the sense that there's no such thing as foreclosure, and, in fact there's no such thing as bankruptcy.

Over half of loans today are either in deferment, or else they're in default. And when you default on your student loans, interest is applied to the principal. And you see, very commonly, things like original balances in the tens and twenty thousands of dollars ballooning up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Starting off, $78,000. Ending up at $106,000 in interest alone.

KAKEMETZ: You're going to be saddled with that debt and that ballooning balance until the day that you die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the kind of garbage our government is playing with our young people.

ELIZABETH WARREN, U.S. SENATOR, MASSACHUSETTS: The government will make $184 billion in profits over the next 10 years. All those profits made off the backs of our kids who are trying to get an education. I think this whole system stinks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want? When do we want it? What do we want? When do we want it? What do we want? When do we want it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We cannot continue to treat student loan debt as an individual issue. We must realize that as a society we cannot have a generation in debt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Once you hit $50,000 in debt, you need to pause and take a look at the value of the education you're getting. You don't want to incur debt that stops you from investing in family formation, houses, cars and children down the road.

GRAY: The value of my education is priceless, but the value of my education is also not $140,000 in debt.

If I do ever have kids, my private loans will be directly passed to them even if I die. It's just siphoning my dreams away, and I feel bad talking about any dreams that I have these days, because there's all this talk that Generation Y is so entitled and selfish just for wanting the opportunities that their parents had.

KAKEMETZ: A lot of the older generations that criticize the millennials grew up in a time when you could go to a state university and pay your way through with summer jobs. These millennial children then got to college and realized, "The money's not there to pay for me. I'm not going to be able to graduate into a cushy job. And in fact, everything that I was told about the way that the world works turns out not to be the case."

GRAY: The student debt crisis coupled with the rise in tuition rates over the past 30 years, it's just a perfect storm, it's a nightmare. MARK EPSTEN: After 18 months of intense analysis, the board of trustees voted last week to charge tuition for all undergraduates admitted to the Cooper Union beginning with the class of 2014.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right after the announcement was made, I spoke to Jamshed. Jamshed was, you know, waving his hands, yelling, cutting us off. Right outside of the school, there was a lot of grieving.

People were angry. You could kind of feel this chaotic energy. It kind of felt like at any moment something could happen. The moments right before an action starts are the most exciting, also scary. It was a really long planning session.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obviously, they can do these things, and they can overstep us. They can do that, and they're doing it. What we're now is (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to move forward.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn't know what to do but people were like we have to do something. Let's just go into the president's office. We are just going to do it. We went in, 40 or so people, maybe more.

The secretary tried to say, don't go in there. But, you know, there was 40 of us. Jamshed (ph) wasn't there.

SEBASTIAN QUIJADA, LINK: We the students of the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art can no longer uphold endorse the direction our college has taken under the leadership of Jamshed Bharucha. By moving no confidence today, join us in keeping Cooper Union free to all.

T.C. WESTCOTT, VICE PRESIDENT FOR FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION: I do have a statement to read to you. First let me say I'd rather you just leave. Students and others currently engaged in a sit-in in the president's suite are trespassing. We are going to give a one-hour period for anyone to leave. Any one remaining on the 7th floor after that one-hour period will be subject to disciplinary action.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At some point they are going to have to try and remove us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am an officer of this school.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My foot's in the door. My hand's in the door.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're endangering students. My hand is in the door.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're saying the police is coming up. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that them?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police are in the building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The security guard is on the other side of the glass. And there's you and three other men --

WESTCOTT: There is a very bad situation in the lobby. And the police have been called. I have removed the additional security guards. The police are also standing down.


UNIDENTIFIED STUDENTS: Five, four, three, two, one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For many of us it was the first time being in the president's office. We have like this red light that we show to say that we're occupying the space. It's like being in a submarine. It's like a shared experience. And it's hard to sleep because there was all this energy.

There is some physicality of having to be there, actually having to abstain from your normal life. And that's very powerful. It's space of the action is also this great opportunity to have no one imposing structures on us. And this is really -- not asking permission and unapologetic. We are not sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Bharucha decides to meet with students in the office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The entire school does not have any confidence in your ability to lead The Cooper Union. If people have no confidence, it means that no, you are not going to be able to regain that trust because there is none left.

DON BLAUWEISS, ALUMNI PRESIDENT, COOPER UNION: You know it is a little simplistic to say that, you know, you don't do this and you don't do that. I'm on the board. I was firmly for no tuition. The numbers are what they are. However they got there, that's where they are now.


BLAUWEISS: Can I finish? Can I finish?



BLAUWEISS: I would like the tone of this whole discussion to cool down a little bit.

BOB ESTRIN, STUDENT, COOPER UNION: It's pretty clear, I think, to all of us, that this moment is different than anything that's come before. We haven't been to this point. All right. And I think we need to let go of some of the old dialogue. Because we're in a new place right now. What we need to do, quite simply, is realize this moment in the country with a trillion dollars in student debt, with all of the models of higher education as a business, is failing.

This is a moment for this school to be the vision of what education can be in this country. Just as it was the vision 150 years ago. It was part of a radical capitalist vision. It is rooted in turn of century idea about humanity. And it's an idea that I think is incredibly contemporary and incredibly urgent. All right.

To effectively lead us, you need to realize the moment you are in and the position you are in. It is an historic position. It is an historic moment. This is a big step that you came here to meet with us. But we need a leap. Not a gamble.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Universities are clearly at a crisis point. We've had runaway cost inflation. This is not what either the kids or the parents signed up for.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For years, we've been saying college is a great investment no matter what. And now people are starting to ask really, really tough questions about the role that colleges is playing in American society. The authority that they have, their moral high ground.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Moody's saying that college might not be worth the cost.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The rating agency says the high cost of college plus growing public doubts about the value of a bachelor's degree has caused it to revise down its outlook on the entire higher education sector to negative.

PETER SCHIFF, AUTHOR, CRASH PROOF 2.0: There is going to be a collapse. One way or another there is going to be a crisis. It gets to the point where the price of a degree is so high that people just don't want to pay for it anymore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not what most colleges want to talk about. They want to pretend education is something that's completely nonfinancial. It's an end in itself. These are very noble ideals. But they don't make sense when people are taking on $100,000, $200,000 in student debt.

MICHAEL ROTH, PRESIDENT, WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY: I don't think you will find a more fervent believer in the liberal arts than the guy holding the microphone in front of you today. When you start college that's the time to discover what you love to do. It might be theater and it might be neuroscience and religion. Whatever it is, now's the time.

When you have the chance to experiment. When you have the chance to open yourself up to new things. When you can discover who you are, who you might become.

Yes, sir? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you just said is terrifically exciting.

Remind me of going back to when I was in school. But the truth is, many of us are about to lay out a whole lot of money to you. Tell me one thing.

ROTH: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is my daughter going to have a job and she is not going to come back home after it's done?


ROTH: Is your daughter going to have a job and not come back home? I can't tell you that, although the time to be defensive about education is not now. This is the time to be aggressive about a broadly based, intensely personal, and intensively practical form of education. Whatever school you go to. And it is expensive. I know it. I don't have to tell you parents here.

LISA RUCINSKI, PARENT: We are definitely ensconced in this view that there is only one way to go to college. And that's, you know, the four-year, private school, where your kids live in dorms with their friends and have all their meals taken carry of, and someone cleaning the bathroom. I am amply stressed about the college search to come.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone, if you look directly that way, that is the new One World Trade building that they're building.

RUCINSKI: All the parents I know they're like their kids college search managers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So welcome to the library, everyone. As you can see, it is a very massive building. Altogether there are about nine libraries in the NYU family and about six million volumes as well.

RUCINSKI: I want this for my kids, it's just too bad it costs $60,000 a year. And it really does cost $60,000 a year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And this is the main building for student life here on the NYU campus. We have two athletic facilities for you to go to. They do have like pools. There's a rock climbing wall even in one. There's a squash board in one. So if you're really into fitness --

RUCINSKI: It takes a real shift to consider something different when our kids are on this path towards a college degree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Going to college has become a way to avoid thinking about the future. What are you going to do with your life? I don't know. I'm just going to get another degree. And instead of getting one credential after another on some sort of track, I think it is very important to think hard about if you didn't go to college, what would you do instead?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Peter Thiel, the man who founded PayPal, funded Facebook, is offering 24 college students $100,000 if they drop out of school and start their own business.

KYBIE DYER, COLLEGE STUDENT: When you think of hacking, the first thing people think of is literally hacking a computer. Well, hacking your education is really finding an alternative. I might go to college, I might not. So that's why I'm here right now.

MICHAEL STATON, PARTNER, LEARN CAPITAL: If you want to challenge yourself not to go to college or if you want to challenge yourself to go to college and get the most out of college, you have to reflect on what it is you are buying. And what it is your parents are buying.

The idea that you're going to go to keg parties for four years sounds cool. But when you think about what parents pay for, really what they're paying for is for you to not be left behind in the information economy. Right.

DALE STEPHENS, FOUNDER, UNCOLLEGE, THIEL FELLOW: People say to me all the time, well, Dale, aren't you ruining people's lives by encouraging them to take a risk and not go to college? I think it is much riskier to go to college and take on $20,000 of debt per year, and then have miserable job prospects when you get out, and have to start repaying the debt. That seems like a really high risk to me.

STATON: When you look at higher education, what you realize is what you're paying for is this mythical, large, bundle of things that you're supposed to get. So I'm here to give you a framework to look at what types of services you could be accessing that could either supplement or kind of replace going to college.

So I have unbundled college into three parts. The first is engaging with content you are supposed to learn. So it could be through a lecture and transferring content to you. Then there is an affiliate network. Enduring relationships with people that are going to look out for you that are going to help you find opportunities. And the third is that credential of accepted value, which is literally a piece of paper that kind of certifies that you have met some minimum level of competency.

And when I went to school there was no way to access the services that higher education provided easily and freely, or cheaply on the Internet. And it turns out well, now you kind of can.

ELIZABETH STARK, MENTOR, THIEL FELLOWSHIP: What do you see, you know, in a world in which degrees don't matter so much, but where people say, hey, I'm a dropout but -- I mean, not that --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I won't necessarily say first off that I'll drop out of school. But they'll look at it, OK, so you have experience.

And as I was paying for college myself, I realized pretty early on it's too expensive for me to find myself in college. I need work experience. I need life experience. I need to get out of college and actually start my own path.

DYER: There's like 4,000 schools right now. In a couple of years that whole number is going to get depleted. And the only colleges that are really going to matter in the future are going to be prestigious, Ivy League colleges that have made a name for themselves.

My mom didn't go to college. But my dad, he is definitely a person who has benefited well from college. They thought I was crazy. They're like, look what is this? A whole bunch of kids coming to San Francisco who all don't want to go to college. They thought it was like -- more like a cult.

JOHN HENNESSY, PRESIDENT, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: There is a change coming. There has to be a change coming. The four-year, undergraduate, residential experience is the gold standard. Small classes. Lots of intimate contact.

How do we create as close to that ideal as we can while reducing cost? Technology has to be part of that solution. A big part of it.


STARK: A friend of mine told me there is an education hacker house. And you have to meet the people because I was also into the future of education.

I have no idea there was this whole community of people that were passionate about the future of knowledge and learning. We've had hackers come in and sleep on bunkbeds. Working on their apps. We've had meet-ups in the backyard. We've had a variety of startups working out of this house. And it's a community of people that believes that we don't need to rely on traditional schools or institutions.

There is no longer a great value proposition in paying 200K for a degree, particularly when you're not at an Ivy League school.

CATHERINE STEVENS: I didn't want to go to college because of the cost in terms of time and money. And I thought that this would be an excellent place to kind of get the college equivalent. Because I get the academics living with start-up entrepreneurs and living with tech people. It forces me to grow up because we have to, you know, do your own dishes, you have to cook for yourself. You have to deal with rent. All that kind of stuff.

STARK: In Silicon Valley, we don't, you know, care about accolades or experience even. We care about skills. As you know things progress, degrees will matter less and less. You shouldn't have to have 200K or have 200K of debt in order to learn a lot. Be really talented and then show the world what your skills are capable of doing.

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CO-FOUNDER, FACEBOOK: I dropped out of college to start working on Facebook full time out here. I later talked to my mom about it. And she told me that she knew that I was going to drop out of college.

SCHIFF: There are a lot of very successful entrepreneurs or multimillionaires, we've had billionaires that didn't go to college. In fact I'd say today, given the Internet, and the ease with which you can become self-educated, there is more reasons than ever not to have to go.

ANTHONY CARNEVALE, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY CENTER ON EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE: Truthfully that's very bad advice because those people were all exceptions to the rule. They made it in spite of a system, an apparatus that said they wouldn't. The safest bet by far is to go to college.

PETER THIEL, CO-FOUNDER, PAYPAL, THIEL FELLOWSHIP: The Thiel Fellowship is focused on a small subset of people who I think will do fantastic even without a college credential. You know, I think it is a much more difficult question, what one does for people from, you know, average backgrounds, less advantaged backgrounds. I don't have answers for it.

ROTH: Many intellectuals are saying it would be better if some people don't go to college at all. I think that's an assault on democracy. And it is an attempt to keep people in their place. And reinforce social inequality. Education should foster social mobility. And the possibility of equality.

You have got to be crazy to not intentionally get a college degree if you have a choice today. If the college education is really a college education and not just training in one particular little field you learn how to learn. And so that can actually open up new things in your life. Long after college.

Part of our responsibility as educators is actually to help inspire students to connect with problems in the world because we're leaving them with a lot of problems. And I think they know that actually. And they want to engage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have three demands. Jamshed steps down as president. That the board and the administration publicly affirm the mission statement including free tuition. And the third is to have more democratic governance.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER: Now I know this has been a difficult time for the Cooper Union community. There is anger. There is disappointment over the tuition issue. But the debate you are having really isn't about whether education is free. It's really a debate about who can and who is willing to pay for it. There is nothing really free in life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please join me in welcoming the president of the Cooper Union, Jamshed Bharucha.

JAMSHED BHARUCHA, COOPER UNION PRESIDENT: It is with awe and humility that I stand before you to honor our students.

To our graduating students, congratulations. You have distinguished yourselves beyond imagination. You have distinguished yourselves.

JAMES SPRANG, COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER, SCHOOL OF ART GRADUATE: I would look you all to assist me, please, in filling this hall with our voices. Mike check.

STUDENTS: Mike check.

SPRANG: Mike check.

STUDENTS: Mike check.



SPRANG: Hope is everything.

STUDENTS: Hope is everything.

SPRANG: To do a dull thing with hope.

STUDENTS: To do a dull thing with hope.

SPRANG: Will never be preferable.

STUDENTS: Will never be preferable.

SPRANG: To doing a dangerous thing with hope.

STUDENTS: To doing a dangerous thing with hope.

HENNESSY: There is a change coming. There has to be a change coming. The four-year undergraduate residential experience is the gold standard. Small classes, lots of intimate contact. How do we create as close to that ideal as we can while reducing cost. Technology has to be part of that solution. A big part of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people, including the president of Stanford University, uses a metaphor of a tsunami, believe that MOOCs, massive open online courses, are going to transform American higher education, indeed higher education around the world, beyond recognition and sweep away everything that we associate with colleges like this one.

HENNESSY: The MOOC revolution began when Daphne Koller, my colleague in computer science, had come to me a number of years ago. She talked about a way of teaching differently with online technology. And then she recruited Sebastian Thrun to try some experiments.

SEBASTIAN THRUN, PROFESSOR, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, CO-FOUNDER, UDACITY: Welcome to the online introduction to artificial intelligence. My name is Sebastian Thrun. I will be teaching this class at Stanford and I'll be teaching it online for comparable. I'm really excited about this.

HENNESSY: Sebastian said well, let's open this course to everybody in the world. There was a bit of chaos, I must say. But there was also some real excitement particularly when hundreds of thousands of students started initially indicating interest.

DAPHNE KOLLER, PROFESSOR, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, CO-FOUNDER, COURSERA: We had an opportunity to really change the access that hundreds of thousands or even millions of people had to an education that they would never otherwise have been able to get.

THRUN: There is a red pill and a blue pill. And you can take the blue pill. And go back to your class and lecture 20 students. But I've taken the red pill and I've seen wonderland. Having done this, I can't teach at Stanford again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These professors who took part in the first round of MOOCs left Stanford to start their own venture capital funded startups. Their rival on the East Coast is edX, which is coming out of MIT and Harvard.

DAVID MALAN, PROFESSOR, CS50X: CS50X, one of Harvard's first courses involved in the edX initiative debuted this past Monday. Turns out we had a few more students show up on Monday than we initially expected. EdX has 100,000 people following along at home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of these platforms are using short videos, interactive questions, and online chat sessions, even robo grading, to translate courses that were created at the world's top universities into versions that can and are being taken by millions of people all around the globe absolutely for free.

ROTH: One of the reasons we're experimenting with online education is to see if the technology can actually increase access to high quality education. I don't know what people will learn. That's the most important question.

THRUN: For me this is an interactive medium that empowers the student just very much like a video game. So we ask the question is there a different way to teach, and students to find out by themselves how to solve problems.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me come back to one piece of this code that needs a little more explanation. And that's this colonel call. Here's the name of the colonel calls where?

JOHN OWENS, UDACITY: The way that I am teaching is very different when I'm doing it under the camera oppose to in the classroom. Most of what they see is hand. And hands evidently humanize it for the students more than if they were just looking at white boards. But that is literally all they're going to see. So as far as they know I am a robot.

THRUN: They certainly, and we are controversial. Because we take the focus away from the professor and put the focus back on the student.

OWENS: Does it really make sense to have 500 professors and 500 different universities, each teaching in a very similar way? Or do you take the rock star and you put him here and you let him spend 10 times as much time? You know, maybe that rock star could do a little bit better job for these students.

Glue it on the last -- OK, try it again. For instance.

GOV. JERRY BROWN, CALIFORNIA: What is happening to higher education is not good for America. It's not good for the young people. This huge cost structure is part of the marketization of so many things in our society. But where does it get out of hand? I think it's getting out of hand right now.

I don't want to see tuition go up. But I don't know that I can convince my colleagues here at the state capital to provide more money. So we have how to look at ways of changing the design.

THRUN: In 2012, I get this e-mail message saying, hey, my name is Governor Brown. We should talk.

BROWN: I was reading "The New York Times" on Sunday. I saw his name. Found his e-mail. I e-mailed him. He called me back very soon thereafter.

THRUN: I spent about an hour on the phone. And Governor Brown said to me, look, you've been focused on bringing this extremely high end, Stanford-level education to the world. But realize the disaster in California it's not that, it's really the lower level where lots of kids are left behind.

BROWN: From the beginning, California has been a place of pioneers and scoundrels and bold people. The Californian State University system is a part of that lineage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: California pioneered the best public education system in the world. They saw higher education as the ticket to a better life for people in California and to a better economy. And when you think about what California has contributed to the American economy you can trace so much of the fact to its higher education system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a tiered system with the community colleges, state colleges, and the great research universities, a system that virtually guaranteed college education to every high school graduate, in the state of California. The vision of Clark Kerr would provide instruction at all levels and students could move upward through it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: California prospers in large part to the extent that it provides ready opportunity for all us citizens to secure education appropriate for their interest and ability.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The California system is still a model for the rest of the nation. The problem now is that as the state has pulled back on its financial commitment to the systems, the ideal there is really under, is under threat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The idea of a public college that is publicly funded an accessible is under attack. So really creating hierarchies where the students who can afford it, work with teachers. Have one-on- one face time with faculty, and students who can't afford it, well, we'll go on YouTube.



JERRY BROWN, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: Over 16 percent of the students at Cali state get out in four years. And the long year stay, the more you spend. So this is a big huge problem with student debt approaching $1 trillion.

ELLEN JUNN, SAN JOSE STATE UNIVERSITY PROVOST: Our students are very hard work. Many of them are first generation to college. And more than 50 percent of our students need to take remedial courses. But with the increasing budget cuts, we are unable to offer remedial math both semesters. My goal as the Provost was to -- to do some pilot testing. And I think of a living laboratory for students to test new material.


MOHAMMAD QAYOUMI, SAN JOSE STATE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: Today, San Jose State will sign a partnership agreement with Udacity. Our aim to focus like a laser on entry level classes for college credit. That's the key is for college credit.


DR.RITA MANNING, PRELAW ADVISOR: My colleagues were shocked. San Jose State wanted me involved at all, with anything like Udacity.

We're licensing our education to a full process outside vendor -- that is a start up. I wouldn't hire a startup to build -- I do a bathroom remodel in my house.

ANN LARSON, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR AND ACTIVIST: What's happening in California is crisis management tactics, public funding is drying up. So they need to offer more courses for less money, and putting a class on the internet, seems like the easiest way. Whether or not it is the best way and whether or not people who are standing to profit should be making this decision. I haven't heard much honest conversation about that.

MANNING: We're giving taxpayer money to private business.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're ready for the first question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is Udacity being paid? And how much?

BROWN: I -- we haven't, we can't disclose the amount, I'm sorry.

MANNING: I mean, if we gonna spend money, why give it to Udacity. Why not just hire people to teach the classes.

LARSON: The idea of a public college, this publicly funded and its accessible is under attack. So we're really creating hierarchies where the students who can afford it work with teachers, have one-on-one face time with faculty, and students who can't afford it, well, we'll go on YouTube.

JUNN: The results for the first -- the Udacity courses are -- I think profound.

PETER HADREAS, DEPARTMENT CHAIR, PHILOSOPHY: The data is outrageous. The pass rate in elementary statistics from Udacity 50.5 percent, college algebra, 25.4 percent, entry level math, 23.8 percent. I mean, that is, downright scary. What we want is a -- silver bullet, but we want is a magic pill. Well there isn't, unfortunately, and certainly not Udacity.

MANNING: Whoops, we blew it. They didn't learn the material. They couldn't succeed in next level classes. Oh, well.

JUNN: Retention rates and pass rates on online courses are lower than face to face, just because, you can bring a horse to water but you can't make them drink, fill by the same token. Students have to have that discipline, motivation, and persistence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You could also say that you have to have a teacher to bring those...

JUNN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Qualities out and to use (ph) them.

JUNN: And we did attempt to do that with online mentors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You will be seeing a lot of our heads throughout the course. But, we thought we would show you our faces too so you could get to know us better.

The students who need the most attention, who are least confident, about their abilities as learners, has a lot of evidence than those students don't learn very much from MOOC's. So, I'm not quite prepared to give up on the California vision of Clark Kerr and turn it over to the Silicon Valley and say -- onward and upward and rescue us from this morass.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have so much more work to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be a good student, we get stupid.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you say?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible) is that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, that -- the Udacity.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Want to build it, hatred.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have sitting here like -- alright, this is just too much. I started to wonder, am I going to be able to finish, am I going to be able to do this, I just have to leverage what I have and I can be so self conscious about the things that I'm not good at because, you already have -- you know, 10 people in your class that you connect with and work it, collaborate with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like -- can I tell you something? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Totally go. (ph)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, look at it, this is computer science class that could be entirely taught online and is to a large extent. But still look at how many people are in this dining hall who need help. They need help in person. That's why they're here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you walk me through that. I don't know what that means.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. So when you see like square bracket that usually means (inaudible)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, like how that happen and I have commas (inaudible) even there should be more commas.

DAVID MALAN, PROFESSOR: So, by doing this? This ward off one of those attacks, we started talking about briefly, a sequel injection attack. Students require constant engagement on my part, on the teaching staff's part. Most of us are up all hours of the night. We have pretty much 24/7 coverage, students ask questions at most any hour and get answers within minutes. So you're on the right track, and I really just proposing that you comment as temporary, just to in this -- get the whole thing working and then plug in the additional data if you need.

You can't at least right now, just to replace a teacher with an automaton it's some kind of robot or talking head on the screen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nothing beats person-to-person contact.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Human experience has a magic about it and this is not replicable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to replace that kind of learning, students working together on projects that involved being there physically.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, how do we put these things together? The face to face and the opportunities of the online and how can we come up with hybrid models?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should tap into the idealism of young people and provoke students to think for themselves. To think critically about the way society is put together. America has been all about critical thinking. That's how we became America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I support the occupation!

CROWD: I support the occupation!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I support the mission statement!

CROWD: I support the mission statement!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I support the notion of free and accessible education for all!





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Community colleges are the most flexible institutions we have. They are the most open to alternative curriculums, because they have always had to scramble to educate the less advantaged kids in America.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what we need to accomplish today is to take a look at these lectures per medics (ph) and so, if you have any questions or problems today is the day to kind of address those. The model here is to teach for classrooms. What that means is to have the lecture content be outside of the class. Students have a MIT Professor doing video lectures, and they watch that at home. When they have completed a lecture, they come in here, they work in small groups, they talk to each other, they're encouraged to help each other, using hands on, using lots more problem solving skills and critical thinking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The character function will follow up any character that has an ASCII value. I guess my method to do that was maybe a little bit different.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By doing flip classroom, eliminating the large lecture. There is an opportunity for the faculty member now to spend their time helping those students who are struggling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you testing it now?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Make it sure it is working, is it good?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are we doing over here?

We have to do something to keep students engaged for them to learn. This is our job. This is what we are here for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in experimental mode. We have no choice, but to go very fast. Experimentation will produce success and failure, and we need to learn to live with that, because, technology is the hope for many young people who otherwise, won't be able to afford the education they need.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there is a tendency though, for emphasize the top tier Ivy League schools. I think what is more important is to have the -- the personal will, to follow through on one's ideas and to spend their time to actually be impassioned about the things that they're working on, I feel that. That it's a much more important dialogue to have in yourself.

DAVID BOONE, HARVARD STUDENT STUDYING COMPUTER SCIENCE: This is where I spent a decent amount of my life. What is like one of the toughest neighborhoods in Cleveland. It's been tough this semester. I'm not doing particularly well in any of my classes. And I started to question, maybe I'm not cut out to be here and I just had to slack myself back to reality like wait, dawg, like you doing everything in your power to do well, and like, if I dropped out of Harvard, I'm back where I started. I haven't actually, you know better myself at all. I want to better myself.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I look at you as a young man, and if I say, you know he could have been a drug addict, he could have run the streets, he could have been a hoodlum. But you wanted to make something out of life, and that what I'm so proud of. But if you look at you and say he from Ohio, he from Cleveland, he is in college trying to make something out of himself. If you have got a lot of people out there trying to discourage you, but you can't let that happen.

BOONE: It is ashamed like, kids don't realize that so they can position themselves to take advantage all of the opportunities. Because, I mean, there is just so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Alright. I will see you later.



BOONE: As a kid, you had all this like, wow, fantasy and dreams about what you wanted to do when you got older. But, what people consider a normal life from where I come from is to leave school and go get a job in a factory. You get caught in the cycle of poverty, and caught in that ghetto, almost. That's like the life to you. You don't know anything better. College is the place where you figure out that there is something better. It is finally over. I survive the challenge that is CS 50.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so proud of you.

BOONE: Yeah, I want to do more. I haven't been going.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The more campuses one visits, the more one discovers that the diversity of America's college students is mind- boggling. And -- everywhere I go, I meet students who give me hope for the future of our country. It has been and will continue to be a challenge to keep the doors of college open to provide the best education to as many people as possible. Not everybody is going to want it. Not everybody will be able to take

good advantage of more education. But, let's not assume that college has outlived its usefulness. Let's not assume it is inevitable that public support for institutions of higher learning has to just continue to decline. There are other choices that can be made. I mean, what kind of society do we wanna be? We should tap into the idealism of young people and provoke students to think from themselves, to think critically about the way society is put together. America has been all about critical thinking. That's how we became America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I support the occupation!

CROWD: I support the occupation!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I support the mission statement!

CROWD: I support the mission statement!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I support the notion of free and accessible education for all!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is one of the longest student occupations in American history.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everyone I know has given so much of their time and energy trying to save our school. It is very tiring and it feels very much uphill. There's so much other work that needs to be done.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is really tragic the only resolution I could think of is to charge tuition. But the tuition announcement was not the end of an era it was actually, the beginning of a campaign. They might take a long time to see the world that we want to live in. But, anytime someone says, you can't do that, it's like, a little trigger goes off in my head. I'm like, but you can.