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Unfortunately, higher education that focuses on delivering a specific set of skills or knowledge may not give graduates the broader ability to think critically, innovate, and adapt in a changing economy. Computer science grads who earn all A’s may land a job, but can they create cooperative, ethical teams of innovators that tap the ideas of customers, suppliers, and fellow employees, or will they even know how to cross-share patents with competitors?
That kind of high-level work relies on qualities of character as much as knowledge and skill. It relies on social capital as well as technical and financial capital.
That Gallup poll on the worth of higher ed, conducted for the Lumina Foundation, shows a hunger for advanced learning among Americans but a wariness of what colleges and universities currently offer. So much of what creates value in today’s economy comes from the ways in which groups of people organize their relationships in order to tap into ideas, technology, and natural resources.
Countries and students need to first develop the intangible qualities that drive a successful business rather than look mainly at physical assets or measurable knowledge. Many colleges and businesses already offer that sort of environment or training. Reviving the economy will require people tapping into those innovative institutions.