Hunter Baker on the Future of Higher Education
Date: September 1st, 2013

With tuition costs skyrocketing, and information technology rapidly changing the educational landscape, what does the future of higher education look like?  And what role will Christian colleges and universities in this brave, new world?  We pose those questions to Dr. Hunter Baker, Dean of Instruction at Union University (Jackson, TN), and author of two provocative articles that answer these questions.

After establishing his bona fides as someone who is watching and shaping the changes occuring in higher ed, we ask Dr, Baker whether the future is so bright that we gotta wear shades.  This prompts Hunter to references Joseph Schumpeter’s concept of “creative destruction” and launch into a discussion of how information technology is reshaping the way we teach students.  He talks about the growing popularity of MOOCs (massive open online courses) that allow students in Jackson, Tennessee to take courses from famous professors in Cambridge, Massachussets.  This technology, as well as other innovations in online education and “courses-in-a-box,” have pushed some university administrators to rethink the way professors are hired.  While the situation is still in flux, the future of higher education may involve a number of well-known scholars accrediting themselves and selling their courses to a wide number of colleges across the country and world.  Universities, in turn, may adopt a model where lower-cost adjunct faculty serve to moderate discussion and administer exams in these courses.  We discuss some of the pros and cons of these technological changes including how it affects the scholarly labor market, whether courses are really “more dynamic” in an online framework, and whether these changes will erode support for a well-rounded “liberal education.”

The latter portion of our discussion focuses on the role of private religious institutions in this changing educational landscape.  Tony notes that with tuition prices rising and state subsidies to public universities decreasing, the tuition gap between state schools and private colleges is shrinking.  This generates an extended conversation on how some Christian schools are positioning themselves in this new environment, and some of the impediments for other schools to take advantage of the new environment.  Hunter, a graduate of Baylor University, uses his alma mater as an example of how a private institution is “doing things right.”  Hunter, though, notes that many other Christian colleges face some difficult uphill battles in securing large endowments to help them through difficult financial times.  Some of these hurdles include issues with alumni giving.  With higher private tuition prices, many Christian school alumni feel they have “already given” their contribution when they were active undergraduates.  Additionally, many graduates of Christian universities often prioritize their charitable donations to their churches.  Hunter also details what Baylor has recently done that may provide a future model for other religiously-based schools.  Sic ’em Bears!   Recorded: August 29, 2013.




Hunter Baker’s bio at Union University.

The State of Christian Higher Education,” by Hunter Baker in Renewing Minds, a Union University publication.

The Future of Higher Education,” by Hunter Baker in Renewing Minds.

The End of Secularism, by Hunter Baker.

Political Thought: A Student’s Guide, by Hunter Baker.

The Soul of the American University, by George Marsden (mentioned in the interview).


Hunter Baker on Secularism.

Joseph Castleberry on Religious-Based Higher Education.

Jason Jewell on Why Christians Should Read the Great Books.

Andrew Hoffecker on Charles Hodge and Princeton Theological Seminary.



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