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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Changes We Need in Education

I travel and speak about 125 times a year. Most of my events are on a college campus, with students, faculty, coaches or athletes. As you can guess, I get to see the good, the bad and the ugly things that make up higher education in the U.S.

Today—I’ll share one reality I’d like to change in education. In a word, it is:



photo credit: Gates Foundation via photopin cc

We love living in America—the land of opportunity. At times, however, that opportunity is all but out of reach. Only 3% of the students in the top colleges in America come from the bottom fourth in household income. Meaning, those schools are for the rich. And regardless of the income of the student, loan debt has become astronomical. The average student graduates with $26,600 in debt, which they’ll need to pay off before they feel free to borrow any more. Student loan debt hovers at almost a trillion dollars. It’s now the largest loan category in our nation.

What does all this mean? According to TIME magazine, 80% of Americans say they agree or strongly agree that the education students receive is not worth what they pay for it. We question whether the debt is worth it—and are finding other ways to get ready for a career. Tech schools and vocational schools are seeing a huge spike in enrollment. In addition, many young adults are just “saying no” to education after high school and jumping into their careers. Perhaps this is good, but futurists say that by 2020, 65% of jobs will require post-secondary education. America is falling behind other nations of the world in preparing kids for the future that awaits them.

The first forty years of my life, I was used to living in a country that led the way for almost every other nation in the world. We set the pace for other countries. Today—not so much. Our influence may continue to decline if we don’t find new ways to earn the right to influence and to model the way.

Educational leaders must find a way to offer post-secondary education for free, or for a very reduced cost. They will become very popular as they provide relevant and helpful learning for real job opportunities.

Are you concerned about the future of education? Join us on June 27-28, 2013 in Atlanta for our National Leadership Forum. Our topic: “Marching Off the Map.” We will wrestle with change we must make to lead the way into the future—including accessibility, classroom teaching methods, technology, student engagement, and more. To preview our incredible list of speakers or to register: CLICK HERE.

What are your biggest concerns about education in America?


  1. Greg Metz on December 5, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Tim… passionately and eloquently said… and right on brother… I could nto agree more…

    Greg Metz

    University of Cincinnati

  2. Joseph Lalonde on December 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    A big fault I see in education is how students are taught facts and not how to think analytically. Even though many students know the facts, when a tough situation comes up they’re unable to actually “think” through the problem.

    • Tim Elmore on December 6, 2012 at 4:35 pm

      Yes – critical thinking is a neglected, and much-needed, skill.

  3. Craig T. Owens on December 6, 2012 at 11:01 am

    As always, Dr. Elmore, you nailed it! Incidentally, I was a part of a focus group yesterday and we came up with some of the same thoughts you share here (although I’m not sure we expressed ourselves as succinctly and as eloquently as you did!). Keep up the great work!

    • Tim Elmore on December 6, 2012 at 4:36 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Craig. It’s especially interesting, and encouraging, to find that others are reaching the same conclusions!

  4. Brian Musser on December 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    The basic information and accreditation of a higher degree is available (and will become increasingly more available) without ever stepping foot on a campus. Quality online education will become more and more the norm especially as tuition and student loans create havoc on our economy. The most pressing question is not how do we make technical and professional training available for the masses. If the corporate world needs trained employees, they will find an avenue to meet that need. Higher education at one time was about creating leaders and citizens. It was supposed to provide students with not only the possibility of learning information but also how to think. Higher education was about the business of creating great individuals not just well-trained employees. How does higher ed. get back into the business of creating greatness? The side-bar to that question is – How do we do that when our bills are being paid by research, government and private loans and corporate sponsorship?

    • Tim Elmore on December 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm

      Great insight and questions. I’m interested to hear if anyone else wants to weigh in. Changing the education system is no easy feat. It took us a long time to get to this point and it will undoubtedly take time to get back but the question remains: How?

  5. Bethany Beaudrie on December 6, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    I am a middle school teacher and at that passionate about the work that I do to reach and teach kids! I have student loan debt. I look at what education is and where it is going and I can not support this post enough. Thank you for the work you do with young people and for writing about education and helping get the idea out there that things need to change!

    • Tim Elmore on December 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm

      Thanks Bethany! Glad you found the post helpful. Know that you are not alone in seeking change!

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Changes We Need in Education