What Makes a "Good College" — and Why It Matters | Cecilia M. Orphan | TED | Summary and Q&A

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What Makes a "Good College" — and Why It Matters | Cecilia M. Orphan | TED


In this TED Talk, the speaker discusses the importance of regional public universities and challenges the perception of highly selective colleges in higher education.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is the main problem in higher education according to the speaker?

The main problem in higher education, as highlighted by the speaker, is the cultural obsession with a limited group of highly rejective colleges such as Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, and MIT. These prestigious universities tend to cap the number of students they accept, creating a scarcity of spaces and leaving many capable individuals unable to attend.

Q: What are regional public universities (RPUs) and how are they different from highly rejective colleges?

Regional public universities, or RPUs, are a type of college that pride themselves on accepting almost everyone who applies. Unlike highly rejective colleges, RPUs prioritize inclusivity and give opportunities to first-generation college students, students of color, low-income students, veterans, and adults balancing work and family while going to school.

Q: How do regional public universities contribute to their local communities?

Regional public universities play a vital role in their local communities. They train nurses who provide healthcare, educate school teachers, and support small business leaders who create jobs. For example, Adams State University in southern rural Colorado is an affordable university that contributes $83.5 million annually to the local economy. These universities address the pressing challenges facing their communities.

Q: How does the speaker suggest addressing the funding disparity between highly rejective colleges and regional public universities?

The speaker suggests putting money where it matters most by funding regional public universities. Instead of giving donations to already wealthy alma maters, individuals can make a difference by giving to RPUs that truly serve their communities and provide education to those who may not have access otherwise. These donations can be transformative, as highlighted by a recent philanthropic gift of $1.5 billion to colleges and universities that serve low-income students and students of color.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Highly rejective colleges, such as Harvard and Stanford, receive excessive attention and perpetuate inequality in higher education by limiting the number of students they accept.

  • Regional public universities (RPUs) prioritize inclusivity and accept a wide range of students, including first-generation, low-income, and minority students.

  • RPUs, despite their significant contributions to local communities and upward mobility, receive less funding and charitable donations compared to highly rejective colleges. This exacerbates the rising costs of tuition and student loan debt.

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