According to the founder and brand strategist of the Wayfinding Academy, the current education system has it all backwards. First, students are supposed to choose a college, then a major, then a job, then they get to try it out not knowing if all their choices will actually lead to a job they truly like. Couldn’t that be flipped frontwards? Couldn’t we completely reimagine higher education?
In this second part of my conversation with Michelle Jones and Gina Lorubbio of the Wayfinding Academy, we address the issue and the importance of education in general and what problems led them to create their own college from scratch.
One of the biggest problems of traditional higher education is that students go to college feeling lost and leave college without any idea of what is coming next. What’s even worse is that the system leeches students of all their creativity, spike and joy. Michelle believes that education is not something students should do without knowing their “why”. They should choose it consciously and also consider alternatives in case college is just not the right path for them.
Students need to know who they are and what they want to contribute to the world and that is what Wayfinding Academy promises every student will find out. Students won’t leave without knowing their next steps.
Another problem is the high cost of higher education and the high debt that results from tuition. For a lot of private, for-profit universities, tuition makes up 90% of their revenue and students have to shoulder that by themselves.
The Wayfinding Academy has a flat salary structure and a completely different financial model. They want to involve the community as a whole to help reduce the immense costs of attending college. The US has adopted the mindset that education only benefits the individual who obtains said education, when the truth is the entire community benefits from highly educated people.
With the Wayfinding “Labs”, their “Annual Wayfinder Weekend” and the “Luminaries Program”, tuition ends up being about $10,000 a year, which is significantly lower than private universities.
The impersonal nature of traditional colleges is another factor urging for a revolution. Even in small colleges students often feel like they aren’t seen as an individual and often feel like getting a degree is just a transaction. With more learning being moved online, courses become less personal and less tailored to students.
Wayfinding’s approach is the polar opposite. Their cohort size won’t be bigger than 24 students and the entire community will never exceed 150 members; a concept called Dunbar’s number. When a community exceeds 150 members, it becomes harder to cultivate personal relationships with everybody and the community often diffuses. Keeping the groups small will ensure the tailoring of the learning experience for the students.
If you would like to apply for Wayfinding Academy, go here: http://www.wayfindingacademy.org/