My biggest push for non profit organizations is for them to realize the importance of collaborations. In order to increase our resources and strengthen our ability to help others we can’t operate as though we live on an island and are the only ones who can address a particular issue.

However, colleges and universities appear exempt from this suggestion often doing what they can to make themselves stronger and more competitive than the next school. But as students take on more loans and hardly make enough money to pay back those loans, there has never been a greater time for colleges and universities to work together to educate our country.

I was upset by this article in a Yahoo Column discussing the impact that the overwhelming amount of debt that college students are taking out has on their psychological and physical well being. On the on hand, many colleges have taken the lead on this issue and have greatly reduced the amount of loans they place on students. Harvard is the most famous of the universities taking such steps and I am incredibly proud that my alma mater, Haverford College, has also taken the lead among small liberal arts colleges to address this issue.

At the same time I have realized that the ability to give away millions of dollars to students is a privilege in and of itself that seems to only be occurring among elite schools. Interestingly these are also the colleges where graduates make the most money. Additionally, a sad reality is that these colleges often have strict admissions guidelines leaving out many students, often impoverished, who have not had the education and networks necessary to be admitted to these schools.

So instead of simply celebrating the slow yet necessary direction elite colleges and universities are taking to educate, why not move the discussion towards the the importance of colleges and universities reaching out to other colleges and universities?

Students and the country overall have a lot to gain from such collaborations.

1.  The population served by colleges and universities is incredibly large and diverse resulting in greater impact: Some schools count a large number of students who are the first in their family to attend college while others reap in big money from legacy admissions. Given the diversity of constituency it is imperative that we are always aware of best practices and have access to the best resources so that everyone is capable of being healthy productive citizens.

2.  The role of colleges and universities in society may be questioned, yet they are a necessity: As the economy fluctuates people will always question whether it is worth it to go to college. No matter which direction the debate goes, the importance of colleges and universities to society will always be critical. Scientific and social research is powered by colleges. Universities are places of personal and professional discovery and the power wielded by some schools truly knows no bounds. Some colleges set up high schools for teens while others have free health programs.

3.  Pooling together resources means more resources to share: At the end of the day no matter how much money my school or schools like it promise to give, the economic diversity of these schools is low. That shouldn’t automatically result in poor access to education. Rather, it should result in more resources being shared to ensure that students have what they need to be successful. As mentioned above, what they offer to communities is incredibly valuable so it seens logical to extend these benefits to ther colleges that may be lacking them.

I’d like to start brainstorming actual steps colleges could take to working more with other colleges in an effort to reduce costs and making a better college experience for potential students. What are some examples of colleges working together well with other colleges? What have the results of such collaborations been? What are the drawbacks of this kind of relationship?  How can we get schools interested in having this conversation put on the table?