Earlier this month, Purdue University’s president Mitch Daniels was in India for an alumni meet. Purdue University in the US claims to house the second-largest Indian student population of all US universities.
Daniels spoke to HT Education about plans to make Purdue education more affordable to international students, flipped-classrooms at the university and more.
What brings to you India?
Purdue has deep ties with India that we are eager to develop further. Close to 1,500 of our current students are from the country and thousands of our alumni reside here, including leaders in business, academia and government. We also are a very strong school in areas that are important to India, including agriculture, engineering, aerospace and technology. This trip is an opportunity to reconnect with our existing partners and to develop relationships with others who are interested in working with us in these areas.
What changes are you targeting when you say ‘the University continues to change the way classes are taught, with the goal of redesigning 60 classes per year’? How important is this change?
In the traditional college classroom, students passively sit in front of a professor who lectures from the front of the room. While this approach has survived for hundreds of years, it’s not the model that results in the most learning. Volumes of research have shown that students learn much more when they are actively engaged with course content. In particular, a lot of attention has been focused on ‘flipping the classroom.’ This is when a class uses a hybrid model that combines the best parts of online and traditional courses. In flipped courses, professors create custom online lectures that students review in advance of class periods. Class time is then spent working closely with the professor and other students on group projects that incorporate the content from the lecture. The US government recently awarded us a $2.3 million grant to study and teach this approach to other US universities.
Purdue has extended a tuition freeze for three consecutive years, curbed housing and meal costs, and partnered with Amazon to help with textbook savings. How do you plan to sustain these steps?
The costs to attend a university in the United States have exploded over the past decade. We are pushing back against this trend because part of our mission is to be accessible to students of all backgrounds, and we believe it’s the right thing to do.
The three largest expenses to students are tuition, room and board, and textbook costs. The measures you describe are the initial ways in which we have addressed all three drivers of the problem. Meanwhile, we continue to look for other ways to make a Purdue education more affordable to students and their families. This includes expanding scholarships and scrutinising university expenses that may no longer make sense.
With the second-largest Indian student population in the US, what would you say is the university’s strength and why does it attract so many Indians?
Purdue delivers an education that is highly valuable and relevant to our students. As an international institution, we prepare graduates to understand the world they live in and to relate to people across cultures. As a research intensive STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school, we give students opportunities to work alongside faculty mentors who are innovators of new technologies and problem-solvers of global challenges.