What are the essential features of the university? What features should survive and what might not in the wake of COVID? In this, our 750th (!) episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes back “the Cy Young of EconTalk guests,” Mike Munger to discuss the future of higher education.

Munger believes “top” schools can emerge from the current period of uncertainty to thrive in the long run. The path for “second-tier” institutions could be more difficult. What do you think? Use our prompts below to help us continue the conversation.



1- Munger describes four buildings on campus that capture the university experience today. What are they, and what are the purported functions of each? To what extent can each be “unbundled?” Which are more or less likely to be reformed? Explain.


2- Munger waxes nostalgic about how universities used to be explicitly humanistic. Why does he believe that colleges today have failed at the inculcation of students into the life of the mind? To what extent is this really a problem?


3- Which is better- in person or remote learning? On what grounds do you base your answer? Munger says comparing a great professor to a recorded lecture isn’t the right comparison. So what is?


4- What is the “B.A. divide?” How do modern universities privilege the wealthy, according to Munger? Again, what exactly is the problem with this? And how do you see this influencing the effects of COVID on universities?


5- Why do Munger and Roberts believe you should “read the classics,” What has been your experience with “very old books? How did it affect your ability to think? What books have most influenced your own education?