By Leadership Content Director, Karlyn Borysenko
Higher education is facing more critique than at any other point in recent history. From the college scorecard to President Obama’s focus on the affordability of a college education, 2013 was the year during which higher education, as a whole, went under the microscope. To stay competitive and to thrive in the current higher education landscape, it is critical that college and university leaders prioritize, focus, and evolve their operations and their offerings.
Below, we offer our advice and insights on the five most important issues facing higher education today, taken from our latest report: Prioritize Focus, Evolve: Five Critical Issues Facing Higher Education Leaders in 2014.
- The Continued Scrutiny Of Higher Education
Increased scrutiny and attention is resulting in key stakeholders (students and alumni) questioning the value of their degree, with 24% of alumni saying the cost of their education exceeded its value. The impact of your alumni’s perception of the value of their education is not abstract, particularly when considered in context with their debt load. Once student debt reaches the $20,000 – $30,000 range, it has an impact on their propensity to give back to their alma mater.
- The Prioritization Of Outcomes
The Obama administration has focused particular attention on the post-graduation success of college graduates, including metrics such as employment rates and average salaries. But the government isn’t the only audience that cares about outcomes. For the first time, career preparation outpaced academics, social environment, and affordability as the top driver of college enrollment among traditional-aged students.
- The Retention Culture
According to Inside Higher Ed’s survey of CFOs, retaining current students tops all other revenue producing strategies at 92%, beating out increasing the endowment (62%), developing and expanding online programming (58%), and investing more in fundraising (53%). While the majority of institutions provide at least one ongoing program to aid retention, the target population of those programs is wildly inconsistent across student populations, and primarily focused on first-year students. Additionally, when ongoing programming is offered, it typically focuses on academic factors and does little to address the social and financial factors that play a role in retention.
- The Blended Learning Opportunity
We believe that the future of the university is a multi-channel strategy that leverages technology to enhance teaching and learning, drive down costs, and produce the desired learner outcomes across a variety of delivery mediums. The reality for most institutions is that the academic experience currently delivered is a distinct, siloed strategy for each type of student – the undergraduate student experience, the graduate student experience, and the online student experience – without much, if any, overlap. Just as the e-commerce wing of retail chains evolved to become an integrated and critical part of their overall strategy 20 years ago, we believe that the student experience will go through a similar evolution.
- The Regionalization Of Online Higher Education
As of 2013, 60% of degree-granting institutions were offering online programs, double the number that offered them in 2005. This growth has fragmented the market among many different types of providers of various size and scope. Despite aspirations of national and international reach, the reality is that most online providers do not extend beyond their immediate, if not local, region. Though the technology is there, increased regulation has made crossing state lines harder than ever before.