There was a whiff of the Ivory Tower in the salty Boston air. It’s that time of year, just around commencement time, when higher education leaders from around the country come to Boston’s historic waterfront for the Eduventures Annual Conference.
Eduventures Annual Conference has taken over the Seaport. #eac14
— Dean Fanikos (@DeanFanikos) June 5, 2014
Dean is referring to the Seaport Hotel, the longstanding home of the Eduventures Annual Conference. Guests arrived bright and early on Thursday morning, with Eduventures staff smiling and greeting folks as they entered the ballroom.
A hearty breakfast and some good coffee provided the buzz before the buzzwords. Then, Eduventures Senior Fellow and Principal Analyst Ken Hartman kicked off the conference with a provocative discussion of the critical issues facing higher education.
Ken outlined two key principles to frame his thoughts:
Sure, many schools are not structured as for-profit businesses. But in order to thrive, any institution must stay a financially sustainable course and compete in a market for consumers (or students) – just like a business. If institutions don’t figure out how to cut costs, the public will veer toward an alternative for obtaining education and credentials.
The opening address was followed by an annual conference highlight: the Presidents Panel. This year, we were joined by Dr. Jacque Carter, President of Doane College, and Dr. Wallace Boston, President of American Public University System. Kirk Carrapezza, reporter and higher education expert at NPR’s member station WGBH, moderated the conversation. The presidents kicked off the conversation by reminding us of the diversity of the American higher education system.
The two presidents agreed that an institution’s core vision and purpose should guide decisions large and small.
That’s even if you’re using Blackboard instead of a chalkboard.
Naturally, the discussion turned to data and the tools, sources, and capabilities that are transforming higher education. The world of higher education is brave and new. But we must keep heads, our accumulated wisdom, on shoulders.
The panelists also exchanged doubts about President Obama’s College Scorecard. The White House designed this tool to help prospective students understand the differences between colleges during their search process. The trouble is that not all colleges have the same goals or purposes, so it doesn’t make sense to compare (without qualifications or caveats) completion rates between, for example, highly selective institutions, universities with open enrollment, and all those in between.
After the Presidents Panel, conference attendees and presenters split into smaller groups for presentations of data, analysis, and case studies.
While the 2014 Eduventures Annual Conference will be remembered for its diversity of views and perspectives on what will be around the next bend of the higher education highway, there were was a certain consensus around the value of gathering annually to discuss and strategize together.
Hearty handshakes and even a few hugs marked the happy and satisfied finale of the conference.
This time next year! To those of you who joined us for the 2014 Eduventures Annual Conference, thank you! If you missed out, we hope you’ll join us for one of our post-conference webinars. To all, we look forward to seeing you soon and keeping the conversation going.