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Modern day seismographs measure the timing, location, and power of how the earth bends and sometimes breaks. Although these are highly precise instruments, they can’t always predict when and where the next major earthquake will occur.
The daily drumbeat of cyber crime appears to have no boundaries. Recent testimony to the Senate Finance Committee revealed that hackers compromised up to 100,000 FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) applicants, leading to the suspension of the online tool last month. A February 2017 attack on more than 60 universities by a Russian hacker known as Rasputin came on the heels of assaults on a wide range of institutions from the United States Postal Regulatory Commission to the Rhode Island Department of Education.
Of course, these examples don’t even include the events of the 2016 political season.
Drawing on Eduventures’ 20-plus years of experience helping universities develop, launch, and assess academic programs, the Program Spotlight Series of Wake-Up Calls seeks to call attention to best practices in program development. The first in the series introduces the central elements of a strong market assessment through the lens of the healthcare administration market.
If you’re like many of our clients, you’ve watched the rapid growth of the healthcare industry and you’re probably wondering how to get involved. The possibilities are abundant. Should you launch a new program? Add a concentration? Invest in marketing? Move online? Retire a current program to open up new opportunities?
While online learning experienced significant innovation and growth over the past two decades, it’s most heady days of expansion may be behind us. Online enrollment continues to outpace overall higher education growth, but there is evidence that the supply of online programming is growing faster than demand.
This week ITT Technical Institute collapsed under the unbearable weight of multiple state and consumer advocate investigations, an SEC probe, an ongoing “show cause” from its accreditor, and heightened cash monitoring imposed by the federal government. Withdrawal of federal student aid eligibility for new students was the final straw. ITT was right to point out that none of these matters were resolved – even if the evidence looked damning – but the Department of Education was clearly unwilling to wait. ITT’s accreditor, ACICS, is itself at serious risk of loss of recognition, and if the history of lawsuits against for-profit higher education institutions tells us anything it’s that resolutions are rare, slow and ambiguous.
Let’s imagine that you performed the rare task of selecting and implementing a technology system that satisfied all stakeholder requirements. It even fit within the so-called “triple constraints” of being delivered within an acceptable timeframe, scope, and budget and resulted in a well-loved and well-functioning system. You would deservedly receive congratulations and pats on the back from your colleagues for a job well done. What if, however, the provost asked you to show her what benefits, such as helping to improve student retention rates, this technology was providing? Would this be an easy question for you to answer?
The Obama administration’s impending changes in overtime rules come with serious challenges for staffing admissions. Many exempt admissions staff earn less than the $47,000 threshold proposed in the rule change, especially at schools in parts of the country with a low cost of living. What will become of the road warrior admission counselor or the reader who logs 70-hour weeks poring over applications? The rule change certainly presents a challenge for budget-constrained colleges and universities, for which there is not an obvious approach to remaining budget neutral while paying overtime during peak periods.
Additionally, converting lower-level admissions staff to hourly workers could put the professionalism of admissions as an occupation at risk. Young, enthusiastic admissions staff benefit from the responsibility and flexibility of a salaried position. An institution can certainly convert lower level admissions positions to hourly status, but that feels like demotion. How can institutions manage the rules change without blowing the budget, psychologically damaging and demoting staff, and de-professionalizing the field?
Tell us what you think in the comments.
The standard critique of U.S. higher education is that it’s too expensive, embodies an often vague and inconsistent student experience, and graduates too few students. Institutions, vendors, foundations, and governments are busy with a host of purported solutions, but one argument is rarely heard: Are colleges and universities simply too small?
By Brian Fleming, Senior Analyst
With the amount of hype surrounding efforts to improve education outcomes, it’s easy to get the impression that the meaning of this term, “outcomes,” is implicit. It is not. “Outcomes” may be one of the most elusive terms uttered in education circles today, seriously stalling efforts to propel this much needed imperative forward.
By Rusty Hartley, Principal Analyst
Is anyone else concerned about the extent to which higher education is turning into a business?
Higher education continues to experience pressure to become more efficient, more effective, more affordable, and more accountable. This pressure is coming from pretty much anyone who has any stake in higher education – which means, pretty much, “everyone”. College rankings like the US News are only one example in their quest to rank schools based on metrics. President Obama has promised to link federal financial aid programs to a rating system that incorporates affordability, student completion, and employment metrics. Ratings agencies and accreditors may eventually follow suit with greater metrics analyses of their own. MOOCS and adaptive learning companies promise to use new technology and big data to enable scalability so that we can educate more students at little incremental cost. Even nonprofit schools are gaining back market share lost to for-profits by offering online programs though the strength and brand names of their traditionally on-campus programs. Finally, some schools are taking the concept of hiring distinguished faculty members to drive enrollments one step further by hiring ex-corporate CEOs or politicians as senior level administrators to help turn things around.
I’m sure I’ve missed a few but let’s put a jolt of reality into this discussion. Higher education is a long way from becoming a business. First of all, most schools are nonprofit, and education is still widely considered a nonprofit industry, at least by the public at large. While this exempts most from paying taxes, it nonetheless does not exempt them from operating in an economically prudent manner. Secondly, nonprofit schools are not traded on public stock exchanges and are not expected to post “hockey stick” revenue growth or “Jack Welch style” cost cutting measures to please investors. Regardless, public and political concern over the state of our educational system is exerting pressure on traditional non profit schools to act more like for-profit businesses. Changes affected by the growth of online education and for-profit schools have only exacerbated this. While higher education is far from being “for-profitized” – it is clearly moving in this direction, and it should ultimately benefit from doing so.
A Quaint Analogy
I was recently in the Midwest on a “business trip” speaking with a group of liberal arts faculty members about how to increase enrollments by revising their academic program offerings. We also discussed heady topics like disruptive innovation, big data, and educational technology. I was even told about the importance of positioning academic programs like Pele would position himself on the soccer pitch – “i.e., go to where you think the ball will be, not where it is now.” While an appropriate analogy to consider in launching new academic programs (or for that matter making any personal or professional investment decision), this is the kind of discussion we have every day at Eduventures. But this was new territory for these faculty members. It became rapidly apparent that they had no idea what the effect of business and technology will have on their futures. And why should they? They are brilliant mathematicians, scientists, and historians. The point is that greater change is coming to higher education, albeit slowly.
A Big Gulf
This change is being impeded by the big gulf that exists between non profit schools and for-profit businesses. Neither side really understands the other. Schools sometimes disparage business’ for-profit motives while vendors often do not understand what it means to operate in an academic environment. Eduventures often acts as the “middleman” – not only do we help schools assess academic program demand, raise money, and drive enrollments, we also help vendors navigate the often confusing channels of higher education. The role of objective third party vendors like Eduventures is becoming increasingly important as schools evolve to become more competitive and responsive to market pressures (please excuse this shameless act of self promotion…).
Grasp Change Quickly, but Act with Perspicacity
Despite having different economic incentives, schools and vendors can only benefit from working together. While vendors, especially those new to higher education, need to recognize the challenges of doing business in academic environments, schools also should understand that it is within vendors’ best interests to help their customers reach their goals. Postsecondary institutions should prepare for a more competitive environment in the coming years by considering the following.
As schools make strategic and organizational decisions that help them become more competitive, they should look to their mission statements for guidance. Justification will come from statements like “help advance society”, “provide knowledge and learning at the highest level”, and “provide global access to higher education”. Operating in a less insular and more competitive environment, using technology to create efficiencies and improve student learning outcomes, and proving this through metrics will help schools adapt better to the future of higher education. The concept of “for-profitiziation of higher education” is debatable – but using the tools we have available to us to provide a better education to more students, and advancing society in the process, is just good business sense and should be considered part of higher education’s natural evolution.