Forbes Education recently released their list of 15 key higher education issues for 2015. Many of these will be prominent this year as the Obama Administration nears the end of its eight year run. You can expect this blog to discuss these issues over the coming year:
The arrival of a new year brings with it the opportunity to reflect on that which occurred over the past twelve months and to look ahead at what awaits. For us in higher education, here is a list of issues that will be with us in 2015. Some are new. Others carryover from 2014. Each will likely require our time and attention.
- Reauthorization of the Higher Ed Act. Will incoming Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) chairman Senator Lamar Alexander (R) dismantle what Senator Harkin (D) built and “start all over,” as promised? Many hope yes. (See Andrew Kelly’s excellent piece.)
- Competency-Based Education (CBE). Unlike MOOCS, CBE – which leverages and builds on what an individual already knows – will not quickly fade. Still many questions to be resolved: What is it, who wants it, and who benefits? While CBE holds incredible promise, higher ed and employers must come together on common standards. The Competency-Based Education Network (C-BEN) has made a start but much remains to be done.
- Skills Gap. Is there one? The New York Times says “no,” but how do we explain five million unfilled jobs with so many still looking for work? Could it be that some technologies are changing so fast that higher education can’t keep up?
- Gainful Employment. A topic that refuses to go away. As written, the policy applies more broadly than most think (not just to for-profits), and as the American Association of Community Colleges notes, requires disclosures that are “absurdly complicated and extensive.” Who, we ask, benefits from this regulation?
- Unions. The organization of adjunct faculty unions will continue pushing already fragile institutions toward the brink and driving up the cost of education for all. Yet, who can criticize? Higher education has paid too little for too long.
- New Business Models. Does every institution need its own library, general counsel, human resources and finance office? Has the time come to consolidate services for multiple campuses as was done with hospitals decades ago? When will faculties and facilities be used year-round and teaching provided on a three semester basis? The usual eight semesters could be delivered in less than three years. Imagine the cost savings.
- The President’s New Rating System. Its late 2014 unveiling left many questions unanswered. The framework appears weighted toward admitting more low income students, charging them as little as possible, while graduating them on time and ready for high demand, high pay jobs. While laudable goals, this is sure to draw debate. Much distrust of the Administration’s ability to “rate” with precision exists. Could be collateral damage. Perhaps we should recall what happened the last time this was tried – in 1911!
- Jobs for Vets. With a 50 percent increase in the number of military leaving active duty (300K in 2015 vs 200K in a “normal” year) is higher education ready to help with job training and workforce readiness? Tuition costs won’t be a problem, thanks to the GI Bill, but post-graduation placement will be.
- The Relevancy of Degrees. Returning veterans say they don’t have time to earn a degree, at least not upon discharge. What they need, they tell us, is a credential that will get them a job. As noted above, increasing numbers of jobs require skills and knowledge that change more quickly than higher education institutions can provide. Thus, many employers are now accepting alternative forms of qualification in these quickly changing fields.
- Technology. Any list of predictions must include at least one on technology. For 2015, expect to see the long-rumored Apple wristwatch/telephone/PDA. It will take “mobile” and the portability of information to new levels.
- Outcomes. Learning outcomes, competency outcomes – this will be a year when educators and employers alike will focus on what the academy is producing, and deciding whether it measures up. Don’t expect agreement. Even MOOC providers may benefit by finally subjecting their “course” completers to valid assessments of learning outcomes.
- Completion. Secretary Duncan has talked much about Education’s “Completion Agenda.” As access has become nearly universal, thanks to Open Education Resources (OER) (not MOOCs), and other free sources of instruction, attention has shifted to getting larger numbers to complete. Reasons for stopping short will be subject to scrutiny. Reasons go beyond cost and time. Expect to see poor quality classroom instruction as a factor.
- Cost. Another topic that refuses to die. While increases in tuition have slowed, connections between greater regulation and cost, and the shift of tax dollars away from public education are too often ignored. Government continues to be a major reason for the high cost of learning.
- State Protectionism. Under pressure from the Federal government, greater regulation of higher education can be expected at the state level. While this new oversight will come in the name of protecting federal aid dollars, or consumer protection, some will actually be intended to protect in-state institutions. All will add to cost.
- Internationalism. As more institutions find themselves looking at enrollment shortfalls and a dwindling pool of traditional age students (high school numbers are already declining), attention is likely to shift abroad. With half the world’s population under the age of 25, the demand for U.S. education can be expected to grow. Benefits will flow in both directions.
For more information, please visit: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnebersole/2015/01/06/higher-education-issues-15-for-15/