2013: A Year in Review
The Future of Higher Education
While the number of traditional institutions is going to plummet in 50 years’ time, niche institutions will spring up to take their place, increasing dramatically the number of colleges and universities in the higher education marketplace.
Looking ahead, it is critical for higher education institutions’ marketing units to know which communications and promotions tasks would be better to outsource to marketing solutions providers.
The year is 2064, and the higher education industry is vastly different from what it was in 2013.
Commoditization and Competition of Higher Education
As higher education becomes more commoditized, what’s lost is the uniqueness and individuality of different programs. In return, however, the system gains greater efficiency in producing and disseminating content.
Colleges and universities have many resources to compete in the highly competitive professional development marketplace, and having name recognition is an added bonus for larger institutions. The biggest drawback, however, is the inability of these institutions to dedicate large numbers of full-time staff to these training endeavors.
As digitization grips the higher education marketplace, the differences between prestigious institutions and the rest of the market are becoming less pronounced.
Financial Support for Non-Traditional Students
Traditional degree programs do not necessarily provide students with a more cohesive learning pathway than a mosaic approach would.
Non-traditional students should do their research and work with an advisor to ensure they understand the financial assistance options available to them.
Adults in the United States have been significantly challenged by the rapid increases in tuition fees, but the value of higher education is still widely accepted.
The 60% Degree Completion Initiative
The 60 percent attainment target, based on international trends and labor market projections, is critical for the American economy, society and individuals.
Integrating just-in-time learning and prior learning assessment into degree programs will help the 60 percent completion initiative with its goal of strengthening the workforce.
Degrees and noncredit certificates and certifications have their own benefits and values, but the best option depends on the individual’s situation.
Lessons from Other Industries
In a commoditized marketplace, the product a particular company is selling becomes less important than the services or supports they can bundle it with.
It may be more beneficial for smaller colleges and universities to focus on equipping students to use the knowledge available to them rather than on purely disseminating ideas.
By failing to recognize the evolving needs of their customer base, Kodak and Blockbuster found themselves obsolete; a critical lesson for higher education administrators.
Seeing Students as Consumers
E-commerce solutions might provide higher education leaders with the key to success in this highly competitive marketplace.
Inside the classroom, students are students. However, outside the classroom, it’s critical for institutions to treat their students as customers to ensure retention and future enrollments.
Higher education institutions must upgrade their approaches to business management to keep up with the demands of today’s students, who behave more and more like customers.
MOOCs Under Fire
Before MOOCs can gain any more ground in the higher education space, it’s critical to understand what they can deliver on and what may simply be an empty promise.
If institutions refuse to focus on differentiating themselves with content, they will quickly find themselves unable to compete in the commoditized higher education marketplace.
Free online courses are providing skilled workers with an accessible pathway to advance their skills and knowledge but are not in a position to change traditional higher education as yet.
Inter- and Intra-Institutional Collaborations
By collaborating on major ventures, institutions can expand their offerings and programs beyond any internal limitations in expertise without having to break the bank.
By partnering together, institutions have the ability to innovate in the development of their courses and share ideas and resources.
By promoting cross-campus collaborations, higher education institutions can reduce prices for students and costs for institutions while increasing offerings and efficiency.
The Power and Promise of Higher Education
While there are more mechanisms in place to support parents as they work towards a higher education credential, pursuing a degree while supporting a family is still a very challenging proposition.
After her own experience as a non-traditional student, Sandra Woodley plans to ensure that institutions that serve mainly non-traditional student bodies are recognized for their good work during her presidency of the University of Louisiana System.
Earning a higher education degree gives adult students more than just a credential for the workforce; it provides critical experience graduates can translate into much-needed soft skills to succeed in the labor market.
Higher Education and the Workforce
Employers are beginning to look internationally for talent, so higher education institutions must ensure they are producing graduates with workforce-relevant skills.
Higher education institutions have a critical role to play in developing the future workforce and in allowing a province or state to capitalize on its natural resources. Funding is often used as an incentive for institutions to pursue this type of development.
The federal government could have a role in supporting LiLAs by incentivizing individuals and employers to invest in ongoing education and training to ensure everyone is prepared to meet tomorrow’s workforce needs.