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Higher Ed Under Duress

In her StratEdgy blog on Inside Higher Ed, Harvard University Division of Continuing Education Associate Dean Margaret Andrews laid out the issues that are keeping higher education stakeholders and professionals up at night.

First, the question of whether or not higher education is a business. She says higher education institutions are losing the ability to prove the value of their product.

Second, she said the most important issue facing higher education right now is the balance of cost and quality. How can universities justify the cost of rising education when they can barely provide a succinct reason to get a degree beyond, as Andrew pens it, “trust me, folks, we’re a university”.

Third, she point out that colleges may be losing their monopoly on credentialing. With the increase in alternative forms of education and credentials—digital badges and massively open online courses being two examples—and as the accreditation system comes under more scrutiny, Andrews fears the days of college monopoly on legitimate learning may be over.

Fourth, she says many colleges are toying with the idea of reducing standards to increase completion rates. As the value of the degree itself faces more and more questions, and completion becomes the standard metric for college performance, how valuable will degrees actually become?

She points out as well that declining state funding and an out-of-date business model will torch access to in-class higher education for underprivileged or part-time students.