“Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”
Niels Bohr, Danish physicist (1885 to 1962)
Sorry, Niels, but I respectfully disagree. I predict with confidence that the future holds change. I predict that over the next 10 years, higher education institutions, both public and private, will change drastically in order to adapt to the changing market.
Not only will competition increase among institutions, they will be required to look for new models of education delivery. From my vantage point as an educational futurist, I see all institutions fitting into one of the following categories in 10 years’ time:
These wealthy, well-known and well-endowed colleges can and will survive intact as the elite schools they are, and will continue to separate themselves from all others. There will be little impact on this type of school.
Educating the Masses
These institutions will take several forms, including large regional institutions, online colleges, both public and private, and community colleges. These institutions must become proficient at educating a large number of students quickly to meet the needs of the market.
I envisage mergers of small, stand-alone state and community colleges, both formally and through consortial agreements to gain these efficiencies and reduce costs.
Specialty and Niche Schools
There will always be a need for medical and law schools; however, this category will expand to also include quick-to-market, high-paying degrees and diplomas in such subjects as cosmetology, truck driving and mechanic training.
As the demand for more cost-effective degrees heightens, more students will turn to non-accredited para-educators such as massive open online courses (MOOCs) and corporate training to gain the knowledge they need, and then turn that into college credit for a fraction of the cost of traditional tuition.
Those that don’t exist
This is where most college presidents and the defenders of the status quo bristle. I firmly believe that if a college cannot identify itself within one of these four categories, it will fall into the fifth: out of business. I witnessed three colleges go out of business last year simply because they refused to change. It is a traumatic experience for the students, faculty, staff and community. Unfortunately, there are hundreds more of these colleges that are already out of business, but they continue to operate on life support from donors and on the backs of faculty and staff who have forgone salary to keep them going.
No matter what category surviving schools fall into, they are all competing against each other for the same students. The innovative and collaborative model of eduKan Online University can be used by state higher education institutions to better serve their students while also setting themselves apart from the crowd. State institutions will be well served to explore creative models to remain relevant and competitive. Re-engineering for innovative, sustainable and scalable models to deliver education in multi-modal and multi-nodal methods to meet the diverse needs of an ever-changing student body will allow state colleges and universities to differentiate themselves, not just from each other, but from private institutions as well.
As an institution, you must first know where you fall on the list and what strategy you are going to use moving forward. If you are one of the few elite state institutions, flout your clout. If you are going to specialize, then start designing and marketing unique programs. In the last year, eduKan has assisted its institutions in the design, implementation and delivery of unique degrees with a national reach utilizing online education.
If you are going to serve the masses, start employing technology and resources to reduce costs and become efficient in your program delivery. Pioneering the use of digitally-embedded content has helped eduKan reduce the cost of education to our students, and consortium-wide purchasing of technology resources, such as our learning management system, has reduced the cost of delivery for our institutions. As the first institution to utilize gesture-based biometrics for student authentication in online classes, we have proactively responded to, and set the standard for, student identification, reducing the costs to our institutions and students over traditional proctoring while blazing the trail for scalability and sustainability of our programs.
While I feel confident these changes are rapidly approaching, it is an institution’s ability to see and respond to the changing dynamic of higher education that will allow it not only to survive, but to thrive.
Mark Sarver is a visionary in higher education and an advisory board member of the open and connected NUTN Network.
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