The backbone of the American higher education system

June 17, 2014

Jeffrey Selingo wrote a compelling piece in the Chronicle yesterday on the role of the bachelor’s degree. This article brought up a very central and timely question in higher education – how can we better serve today’s students and their needs through their college education?

It’s an important issue. In the past, a college education wasn’t required in order to advance financially, and a degree was mainly used to get a broad general education. The job-training aspect was intended to come later, in professional schools or from an employer itself. Today, owners of bachelor’s degrees have many expectations of what it should provide. It is expected that a bachelor’s degree should help students mature, train them to have critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and most importantly, “prepare graduates to step immediately into high-skills employment.”

How can we help all of today’s students get what they want out of their degrees? We know that college students today are extremely diverse. They come from all different ages and backgrounds. Jeff puts it plainly, “Those students deserve a new bachelor’s degree that better meets both their varied needs and aspirations and the requirements of today’s economy. It’s time to rethink the purpose of the degree and offer more flexibility as to when, where, and how students acquire it.”

There are exciting developments taking place in higher education today. With initiatives such as competency-based curriculum and self-paced options for earning a degree, today’s learners are given more options that fit their life and their expectations. However, we need to keep this momentum moving forward. Until the majority of business leaders say college graduates are ready for their jobs, until all college graduates say their degree helped move them forward in their career, until more people are able to have the opportunity to earn a degree, our work is not done.

Jeff’s article in the Chronicle is located here.

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Gallup-Purdue Index

May 7, 2014

Yesterday Gallup, Purdue University and Lumina Foundation released the results of their joint-research effort on the long-term success of graduates as they embark on their life after school. This index provides insight into the relationship between the college experience and whether college graduates have fulfilling lives.

This study comes at a crucial time – there has been increased awareness lately around the purpose of higher education institutions and holding them accountable for this purpose.

There were several compelling findings from the study. I encourage reading it in its entirety, or Gallup’s thorough summary (links below). One central conclusion found was that the type of schools college graduates attend hardly matter at all to their workplace engagement and current well-being. Instead, the study found that “support and experiences in college have more of a relationship to long-term outcomes for these college graduates.”

One disheartening statistic is that only 11% of college graduates are thriving – strong, consistent and progressing – in all five elements of well-being (purpose, social, financial, community and physical.)

Do you think this study will impact how higher education institutions interact with their students? How? Do you think it will affect how future college students pick which school to attend?

The whole study is available here, and Gallup’s synopsis of the study is located here. Please let me know any thoughts you might have on it in the comments section below.

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Scott Kinney to publish articles on LinkedIn

April 24, 2014

I am excited to announce that Scott Kinney, president of Capella University, is now writing full-length articles on innovation in higher education for LinkedIn. His first article was published last week and is focused on the relationship between competency-based education and the federal student financial aid system, what it needs to work, and why you should care.

In the article, Scott highlights a recent hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce titled “Keeping College Within Reach: Meeting the Needs of Contemporary Students.” Kevin Gilligan, CEO of Capella Education Company, was invited to testify on the behalf of Capella at the hearing. Capella did a great job at advocating for the need to support innovation through a restricting of our federal financial aid rules in order for competency-based learning to benefit students who depend on federal financial aid.

Here is a link to the article. I encourage you to follow Scott on LinkedIn, as Scott will have compelling input on meaningful areas of higher education.

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Meeting the explosive demand for skills that public institutions cannot always meet

March 18, 2014

Nexus recently released a study that focuses on the high costs that state taxpayers would incur if undergraduate students served by proprietary institutions instead enrolled in two- and four-year public institutions. The study calculated the financial implications in California, New York, Ohio and Texas from academic years 2007 – 2008 to 2011 – 2012.

Nexus’ study shows that there would be hefty fiscal costs if the propriety sector closed and thousands of students that are currently learning at these institutions then sought access to public colleges and universities. The study estimated that “across these four states, $6.4 billion in state appropriations would have been needed to support the education of these bachelor’s graduates and $4.6 billion to support the associate’s graduates.”

Below is the link to the report, and recent media coverage on the study.

Nexus: Do proprietary institutions of higher education generate savings for states?

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Shut down for-profit colleges? Not so fast, a study suggests

Inside Higher Ed: If for-profits vanished

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SXSWedu recap

March 10, 2014

I had a great time at SXSWedu this week. For those of you who aren’t familiar, SXSWedu is a conference focusing on innovation in learning. It is part of SXSW, which is an annual music, film and interactive conference held in Austin.

I was able to see Scott Kinney, Capella University President , and Deborah Bushway, Capella VP of Academic Innovation and Chief Academic Officer, speak at SXSWedu.

Scott participated in a panel called “Can the Liberal Arts Survive in an Age of Innovation?” The panel discussed the traditional four-year liberal arts experience and the changes facing it as innovation expands and the cost of higher education rises. Michelle Weise of the Clayton Christenson Institute, President David Maxwell of Drake University, and Liz Willen, editor of the Hechinger Report were also on the panel. It was lively discussion and kept coming back to competency-based models like Capella’s. Audience members raised thoughtful questions about the goal of higher education – was it to make a person happy, or focus on jobs and productivity? Liz Willen used a piece Scott wrote in the Hechinger Report a few months ago to frame the conversation.

Deb led a panel discussion hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation titled, “Online Instruction at Scale: Emerging Trends.”  They had a thoughtful discussion of how colleges and universities were handling innovation and the complex issues and decisions that followed it. Faculty from the University of Toronto and University of Texas at Austin discussed their approaches for producing a quality online course and Maria Andersen of Area9, a leader in online adaptive learning, discussed the evolution of MOOCS and the role of faculty in online teaching.

I was also had the privilege of attending a panel with one of America’s greatest living non-fiction writers, Robert Caro. He joined College Board President David Coleman, and Peg Tyre, a nationally renowned education writer, to discuss the power of analytical writing. If anyone is going to talk about the power of analytical writing, it should be Robert Caro and he didn’t disappoint. For anyone who is interested, his series of biographies on Lyndon Johnson is some of the best storytelling in modern literature. I know this praise probably sounds a little over-the-top, but at the panel discussion, David Coleman compared Caro’s introduction to Master of the Senate to Plato’s Republic, so I feel like I have some flexibility here. Lastly, my longtime friend Steve Clemons (no slouch as a writer in his own right) was there in his capacity as Executive Editor of the Atlantic to announce a forthcoming partnership between the Atlantic and the College Board. I’m always excited to see the results of any project of Steve’s.

It was a great conference and I’m already excited for next year. It’s an interesting combination of traditional academic conversations and ed tech entrepreneurialism. I left struck by the note of optimism Scott struck in his panel. We have huge challenges in higher education, but Scott rightly pointed to all the opportunity and innovation surrounding us each day. Did you attend SXSWedu? What was your favorite panel?

Looking forward to Capella’s commencement in Nashville this weekend.

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