How higher education administrators can support a changing landscape

April 2, 2015

The landscape of higher education is changing.

From rising tuition costs to diversity in student populations, the issues that administrators face today are not the same as they were even 5 years ago. Here are four ways higher education is changing and how administrators can stay ahead of these changes.

1. Shifting student demographics

           There has been a significant shift in student demographics during the past 10 years. No longer are all freshmen young and straight out of high school; today’s students have more work experience, are older, and are more racially diverse than ever before. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) recently reported that 4.8 million students (a quarter of the college population today) are raising dependent children.

How does this impact higher education administration?
By paying close attention to the shift in student demographics, administrators can develop curricula and policies for education delivery that fit the needs of their students. For instance, an enrollment services director or a director of recruitment may advocate for additional childcare options for students coming to campus to facilitate the needs of parents.

These same administrators might also promote the various online learning options for working students who have limited availability to attend class on campus.

2. Rising tuition costs

             The shift in student demographics suggests that those who may not have had the opportunity to go to college in the past are now accessing higher education, but they are still looking for affordable ways to attend college.

During the 2014-2015 academic year, upwards of 88% of full-time students in both private and public institutions saw tuition increases. College tuition will remain an issue—from increased costs to the White House’s free community college proposal. In fact, it is predicted that by the year 2030, the projected tuition for a 4-year, public, in-state school will be $57,609 a year, with 4-year, public, out-of-state school’s tuition increasing as high as $100,239 a year.

How does this impact higher education administration?
It is up to school administrators to understand how price can affect enrollment and programming. As the 2010 College Board Report points out, “colleges and universities will need to reduce the academic and financial barriers that often stand between underrepresented students and a college education.”

Administrators must work collaboratively with financial aid and student affairs to advocate for scholarships and additional affordable options for all students. Administrators will also need to market their programs effectively and prove value and return on investment of tuition.

3. Technology

             By the year 2020, 65% of jobs in the U.S. will require some form of postsecondary education. Using technology can create a system that fulfills the needs of not only students, but prospective employers as well. For example, virtualized desktops and cloud-based services are replacing PCs for administrative desktops, providing cost-savings to colleges and offering additional program services to students.

Students who have access to these advancements in technology are not only learning how to use them, but also becoming proficient in analyzing and synthesizing information at speeds much faster than before. These are skills that can translate into marketable expertise for future employment.

Even brick and mortar colleges that did not traditionally offer online education delivery are recognizing the need to provide technology that is on-pace with what students want—personalized information on-demand and on their schedule—and are starting to provide online learning options.

How does this impact higher education administration?
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are examples of how higher education institutions are using technology as a way to give busy students what they need. MOOCs can have an effect on revenue for for-profit colleges as well. One option being explored is to have nominal fees associated with MOOCs that provide certificate options, course credit, and are affiliated with higher education institutions.

Effective implementation of online learning and strategic partnerships with school chief information officers (CIOs) will be critical. Administrators should work closely with CIOs and other IT professionals as trusted business leaders who can not only provide information on what technology to use and how to use it, but provide information to support key decision making to fulfill strategic missions moving forward.

4. Mental health

             College students can face many issues as they pursue their careers—anxiety, relationship problems, and apprehension about their academic achievement—all of which can impact personal and academic success. Mental health is a growing concern at higher education institutions. In fact, the Jed Foundation estimates that nearly 10% of college students have considered committing suicide.

Moreover, 95% of college counseling center directors said the number of students with “significant psychological problems” is something to be aware of, and many of them felt the number of students with severe psychological programs had increased in the past year.

How does this impact higher education administration?
School administrators should stay in the know when it comes to mental health and the influence it can have on students. Implementing plans that deter the risks and having support for students and staff is one way administrators can demonstrate concern for students’ well being and collaboration among healthcare professionals, the school, and the surrounding community.

Colleges are establishing behavioral intervention teams that are responsible for detecting red flags, disturbances, or trends that may need special attention related to particular populations. These teams work collaboratively and proactively to offer appropriate interventions to improve the safety and mental well being of students, faculty, and staff.

A Master’s in Higher Education, Higher Education Leadership and Administration from Capella University can help you develop the skills to take a leadership role in higher education, and also provide you with knowledge in public policy, program administration, and education governance. If you are looking forward to being a part of the transformation of higher education, now is the time.

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