Home » Uncategorized » Are these trends what disruption in #highered is all about? #emchat #admissions

Are these trends what disruption in #highered is all about? #emchat #admissions



Higher education is in a state of flux and one cannot read The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, The Hechinger Report, Business Week, Forbes, The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal without getting the sense that colleges are acting and reacting. Below is a summary of some of the more interesting things happening across the higher education landscape that have captured my attention. While it is too early to assess whether some of these efforts are “market-leading” or reactions to the market, they are worth noting.

Three-year bachelor’s degrees

There are many who believe the four-year model is nothing more than preserving the status quo and has little to do with results and student-learning outcomes. Stephen Trachtenberg, former president of George Washington University, called the four-year degree “wasteful and expensive.” (2012, Hurley & Harnisch).

The concept of a three-year degree, especially within an independent or stand-alone unit, could be attractive for many reasons. However, the primary reason to consider a three-year degree is to attract a more serious look from students who might otherwise eliminate a private college from consideration because of cost. Reducing the price and real cost of a degree by one-quarter has the potential to be a game-changer and a strategy that represents going on “offense” in a difficult and predatory market. (Combining a three-year degree program with competency certification would be even stronger.)

Three-year degrees also may have increased appeal to emerging student populations, which tend to be more career-focused and less attached to some of the aspects of traditional models for higher education.

While there are examples of non-profit colleges introducing three-year degree programs (Georgia Perimeter, St. Johns, Hartwick), the three-year degree option seems to be taking off among for-profit colleges. Another interesting aspect of some three-year degree programs is that they often are cohort-based (American University).

The results are mixed and although there was a great deal of momentum in 2011-12 to rethink the bachelor’s degree as a three-year process to make the degree more affordable, it appears much of the push has waned.

Interested in learning more? Please Google the following headlines:

 “New Three-Year Degree Programs Trim College Costs”

“New momentum for the three-year degree?”

“3-year college degree programs not catching on”

“3-Year Degrees? Not So Fast”


New online ventures

MIT recently announced “mini-MOOC minors.” Babson announced it would license Entrepreneurship courses online to be delivered by other institutions. Gettysburg approves students to take MOOCs as a supervised independent study and provides credit. Colleges are experimenting with many online ventures—some as a new area of business and growing revenue and others to supplement a robust residential experience. This is a fast-changing aspect of higher education and many colleges are working to grow their capacity to deliver or direct programs. This is likely to be the area of higher education that will change most in the next five years.

Interested in learning more? Please Google the following headlines:

“Babson Plans to License Entrepreneurship Courses to Other Schools”

“Mini MOOC Minors”

“MOOCs, Flips, and Blends”


Beefing up career services

Many colleges are expanding the mission of their career services office. Some colleges are expanding service to young alumni and others are increasing the size of the staff devoted to career counseling. There is clear evidence than many colleges are responding to the market data indicating that getting a job is a clear priority for college-bound students. While the trend toward more and better is clear, it also is clear there is no specific formula for organizing or improving career services. A report issued in the spring of 2013 calls for transformation of career services and many colleges are responding.

Interested in learning more? Please Google the following headlines:

“Struggling to launch”

“How to get a job with a philosophy degree”

“Career services must die”

“Career services must die, Andy Chan, TedTalk”


Competency-based programs/degrees

In recent months a number of for-profit and not-for-profit colleges across the nation have introduced competency-based programs/degrees. These programs revolve around testing student mastery and competency or content and knowledge. These programs are being positioned as a way for students to accelerate their degree. The Department of Education approved Capella University’s program, which was described as a way for students to earn a degree “efficiently and affordably.” Southern New Hampshire University, another for-profit, was approved for a similar program. However, this trend has not been limited to for-profit colleges. Northern Arizona University and Texas A & M—Commerce and South Texas College have partnered to offer a hybrid program. 

There are some liberal arts colleges that offer students the opportunity to takes exams to demonstrate proficiency in certain areas, but this does not seem to be a trend being embraced by colleges like Augustana.

Interested in learning more? Please Google the following headlines:

“Education department approved competency-based program at Capella”

“Competency-based education advances with US approval of program”

“Competency-based transcripts”

“Texas institutions announce competency-based program”

Tuition “resets”

The media has been full of examples of colleges and universities dramatically cutting their tuition and overall price. Among the colleges cited are Converse College, Belmont Abby College, Concordia-St. Paul, Charleston College (West Viginina) , and the University of the South–Sewanee. The popular media has hailed these bold moves as a way to address the perception that higher education is becoming unaffordable. However, the higher education media has taken a more cautious approach. It appears on the surface that many of these resets are undertaken within the context of declining enrollments and shrinking demand. The results are mixed so far, but it’s worth watching and learning from those who have initiated a tuition reset.

Interested in learning more? Please Google the following headlines:

“Colleges slash tuition to avoid sticker shock”

“Paper (tuition) cuts”


Internships and getting a job

Internships have been under the spotlight in recent month for a host of reasons, but most importantly because there is increasing evidence that internships lead to jobs. While not all of the data is conclusive and there are some who believe unpaid internships do not always lead to a job, there certainly is a good deal of evidence that an internship is an increasingly important step in landing a job. This de facto requirement is forcing colleges to think critically about how academic programs are organized and how credit is awarded. Expect internships to be a continued focal point for college-bound students.

Interested in learning more? Please Google the following headlines:

“Internships May Be The Easiest Way To A Job In 2013”

“Internships become the new job requirement”

“The Importance of Being an Intern”


Canada for college

Demographics for college-bound students are unfavorable across much of the U.S. and a new trend compounds the problem. Between 2001 and 2011 there was a 50% increase in U.S. citizens enrolling in Canadian universities. Students frequently cite cost and quality as the reasons to choose a Canadian university over an American college. Increasing numbers from the shrinking American pool choosing to go to college in Canada is not something U.S. colleges anticipated.

Interested in learning more? Please Google the following headlines:

“College in Canada more appealing than ever for Americans”

“Americans head north for affordable college degrees”

“Lower costs lure U.S. college students to Canada, UK”


ROI, high salaries and new metrics

The College Scorecard along with a number of other ROI calculators have emerged as new sources of information for college-bound students, influencers and legislators. These new metrics are uncomfortable for many in higher education as they trend toward numbers and outcomes. While it is difficult to know what to make of some of these new metrics, and there is no evidence yet that they are influencing college choice, they are here to stay and all colleges must figure out how and when to respond. There is little doubt, though, that metrics like debt load, starting salaries for graduates and net cost are likely here to stay—and the more a college has to explain away a metric, the more likely it is to more toward irrelevance.

Interested in learning more? Please Google the following headlines:

“New Metric for Colleges: Graduates’ Salaries”

“Measuring A College’s Worth: The Grateful Grads Index”

“25 Colleges With the Best Return on Investment”

“How Do Schools Stack Up?”

 “Scoring Obama’s College Scorecard” 


What are you seeing that is making you take notice?

W. Kent Barnds @bowtieadmission

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