2014: A Year of Change for Higher Education

There has been a lot of change and debate involving many topics in higher education over the past year and there is no doubt it will continue in 2014. A recent Forbes article outlined the top issues facing higher education in the New Year, and we tapped the academic, operations and compliance leaders for Globe Education Network of schools to discuss these challenges and what they mean for the GEN schools and higher education as a whole.

Cost

From student debt to tuition costs, the value of a college education –in terms of dollars and cents- was a major source of debate in 2013. Jeff Myhre, Globe Education Network CEO, says that education outcomes are becoming much more transparent, which will lead all colleges and universities to strive for improvement.  Myhre adds the true cost of education is much different than what students pay for tuition. “According to a study by Shapiro and Pham, public institutions with four-year degrees receive 45 percent of their revenues from direct government grants and students pay only 18 percent of the cost of the education.  Compare that to private, for-profit colleges where institutions receive 5.5 percent of revenues from government funding and students pay 88 percent of the cost of the education. The cost of education at public institutions is rising because people are beginning to realize that taxpayer costs to private institutions are much lower, and the outcomes can be just as good.” Globe Education Network has taken considerable measures to make college more affordable for its students, such as transitioning to a digital learning model that includes replacing costly textbooks with iPads, providing scholarships and lowering tuition by 8.2 percent for full-time students annually.

Renewal of the Higher Education Act

There are a lot of strong opinions surrounding the revision of the Higher Education Act, which provides educational resources and financial assistance for post-secondary institutions. Tom Kosel, director of government relations for Globe Education Network, points out that it’s hard to develop standards of eligibility based on outcomes and apply them to all higher education institutions because of the wide differences in student populations. Kosel believes using risk-adjusted metrics or outcomes would be beneficial to schools and students. “If a school with a higher-risk student body – meaning students who are older working adults, single parents or attending part-time – is able to list the percentage of at-risk students along with its completion or employment rates, students with similar characteristics would be able to identify schools where they are more likely to succeed.”

Workforce development

Employers are always looking for applicants who have the necessary skills for a particular job, but some think higher education needs to do a better job of preparing students for the workforce. As a system of career colleges, Globe Education Network strives to do just that by providing students with the skills needed for their careers. “We use program advisory committees to get employer input on our curriculum,” says Dr. Mitch Peterson, director of institutional quality and effectiveness for Globe Education Network. “It helps us stay in tune with the skills gap, and helps us decide which new programs we should develop or which changes to the curriculum we may need to make.”

Competency-based education (CBE)

Competency-based education is a new concept, many do not know exactly what it means, how to measure it or if it’s even credible. CBE focuses on the ability to apply previously acquired learning rather than the attainment of new learning. Globe University has volunteered to be a pilot school for CBE, and Academic Dean Shana Weiss is excited about the opportunity. Weiss points out that Globe has a type of competency-based education in a lot of its programs already, and this would officially solidify it. “I look at it as adaptive learning,” she says. “Students have to demonstrate their learning along the way.”

Accreditation

The topic of accreditation is tricky because not many people understand the process. There is disagreement about the present system; the debate is whether there should be a regulatory enforcement body or one of quality assurance. The process of peer review has been called into question, even though it has long been a strong part of the of accreditation process. “I see peer review as the purest form of regulation,” says Jeanne Herrmann, Globe Education Network Chief Operations Officer. “Those that are doing the review are keenly aware of how things should be done and have an obligation to their profession to ensure member institutions are meeting and exceeding the standards set forth by the accrediting body. They are always focused on continued quality improvement.  We either rise above together or fall together.”

Assessment

There is concern about whether or not institutions of higher education are actually effective and whether or not ways of measuring their effectiveness are accurate. Dr. Peterson says Globe Education Network has many ways of evaluating students’ progress, including standard learning assessments to collect information each quarter across all campuses and a program called eLumen. “These assessments allow for us to analyze learning outcomes and adjust or improve our curriculum as necessary,” says Peterson.

Quality assurance in non-institutional learning

Many institutions want to give students credit for what they have already accomplished, whether it’s experience in the workforce or the military. Dr. Peterson says Globe is one of those institutions. “We are always looking for ways for our students to receive the credit they deserve for their experience,” he says. “We use standards to determine exactly how this is measured and awarded.”

The need to recognize the (not-all-that-) new majority in student bodies

Less than half of all college students fit the description of a traditional college student, which is 18 to 24 years old studying full time on campus. Most students are older, working full time, commuting or taking online classes. Tom Kosel explains why it is important to adjust to these kinds of students. “In addition to the major changes in demographics, alternative delivery systems using innovations in technology must be recognized as legitimate means of receiving an education,” he says. “Students working full-time with children need maximum flexibility in accessing their instructors and courses.” With the flexibility of the educational user experience (edUX), we are recognizing the diversity of its students, and Kosel says others should too. “Public policy should celebrate the variety of educational systems that allow students a choice in finding the learning environment that meets their needs,” he says. “It should encourage and reward innovation that expands student access and choice.”

A leadership crisis is looming

The average age of college and university presidents is rising, and as the baby boomer population continues to retire at a rapid rate, Globe Education Network Provost Dave Metzen says we are also losing the valuable knowledge of those leaders. Metzen believes this is not only an issue in higher education but in all areas of American business. “Because the economy has been so up and down, younger people are not able to get the experience and training they need in their jobs, and therefore are not able to move up the corporate ladder,” he says. “We need to train people between the ages of 25 and 45 so that they are prepared to be the next generation of leaders in all industries.”

The economy

With the economy growing and employment opportunities rising, some argue that a post-secondary education isn’t necessary to getting a job. At Globe, students are learning the specific skills needed for a career in their industry of choice, and Myhre says this is beneficial. “Students should choose a college that offers training on the skills and outcomes students need to be successful in their chosen field,” says Myhre. “Whether it’s communication, problem solving or engineering, all jobs require a skill.”

From accreditation to the Higher Education Act to the economy, 2014 is going to be another year of change in higher education. Globe Education Network is embracing this change and prepared to not only adapt, but to stay on the forefront of these developments, continuing the 125 year history as a leader in post-secondary higher education.  To learn more about Globe University visit www.globeuniversity.edu