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June 14, 2016

The Perfect Demographic Storm

This month, some 3.3 million teenagers will graduate from American high schools. If recent history is any guide, around 65 percent of them will go directly on to college this fall. While many more campuses are being filled with nontraditional students—working adults, part-timers, and international students—the traditional 18-to-22-year-old market remains the lifeblood of many institutions and is also the most predictable segment to forecast. For much of the past decade, demographers have been talking about not only a…
March 30, 2016

Yes, Higher Education Has Changed More Than We Think

At the recent annual meeting of the American Council on Education, I was asked to moderate a panel on the future of higher education. In preparing for the session, I read a myriad of reports and news articles about how slow higher education is to change at a time when the world around us is rapidly shifting. The truth is that if you step back from the headlines, it becomes obvious that much more has changed in the last…
January 4, 2016

Moving Innovation Off Campus

When Paul LeBlanc arrived at Southern New Hampshire University in 2003, he realized that the small, private, tuition-dependent college on the banks of the Merrimack River was destined to decline right along with the downward projections for high school graduates in the state. “I studied the cards we were dealt and looked for the best ones,” he said. In one corner of campus, he found his ace in the hole: a small online operation. Over the next several years, by…
August 31, 2015

The Birth of an Uber Learning Economy

Before the financial crisis of 2008, the typical answer to differentiating yourself in a job market crowded with bachelor’s degrees was to get yet more college by earning a master’s degree. But since the recession, enrollment in graduate school has been essentially flat as fewer students seem to want to take on the debt of going back to school or question the return on investment in a tough job market. A front-page article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this…
July 13, 2015

The Student Swirl Becoming More of a Norm in Higher Ed

The concept of the “student swirl” was conceived in the 1980s to describe undergraduates who moved among institutions before earning a bachelor’s degree. Students who transferred often did so because they made a poor initial match with an institution, or encountered academic or financial problems along the way. But now there is a growing body of evidence that students might be making a deliberate choice to transfer institutions as part of their pathway to a bachelor’s degree. First there is…
June 10, 2015

Slow to Grow

Why Does Enrollment Lag Demand at Elite Colleges?

The chance of getting into an elite college or university seems to be getting more difficult by the year. Every spring, selective institutions promote their latest admit rate, which is almost always as low or lower than the year before. It’s now a figure tracked by the mainstream media, another statistic in an endless line of numbers reported about higher education in the United States This year, Stanford received 42,487 applications, and accepted 5 percent of them. Harvard collected…
May 12, 2015

Unbundling Higher Education

To What End?

Recently, Arizona State University announced that it would partner with edX, the online platform for MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) founded by MIT and Harvard, to offer an online freshman year of college that students could take for free without admissions and apply for credit after the fact. The announcement is just another example of efforts in recent years to rethink the bachelor’s degree from a bundle of services offered by one college over four years (usually in a…
April 10, 2015

Gaining a Technology Platform

But Losing a University's Brand Name

The competitive pressures facing higher education these days are often compared to the massive changes that overwhelmed the music and publishing industries in the last decade. The music industry seems to have emerged at the other end of that transformation in better shape than it entered. The same can’t be said of newspapers, of course. But publishing companies continue to evolve and colleges and universities might still be able to learn lessons from the decisions they are now making about…
March 18, 2015

Higher Education’s Free Agent Future

What happens when Professor Everybody teaches at the University of Everywhere? I’ve been grappling with this question for the last week after I heard talks at SXSWedu in Austin and then in Washington, DC about the coming free-agent, unbundled era of higher education. At SXSWedu—the education offshoot of the popular music and film festival—Jeff Young, a senior editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education, explained how the so-called “sharing economy” might disrupt the higher education teaching model in…