Most Popular of 2015, No. 5: College presidents predict new institutional models

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By John F. Ebersole, LpD, president of Excelsior College

1. Four-year community college: Florida and California have recently designated community colleges with specific expertise and reputation as bachelor’s degree granting institutions, in those fields. Students will benefit as they avoid the long vexing and costly problem of not having their lower division credits accepted.

2. Private systems: Following the decades-old model of hospitals, private colleges will increasingly move to merge and share services. Thanks to technology, geography and distance won’t be factors. Following in the footsteps of the Claremont Colleges and the Colleges of the Fenway, we are seeing a variety of affiliations occur; these range from sharing library resources, as Johns Hopkins does with smaller schools all over the U.S., to “takeovers” like those of John F. Kennedy University in California, and City University of Seattle, by National University.

3. Completion colleges: These mostly public institutions are not particularly new. Most were founded in the 1970s but have been recently “discovered” by the Lumina Foundation and others, as specialized sources of expertise in helping adult learners to complete degrees. Inexpensive and progressive, these niche colleges help adult transfer students who have accumulated credit and relevant experience but need guidance in terms of pulling it all together. With their focus on the working adult, these schools do not typically serve traditional aged students.

4. Flagship networks: This model is being pioneered by Northeastern University. Instruction is distributed from Boston to its growing number of “Graduate Centers.” A hybrid format combines face-to-face instruction with online. Centers now exist in North Carolina, Washington state and California.

5. The “franchise” model: Western Governors University (WGU) has established a network of state affiliations which are largely student recruitment vehicles, offering some localization. The states now on board include Indiana, Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, and Washington. Instruction primarily originates from the Utah campus for all.

6. New model—global university: A totally new model will be the emergence of the Global University Network through which U.S institutions will serve students in other parts of the world, and domestic students will have access to learning from abroad. With half the world’s population under the age of 25, access to higher education must take on new forms. Here may be a place for the next generation of MOOC.

Dr. Ebersole, president of Excelsior College, was a member of the inaugural American Council on Education “Presidential Innovation Lab,” convened in the fall of 2013. The imagining of new types of academic institutions was a part of this experience. This, and other, outcomes from the “Lab” are available on the ACE Web site.

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By Shawntel Landry, provost and interim president of American College of Education

There are three key external pressures that will drive new institutional models. The first is the deflationary pressure on tuition. In the retail marketplace, a consumer wants to know what she is getting for her hard earned dollar. However, consumers of education (i.e. students) routinely purchase on name, family experience, and reputation. Yet, the student of the future will want more for less. This new mindset will drive down tuition rates of many institutions as students become more cost conscious.

Instinctually, colleges will then look to differentiate, which brings us to the second external pressure – better measurements of instructional outcomes. Currently, we measure institutions by faculty ratios, research dollars, and institutional statistics. But rarely do we see actual measurement of instructional outcomes. This will spark studies, debates, and a litany of attempts to best determine if the student is actually receiving the knowledge that she purchased at enrollment. In the end, schools will need to be able to prove that they are better than their peers at instructing students. They must prove that the education was worth what students paid.

Which gets us to the final pressure: The only way that any school will survive in this future is to embrace technology in the education process. There is no single capability that can reduce price and track instructional outcomes like technology. We must embrace this change and recognize that countless studies prove that when done properly remote learning gets the job done, and gets it done well. Effective use of technology for both college efficiencies and student learning will be key to the college that delivers on its promise. After all, the primary job of a college is to deliver on the mission of educating students, and that should take primacy over all else.

Dr. Landry has spent more than 20 years in education at both the classroom and administrative levels, and served as a curriculum development consultant for online schools.

(Next page: Models 5-7)