Dislodging the Intractable

Tis the season again … and no doubt, one full of reflection. In many ways, December 2022 is another round of thinking back about the past three years and literally wondering what will happen next. Most colleges and universities—along with students and families—are constantly pondering how sustainable is it to fix a continuing set of problems, while also celebrating a few moments of success.

A few months ago, Jeff Selingo wrote a very relevant article for the Chronicle of Higher Education Review titled “How to Stanch Enrollment Loss: It’s time to stop pretending the problem will fix itself.” And while “stanch” is often a reference to “stopping the flow of blood,” it is definitely a relevant simile for much of what is challenging today’s colleges and universities.

Michael B. Horn also shared some more insight with his post titled, “How Leaders Can Successfully Manage Change in Colleges and Universities.” He noted, “How to get cooperation and agreement to move an institution forward is one of the trickiest parts of the higher ed leader’s job. Yet moving forward must be a priority as higher education copes with the emergence of technology-enabled learning solutions while maintaining an increasingly expensive traditional educational model. Add to this environment a number of stressors—from the challenges of educating during the pandemic, to shrinking numbers of high school graduates, to turbulent debates over what schools can and can’t teach and what faculty can and can’t say—and it’s imperative to chart strategic paths forward rather than stay put or drift.”

Longtime Chronicle reporter Goldie Blumenstyk recently published an article with the opening phrase, “Enrollment woes fuel a push for more online and hybrid courses — and other changes, too.” She referenced recent research via Bay View Analytics titled “Planning for a Smaller Future: Dealing with Declining Enrollments.” She noted the survey report “shows that 89 percent of college leaders are concerned about future enrollment and many of them are responding by introducing more courses and academic programs in online or hybrid formats, adding micro-credential offerings, and beefing up their recruiting of students who had previously stopped out of college.”

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No question, we are all still living in a conundrum, but today’s situation is a catalyst for continuing to be edupreneurial.

As we noted at the beginning of the year in our January Focus, “So many of us have been longing for 2022 to be a fresh start and a renewed opportunity to finally return to the highlights of living, working, studying, competing, and socializing in a campus community again. And yet there continues to be a lingering shadow of uncertainty about not only this year, but the years ahead.” And in many ways for many people, the situation is also intractable—hard to control or deal with the economic problems or consequences.

Needless to say, good things can happen and will happen. Stay positive, think outside-the-box, and focus on working together for the better good. And, 2023 (2+0+2+3=7) may turn out to be a magical year for all of us. Happy holidays and best wishes!