Hardly a month goes by without a new release of empirical evidence about whether Americans believe college is worth it. This month, it was findings from the 2015 National Study of Student Engagement (NSSE). Among students who are already enrolled in college, 30% of first-year students and 28% of seniors do not consider college to be a good investment. These misgivings about value and worth put a strain on the ability of colleges and universities to grow their net tuition revenue above the rate of inflation, as the credit rating agency Moody’s has noted.
To thrive in today’s higher education marketplace, a college has to be both affordable and accountable. It has to show how it is delivering value. Even at colleges that are doing good work—for instance, engaging in the high-impact educational practices identified by the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U)—proving their value can be a communication challenge. But for every institution, “it takes a village” of every employee working together to continuously improve the college’s value and find ways to translate the meaningfulness of what it delivers in terms that resonate in the marketplace.
During this season of professional association meetings, the concepts of innovation and creativity have been front and center. But as former Summer Seminar speaker Keith Sawyer (author of Zig Zag: The Surprising Path to Greater Creativity and Group Genius) has pointed out, our society has myths about how innovation takes place. It’s not usually a big flash of insight by a lone genius on a straight path to success, but rather it emerges over time with small ideas from many people after multiple dead ends. It requires a truly collaborative organization where people can generate ideas and then share and build on them.
Helping Students Gauge Value
The Chronicle highlights how it’s not so easy for influencers like college counselors to help families choose a college based on value.
The Value Balancing Act
In a guest post on our website, Jon McGee argues the best college value comes from balancing “soul craft” and “career craft.”
100% of the members responding to its survey are tracking graduation rates and retention rates of all students, reports Inside Higher Ed.
At our Lunch with Lawlor event in San Diego last month, author Amy Wilkinson picked up on the idea of collaboration and cognitive diversity as key ingredients for innovation. She spoke to an audience of veteran enrollment management and college admissions professionals about “The Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs,” as you can see in our highlights video.
There is no question that colleges and universities must put on their thinking caps and get more creative about responding to the realities of today’s higher education marketplace. In many instances, the learning environments that were once known for the art of civil discourse have become centers for polarized perspectives. Now is the time for creative solutions. Organizations benefit when they bring together different individuals whose brainpower and cognitive diversity create a network of minds. That network can then tap varied perspectives for problem solving and unlock even more dynamic solutions. And when that happens, it provides the congruence necessary to move forward in a manner that reflects a collective sense of self.
As we move into this season of Thanksgiving, let’s celebrate the cognitive diversity that permeates most campuses and give thanks for those leaders who foster a spirit of collaboration and encourage creative solutions from a community of networked minds.