Smart Investment in Higher Ed Outcomes

Business officers at private colleges and universities are realizing the need for “edupreneurial” action, as only about a third of them consider their institution’s current tuition discount rate to be sustainable. Inside Higher Ed‘s “2015 Survey of College and University Business Officers” also found that 79% of the respondents will be trying to increase overall enrollment for the 2015-16 academic year, and 72% will be launching new revenue-generating academic programs.

No matter what, the perceived institutional value proposition and its accompanying price point must be in alignment with what students and families are willing to invest. These market conditions are a catalyst for higher education leadership to get smart about their own investment opportunities.

To accomplish enrollment and revenue goals, higher education administrators might do well to note where the investment dollars of education foundations, education technology companies, and even the federal government are going:

  • The Markle Foundation has united LinkedIn, Arizona State University, and edX in an effort to match Americans to available jobs by connecting workers, employers, and training providers in an initiative called Rework America. Its components include a credentialing system to assess and demonstrate a worker’s skills, along with online training by providers such as community colleges and boot camps.
  • The U.S. Department of Education is experimenting with ways to channel federal financial aid dollars to “ed tech” companies via students enrolled in alternative degree programs that offer badges and microcredentials, according to the Chronicle.
  • The Woodrow Wilson Foundation is creating an alternative teacher education program that will be competency-based, reports Inside Higher Ed.
  • The Lumina Foundation has awarded grants to several partners who are developing a credentials registry to offer students a way to learn about alternative degree programs. Lumina is also the funder behind a project to reinvent the college transcript in order to better reflect students’ competencies.

These initiatives can be a source of inspiration for higher education administrators who want to align their institutional resources with marketplace needs in launching new revenue-generating academic programs. But these initiatives are also noteworthy because some of them might prove to be a source of competition for private colleges that are attempting to increase their overall enrollment.


Digital Credentials

Fast Company reports that corporations are finding ways to avoid relying on colleges to educate their workers.

Optimism Improves

Sallie Mae’s annual survey of parents found fewer of them worry their student won’t find a job after graduation.

Skills Translator

A college has figured out how to describe what its students learn using words that employers appreciated.


Lawlor Recommends

Aligning institutional resources with marketplace needs requires a sort of “backward design” or “reverse engineering” that takes the desired outcome as the starting point and builds toward it. It requires empathy, as Simone Ahuja has argued.

Ahuja was a stand-out speaker at the Summer Seminar hosted by The Lawlor Group last month. An expert on frugal innovation, she says one of its key tenets is that you design not for the existing model, but rather for the unmet need. (Watch her apply the principles of frugal innovation to higher education.)

At a time when private colleges and universities are finding both their financial resources strained and their delivery model disrupted, adopting such an attitude of frugal innovation with an accompanying edupreneurial mindset and spirit may be their sustainable way forward.