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Envisioning the Future of Higher Ed in a Post-pandemic World
In a recent ASU+GSV session, five college presidents gave their views of what’s next for higher education.
What does the future of higher education look like? A panel of five university and college presidents offered their crystal-ball visions in a recent session during the recent ASU+GSV Summit, which took place online this week. Moderator Michelle Marx, chancellor of the University of Colorado Denver, asked panelists — each representing a unique higher education model — to look forward five years and beyond.
More Embedded Tech as a Given
For Eloy Oakley, chancellor of California Community Colleges, the largest system of public education in the country with 116 colleges and more than 2 million students, teaching and learning will certainly have more embedded technology. “Prior to the pandemic, we had been in a long and sometimes contentious conversation about how we leverage technology more. How do we help our faculty, reach more students, be more effective, gather more data about our students? And of course, there was a lot going on about whether or not we could ever do that,” he said. “Well, here we are. We’ve advanced five years in a matter of five months in the use of technology. And that’s something that we have to hold on to.”
Oakley’s hope is to use the current shift to online learning as a “steppingstone” to reach more adult learners. “States like California have had such a huge unemployment and underemployment of our adult worker population, and many of those jobs are not coming back. How do we leverage this opportunity to move students along, to help more individuals get back into the economy, and to ensure that our state remains prosperous?” That’s a mission, he added, “that we’ve always been about. The question now is [can we] approach that mission very differently and be able to reach more students?”
More People, Lower Cost
Broader outreach and faster impact will also be at the heart of private liberal arts education too, suggested Carol Quillen, president of Davidson College, a 2,000-student, largely residential college outside of Charlotte, NC. “Those of us who are these traditional residential institutions have finally kind of caught up to looking at the challenge that we face as a sector, which is how do we educate more people at a lower cost more quickly and with a clear sense of the value of what we’re doing?” she noted. “In five years, all of us will have a clearer sense of the role that we play in that broader project and that institutions like Davidson and many others will serve a broader range of learners in very different ways, as we continue to differentiate the sector and strive to ensure equity for all learners.”
Continuous Skilling Beyond Degrees
“Continuous skilling” will play a big role in the college of the future, predicted Peter Cohen, president of the University of Phoenix, with 87,000 students, “largely working adults, largely moms with dependents already in their career and looking to get ahead.” While the university is known for its online programs, it also operates 30 campuses around the country serving 5,000 students, all of whom were moved to online classes during the pandemic. “More than 85 percent of students come to the university in order to get a better job or get a better career,” he said. “When you think about what the real responsibility of the university is, it’s to help those people progress in their career. And we know that as we move forward with the changes in technology and the changes in jobs, those careers are going to change over time. The idea that you go to school once when you’re young and you have the skills you need for life — long gone.”