Editor's Note (The View From Here)
- By Deborah P. Moore
- December 1st, 2014
It has been a hectic few years for colleges
and a near impossible task of planning for the
future of higher education. College enrollments
have soared. According to the National Center
for Education Statistics, “In fall 2012, total
undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting
postsecondary institutions was 17.7 million
students, an increase of 48 percent from 1990
when enrollment was 12.0 million students.” This was due in part to
the growing importance of a college education, as well as the need
for adult learners to brush up on their skills in order to improve their
chances at landing a job in the recent economic downturn.
While economic conditions may have boosted enrollment, they
played havoc on funding for higher education. As state support declined,
tuitions and fees rose. As we pushed for increased access for students,
the shifting burden from states to students made higher education
unaffordable for many. As tuitions rose we experienced growth in
the community college system, whose focus was on preparing students
for transfer to four-year institutions, providing workforce development
and skills training and offering noncredit programs. Recently, a
number of pilot programs have been developed allowing community
colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in a limited number of fields.
For-profit institutions have also stepped in as an alternative. Many
of these institutions serve students well, but others have brought
about a barrage of negative publicity over deceptive marketing
tactics, complying with federal-aid limits, higher student debt, lower
graduation rates and poor preparation for the job market.
On July 22, 2014, President Barack Obama signed the Workforce
Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) into law. WIOA is designed
to help jobseekers access employment, education, training and support
services. This means that the focus will continue on career and
technical education and will require increased efforts by institutions
to encourage employer engagement and partnerships with businesses
to ensure the success of these programs. We will continue to hear
more about an emphasis on S.T.E.M. (and in some cases S.T.E.A.M.,
where the arts have been added to the mix).
Will it be S.T.E.M or S.T.E.A.M? Have we priced students out of
the market? Will alternatives to traditional education continue to pop
up? Are we preparing students for life after college or just to find their
first job? Will enrollments continue to rise as unemployment rates
drop? The big question is: How do institutions effectively plan for an
uncertain and ever-changing future?
This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of College Planning & Management.