Higher Education Trends: What's In Store For 2018

Here's what you can expect to see this year, perhaps even on your own campus.

Higher Education Trend


TOPIC: Business Intelligence
TREND: Toward Aggregated Data and Predictive Models
PREDICTED BY: Timothy M. Renick, Ph.D., vice president for Enrollment Management & Student Success, vice provost, and professor, Georgia State University, Atlanta

New forms of business intelligence, such as aggregated data and predictive models, will allow campus decision makers to be far more accurate in anticipating student course needs and far more efficient in their use of campus instructional facilities, as we have been at Georgia State. For the past five years, we have tracked the academic progress of every student for 800 different risk factors on a daily basis. Based on predictive analytics, the system is responsible for more than 200,000 proactive interventions with students through the past five years. It has significantly increased the number of students graduating—increasing the total by more than 2,800 a year—and decreasing time to degree.

Now we are using similar analytics to make key business decisions about course needs and classroom facilities. Because we know where every student is situated on their personal academic map, we also know at any moment which courses they have completed successfully, which courses they need to take next, and which courses they are likely to need a year from now. Moving beyond the old standard of using historical data to predict future course and classroom needs, we now run aggregated data and predictive models for how many seats we will need in every course we offer, and we can do so for multiple terms in the future. Similar data sets are being used to create heat maps, which show classroom demand throughout the week, hour by hour.

TOPIC: A Bird’s Eye View of Higher Education
TREND: Toward Embracing Change
PREDICTED BY: Tom Oliff, senior vice president for Administrative Services, Broward College, Cypress Creek, FL

Not just into the future, but even right now, successful or, more likely, surviving higher education institutions cannot resign themselves to change but must embrace it as a core value. Industry is demanding narrow and customized certification as opposed to traditional degrees. Students require diverse, mobile, and personalized educational delivery methods. There are growing opportunities to access knowledge through massive open online courses (MOOCs). Global competition for students grows by the hour.

Traditional 10-year facility master plans that project straight-line student growth and recommend a corresponding schedule of new brick-and-mortar construction are a thing of the past. Facilities, and all assets for that matter, must be viewed today as holdings that either result in profit or loss. Today, all assets—and especially facilities and real estate—must be examined with an eye toward maximizing their productivity and value.

Most colleges and universities own properties that meet the location, location, location criteria for which area developers are desperately looking. Actively leveraging these private development partnership opportunities now can be a key to providing either large, upfront capital infusions or years of recurring unrestricted revenues, depending on how the deal is structured.

Finally, it is partnerships that will be the mantra of the surviving and successful schools of the future. Intentionally seeking partners, whether they be publicprivate development partnerships, co-location with private business, custom education academies for industry sectors, symbiotic partnerships with educational entities (whether K–12 or other area colleges and universities), and, yes, even global partnerships will be the strategies of the survivors and the winners.

Higher Education Trend


TOPIC: Architecture
TREND: Toward Regenerative Design Practices
PREDICTED BY: Eric Carbonnier, PhD, AIA, LEED-AP BD+C, associate principal/vice president of Sustainability and Eera Babtiwale, LEED-AP BD+C, associate principal/vice president of Sustainability, HMC Architects, Ontario, CA

With more than 1.5 billion gross square feet of higher education facilities in the U.S., coupled with an energy demand that represents the second-highest expense area after personnel, higher education facilities are pivotal to inspiring environmental change.

No longer simply a destination for higher learning, colleges and universities are rapidly becoming “living laboratories” that cultivate our environmental stewards of tomorrow. By combining cutting-edge research with built environments that actually teach, motivate, and inspire students, these facilities become incubators for the next age of sustainability, known as regenerative design.

While sustainable design attempts to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations, regenerative principals seek to replenish and restore natural resources.

With our development ambitions currently outpacing the availability of finite resources, energy, and contribution to intensified climate disturbances, it becomes clearer that a regenerative roadmap is necessary.

The U.S. commercial building stock, including colleges and universities, has increased by 21 percent in floor area since 2003, and the U.S. population is anticipated to increase 22 percent by 2060 to 416 million. Sustainable development strategies struggle to keep up with the demand, whereas regenerative thinking encourages innovation and progress.

In this new era of sustainable and positive impact architecture, regenerative design practices can shift college and university facilities from consumers of natural resources to restoration think tanks aimed at positive ecological change by virtue of its sheer mass of place, politics, and policy.

TOPIC: Collaboration
TREND: Toward Developing Standardized Shared Practices
PREDICTED BY: Carol Smith, CIO, DePauw University, Greencastle, IN

Higher education faces challenges on multiple levels to provide the best student learning, reduce costs to families, and manage the continuing increase of institutional operating expenses. For colleges to successfully fulfill a vision focusing on student success, they must aim keenly toward their core purpose of providing rich, meaningful student experiences. One way to do that is to leverage opportunities ripe for collaboration, where by working together institutions gain efficiencies that enable them to preserve energy and resources for focus on that core.

Much could be gained by collaborating in work that is critical for our institutions but not culturally specific; that is, work that is necessary for running the business of the college but does not explicitly define its unique distinction in the market. Particularly in areas like back-office administration or collaborative IT agreements, the next year presents opportunity for institutions to cooperate and develop standardized, shared practices.

Whether those center on negotiating affordable and fair pricing models with vendors or reach even deeper by using IT platforms to scaffold shared staff or office functions, leveraging the collective wisdom and commitment of collaborative partners to reduce complexity and expense of non-core functions can empower institutions to meet those aforementioned challenges head-on.

Higher Education Trend


TOPIC: Purchasing
TREND: Toward Procurement Practices with Cloud or SaaS (Software as a Service)
PREDICTED BY: Cole Clark, executive director, Higher Education, Deloitte Services, LP’s Center for Higher Education Excellence, U.S.

The trend in higher education shifting away from mission-critical applications deployed locally (“onpremise”) toward subscription models where the applications are provided “as a service” by a third party is not new. Beginning with more “commodity” (but no less mission-critical) applications such as email and calendar, higher education institutions are steadily moving toward subscription models, followed more quickly by complex apps, such as learning management systems and basic infrastructure needs like compute cycles and data storage. As the technology has matured, a huge wave of institutions (driven largely by extremely antiquated legacy systems) have moved some of the most complex and expensive applications to a Software as a Service (SaaS) model: ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), which generally includes such functions as HR and payroll, core institutional financials, planning and budgeting, as well as the core SIS (Student Information System).

Yet procurement practices have not caught up with these changes, and mostly reflect the realities of the ’80s and ’90s, when all of these solutions were “acquired” (licensed) and run on-premise. Many existing procurement practices prevent commitments longer than one year, which is not an issue when you’re licensing a software “product,” but are totally out of phase with the subscription world. Further, policies that seek to tie a single vendor to both providing software and implementation and integration services (rooted in the fear that by not doing so, the software vendor “runs away” after selling the product) are also no longer relevant.

By entering into a subscription, administrators are connected to the software provider in a very meaningful way for five to 10 years, receiving significant financial advantages. The end result is the elimination of convoluted contracts, extremely elongated procurement and negotiation cycles, and frustrated stakeholders, and the opportunity cost becoming more nimble and efficient. Expect to see procurement subscriptions gain momentum this year.

TOPIC: Facilities Management
TREND: Toward Apprenticeship Programs
PREDICTED BY: E. Lander Medlin, executive vice president, APPA: Leadership in Educational Facilities, Alexandria, VA

It may be heresy for an educational association to say that not all individuals need a college degree. However, if you are representing facilities professionals at higher education institutions (as I do), the story is a bit different.

The rate of baby boomer retirements has escalated and tipped the balance appreciably on higher education facilities departments’ ability to replace their skilled trades personnel. Fewer and fewer 19- to 25-year-olds are entering the trades—down from 18 percent in 2006—and even fewer perceive this path as a viable alternative to achieving their long-term financial goals. Yet, that is far from the truth.

One of the keys to solving this perception problem and associated skills gap is to establish and offer apprenticeship programs. Certainly, both recent U.S. presidents (first Obama, now Trump) have allocated funds for federal apprenticeship programs. In addition, numerous colleges and universities facilities departments have doubled down on the creation of apprenticeship programs to address the looming trades positions gap. Employees gain invaluable on-the-job training and technical education while earning a solid wage. Employers address critical workforce shortages head-on while achieving better recruitment targets and the potential for improved retention rates as a result of caring enough to make this offering available in the first place.

Frankly, this is succession planning and management at its best—a proactive approach to a very real and impending problem. Take a closer look at your own needs and the opportunity you might also gain from establishing a viable apprenticeship program. For more information, visit the University of Arizona and the University of Virginia for two great examples of viable apprenticeship programs in place today.

Higher Education Trend


TOPIC: Auxiliary Services
TREND: Toward Preparing for Outside Speakers
PREDICTED BY: Judith Stepan-Norris, vice provost for Academic Planning, University of California, Irvine

Campus invitations to outside speakers are commonplace. While some speakers simply aim to provide alternative points of view, others may seek to provoke students and others. Hence, administrators who are concerned about disruption and/or violence engage in preventive safety measures and sometimes ultimately cancel events, even after costly preventive measures are in place. Public universities in particular have a mandate to uphold the First Amendment, so being prepared for these events is important.

Administrators are paying great attention to planning for hosting outside speakers, and will be for the foreseeable future. Here are some specific points they’re taking into consideration.

  1. Clearly define areas that are considered public or limited public forums and ensure that affiliate and non-affiliate organizations and speakers understand the time, place, and manner requirements of the university.
  2. Designate appropriate space for protests and counterprotests at these events. Allow and/or encourage other campus organizations to host simultaneous counter speeches/events.
  3. Educate students about the following four items. What constitutes free speech, which might include hosting lecturers and workshops for pro-active engagement/education and “Great Debates” to model effective interactions. Behaviors enacted in response to objectionable speech that are allowable and not allowable under campus policies. Behaviors enacted in response to objectionable speech that are allowable and not allowable under applicable laws. How to report incidents that constitute threats of violence, physical harm, or harassment to the appropriate campus authority (i.e. Campus Police Department, dean of Students, Office of Equal Opportunity).
  4. Develop strong relationships with student groups and community members in order to educate and advise them on effective strategies to deal with provocative speakers.
  5. Work collaboratively with law enforcement to develop a plan of action that ensures campus safety while balancing university engagement with students, protesters, and speakers. The “constructive engagement” model uses teams of faculty and staff to engage protestors and calm the atmosphere before sending in police.
  6. Train campus police personnel on best practices for campus enforcement.

This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of College Planning & Management.

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