A new report, “The Future(s) of Public Higher Education,” released today by Deloitte’s Center for Higher Education Excellence and Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities lays out five new models to address the new realities of and demands on public higher education institutions and improve the student experience.
“Today’s demands on public higher education institutions are very different from those dating back many decades, when the basic model of these institutions was formed,” said Cole Clark, managing director, Deloitte Services LP, who leads client and community outreach and relationships for its higher education practice. “Higher education is now firmly planted in a new era, and requires a new master plan: how it is organized and funded, its mission, and whom it serves.”
“The rapid pace of change in higher education, due in large part to shifting learner demographics, mandates a new educational model for public universities,” said Rich DeMillo, executive director, Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities. “This report outlines critical examples of ways that public universities might revitalize their approach and meet the demands of learners with a wide variety of needs.”
The report describes five approaches that could serve as models for public higher education, including:
The Entrepreneurial University: A state university system differentiates its offerings at the institution level while coordinating at the system level to align educational investments with student — and state economic — needs. Individual institutions would specialize in areas such as undergraduate education, vocational training, or research, while degree programs and curricula would be centrally influenced through the definition of clear goals by the state and system.
Example: Western Governors University (WGU) is a nonprofit university established to expand access to quality higher education to adult students with some college and no degree. WGU is the nation’s first accredited competency-based education (CBE) university, providing CBE online and at scale.
The Sharing University: Campuses would link student and administrative services to realize efficiencies of scale and/or capitalize on the expertise of institutions. Repetitive activities would be either automated or outsourced to a single institution within the system, enabling the other campuses to focus resources on more strategic activities. Examples of shared activities: career services, international recruitment, academic advising, legal affairs, and information security.
Example: The University System of Georgia has started the OneUSG initiative to develop and put in place streamlined policies, procedures and technologies.
The Experiential University: Institutions would integrate work experiences into the curriculum, with students toggling between long stretches in the classroom and the work world related to their area of study. Employers would have a chance to evaluate students for potential fit before committing to hiring them for a full-time position. Work experiences would be closely tied to the state’s economic development priorities and its emerging job market.
Examples: University of Cincinnati and Georgia Tech are operating a cooperative model, in which students are working one-third to almost half of the time a student spends in school.
The “Subscription” University: This platform focuses on continual learning throughout a student’s lifetime. Under this model, students would start higher education earlier by taking dual-enrollment or early college courses while still in the K–12 system. Thereafter, they could access university courses throughout their lives to gain and update their knowledge and skills as needed, paying lower tuition fees up front and then an annual subscription fee during their lifetime.
Example: Idaho’s State Board of Education makes policy for K-20 public education, continually working toward an education system without barriers within the governance or committee structure.
The Partnership University: The annual budgeting cycle would be extended across several years, making it easier for institutions to plan and make strategic investments. It would guarantee a certain level of funding from the state over multiple years in exchange for agreements from colleges for tuition limits, cost savings, increased collaboration and consolidation, and private fundraising. Businesses and other employers would also provide insights on curriculum, financial assistance for equipment, and other essential resources.
Example: Maryland’s Effectiveness and Efficiency Initiative saved $94 million at its 11-campus system and froze tuition for three years.
“Adopting elements of one or more of these models would require input and collaboration across a diverse set of stakeholders as well as strong leadership,” said Jeffrey J. Selingo, a visiting scholar at Georgia Tech’s Center for 21st Century Universities and one of the authors of the report. “Developing a master plan that is forward looking and self-aware of a system’s challenges is a big lift but can be done and is needed to position our public higher education institutions for the future.”
In the research for the report, several common elements were identified to enable change at the system level, including:
- Effective leadership: Strong and visionary leadership from the state governor, state legislators, university system leadership, boards, and institutional leaders will be required to drive change. An effective leader will help to design the blueprint for the state’s higher educational system and animate the university community to help build and embrace the vision.
- A new focus for the university system office: The university system office would need to transition their focus from reporting and compliance to helping to define and measure success by establishing common data structures across the system, providing tools to monitor progress and support decisions, and conducting active communication between the central office and institutions. This additional level of responsibility will demand a concomitant level of authority and funding allocation.
- An institutional culture that puts students at the center: When the needs of the student are at the forefront, decisions about where to invest and focus can be made more clearly, supporting areas that meet student demand. This line of thinking can help to direct investments needed to hire faculty, expand degree/credential offerings, and invest in new technology.
- New financial models and incentives: As universities innovate, evolve, and collaborate more frequently within and across a system, the operational changes can affect the current funding model. Analysis would need to be done to rethink how to allocate revenues and costs across the system, and create clear incentives to develop new programs designed to meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s economic realities.
- Clear and frequent communication: Change in higher education is fraught with peril. Many change initiatives fail to take hold due to lack of stakeholder and leadership buy-in. Frequent and clear communication – painting a picture of the change imperative but also the vision of the improved future state – is a prerequisite to successfully implementing the difficult change outlined in the report.
The report also includes an analysis of 565 state institutions’ publicly available strategic plans using text analytics with top focus areas, including: research, enrollment, facilities/building and programs and offerings. Additionally, a brief history of the current public higher education models and an overview of current challenges facing institutions are also included.
Full report is available here.
Communications Program Manager, C21U