Common Challenges & Potential Solutions


There are many challenges facing higher education today some examples of which I provide below. 

Education as a public good is being questioned.  Federal and state governments are reducing funding.  Expectations of our educational system are changing, and external accountability and assessment is increasing.  We must clearly define the learning objectives of our institution, assess our success and show evidence of continuous quality improvement. 

The diversity of the student population is increasing.  Only 16% are now traditional 18-22 full time students.  Adult enrollments are significantly increasing as is the proportion of part time students.  By 2028 racial and ethnic minorities will constitute the majority of adults between 18 and 29 in the U.S.  We must prepare our campuses to be welcoming and supportive environments for these changing demographics. 

A high proportion of student entering our colleges and universities need remediation.  We need to partner with the K12 system to inform it of college needs and ultimately produce a K-20 integrated system.  I am currently working to encourage faculty to develop both learning outcomes and entry expectations for their courses, and have submitted grant applications and studied resources that can assist students with preparing for college.

The U.S. is now 10th among OECD countries in learning outcomes achievement.  Many other countries are investing significantly in education and creating populations with much higher proportions of college graduates.  To compete in the knowledge economy, we need to increase the number and quality of graduates.  I have worked to make education more accessible and to increase the quality of our offerings and the success of our students.

Education will become more student-centric, with students constructing customized educational programs for the jobs or promotions they want and getting the courses they need from multiple institutions.   Cooperative educational programs between universities and among other education and knowledge providers (corporate training programs etc.) will become more prevalent (The World University Network is an example of this).  I have had experience with course sharing across multiple campuses.

The world is shrinking, and national and international markets are becoming more accessible.  For institutions to thrive they must have a place in this market.  For profit companies already have a strong and growing market share within the United States and other countries, especially China, are investing heavily in this sector.  The online school of pharmacy that I helped create was designed to attract and support students located in multiple countries.

Approaching the Problems

The best way to illustrate a possible approach to many of these challenges is to tell the story of a fictitious institution which I will call Utopian University (UU).  UU embarked on a strategic planning process with a no-holds barred approach to re-inventing the enterprise. Committees were formed to look at everything from the mission to employee retention and student satisfaction. As a first step, the strategic planning steering committee conducted a survey and a series of focus groups to determine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis) facing UU. This analysis revealed the following:





White Papers

In response to the data contained in the SWOT analysis the strategic planning steering committee developed the following series of white papers for work-groups to address and develop recommendations for action. They were designed to catalyze discussion and generate feedback and each was assigned to a multi-disciplinary committee with members from academic affairs, IT, student affairs, the student body and other stakeholders as appropriate.