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Voice of colleges and higher ed experts

New Year’s resolutions and perspective from higher ed thought leaders
University Business, January 2018

We asked: What are your predictions, hopes and concerns for 2018? Administrators and experts who have recently contributed to UB answered. A link to each contributor’s recent column appears under their name.

“College students are wired to think about their future. Higher education must start early to create meaningful career development experiences for students by linking career initiatives to existing required experiences (orientation, courses, internships) and enlisting faculty as mentors. We cannot leave meaningful experiences to chance.”

Susan Brennan, associate VP, University Career Services, Bentley University UBmag.me/seven

“Many schools are working to make their student-facing software mobile-friendly, if they haven’t already done so. With the vast majority of college students now having a smartphone, there is tremendous opportunity for institutions to embrace and enable the ‘anywhere, anytime’ possibilities that this offers for their student population.”

Kelly Walsh, CIO, College of Westchester UBmag.me/stack

“Higher education has long allowed the media to drive the affordability conversation. There are serious issues related to access, but by sensationalizing them, student loans are generally viewed as financially unhealthy and the value of college has been called into question. Colleges and universities need to own the message.”

—Jennifer Wick, VP for consulting services, Ruffalo Noel Levitz UBMag.me/pressure

“Parents, students, legislators and other stakeholders are looking for accountability and financial efficiency in higher education. We must invest in student instruction and reduce unnecessary expenditures that often result from over-regulation.

“Above all, public systems of higher ed must invest more in those institutions which successfully graduate students in four years. Far too often politics drive allocation decisions.”

—Janet Dudley-Eshbach, president, Salisbury University UBmag.me/waste

“In a world where conflict is too often the norm, 2018 will cast a spotlight on the efficacy of diversity work in repositioning colleges and universities to return to the basic bedrock principles of American higher education.

“These include 1) relevant research, 2) education as a social good, 3) values steeped in love, authenticity, courage and empathy, and 4) students who are prepared to cross borders, build bridges and make the world a better place for all.”​

—Yvette M. Alex-Assensoh, VP of equity and inclusion, University of Oregon UBMag.me/down

“Especially disruptive to business as usual in higher education is the free-tuition movement, which gained substantial momentum during the 2016 presidential election. A few states have since implemented some free-tuition plan. If restricted to public institutions, free-tuition plans can push some private colleges to extinction, thereby devastating their local economies.”

—Gary A. Olson, president, Daemen College UBmag.me/free

“In these gloomy ‘anti-science, post-truth’ times, I have found the perfect antidote: teaching college freshmen. Although time-consuming and taxing, once your students start learning how to learn, discovering the joy of discovery, and embarking on the life-long quest to become critical thinkers and effective communicators, the future looks bright.”

—James Muyskens, professor and former president, CUNY Queens College UBMag.me/link

“I’m concerned that the college’s role to foster the unfettered exchange of divergent ideas is being eroded, largely from well-intentioned leaders trying to create an inclusive learning environment. We can’t protect students from the powerful effects of speech, but we should teach them how to handle the harm it can produce.”

—Lori E. Varlotta, president, Hiram College UBMag.me/trek

“We are very concerned about the future of DACA. This program has not only benefitted the Dreamers but the country. We are working hard to assist these students and to provide them with as many resources as possible.”

—Matthew Poslusny, Sr. VP and provost, Meredith College UBMag.me/justice

“I anticipate a flurry of executive and congressional actions designed to undo many of the mandates handed down during the Obama administration. HR will have to make significant changes in policy and administration to meet the new federal mandates, resulting in an extremely busy—and probably confusing—year.

“My fear is the further expansion of data analytics. HR is a people business, and no person should be reduced to an algorithm.”

—Kathy Snyder, VP, Human Resources, Frostburg State University UBmag.me/shoe

“While 2016 was the year of the ‘Free College’ movement, 2018 will be the year when early college and dual enrollment programs will finally earn recognition and respect nationwide.

“These programs—which prepare students for the experience of the college classroom, improve the odds of college graduation and lower costs—will spread to many more two- and four-year colleges.”

—Russell Olwell, associate dean and professor, Merrimack College UBMag.me/vet

“Pressure to slow rising tuition will require tuition-driven universities to look for new revenue streams. In addition to increasing revenue from online and graduate enrollment, we will need to be nimble in diversifying and adapting academic offerings to meet the market demands.

“Certificate programs keyed to developing competencies in areas such as analytics, artificial intelligence or robotics can complement a wide variety of majors and can enhance revenue from professional development offerings. The key will be to identify areas that are well-aligned with the mission of the institution and its strengths, and thus avoid a push for revenue at any cost.”

—Eric F. Spina, president, University of Dayton UBMag.me/justice

“Higher education will continue to be challenged to prove its value. College degrees will no longer be judged by seat time or by a piece of paper. They will be judged by how well they prepare graduates for lives of purpose, successful careers and community benefit.”

—Elizabeth Davis, president, Furman University UBmag.me/empathy

“Students are under intense stress as they and their families endure stagnant incomes and a labor market that is unkind to many employees. Those attending public universities are struggling to find the necessary supports as underfunding of those schools continues.

“It is therefore critical to engage in a culture of care with students, and work to ensure their basic needs are met before they are held to academic requirements. Strategic external partnerships can be leveraged to help address food and housing insecurity on campus, and philanthropic support should be dedicated to efforts like emergency aid.

“This holistic approach is required to help students succeed.”

—Sara Goldrick-Rab, author of Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream (University of Chicago Press, 2016) UBMag.me/afford

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