I addressed a conference of SUNY system about the future of higher education. They streamed the event for your perusal.
Has American higher education reached a decision point in its history, with a major transformation on the way?
I raised the possibility earlier this month in response to a study about private college enrollment and financial aid. I return to the theme now because of more new research on enrollment not just in private colleges and universities, but across the board, including publics and for-profits. The news is spotty, but could be a milestone.
The gist is that American college and university enrollment has been declining, slightly, over the past two and one half years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse (full report pdf). For-profits institutions especially suffered, but so did everyone else to some degree:
Start with the leftmost sample, “All sectors”, which shows a steady downward curve from gain to decline. Only private nonprofits break this curve, and their positive difference has dropped to a very thin gain over the past year.
This summer I’m offering another instance of my NITLE Shared Practice Leadership Program on MOOCs, Online Learning, and Campus Strategy.
It’s an online program for a small group (fewer than twelve) of people working in higher education. The topic is how each participant’s institution can better strategize about their response to MOOCs. We use a mix of various technologies to meet, converse, reflect, and plan: Google+ Hangout, email, Diigo, Canvas.
It’s the second time I’ve offered this program. The first is nearly done, and has been very exciting. Participants are faculty and staff from a variety of liberal arts institutions, and discussion has been rich. For a sample you can check out the team’s Diigo group.
If your college, university, library, museum, or other organization is thinking hard about MOOCs, please consider joining us. I’m happy to answer questions here or elsewhere, of course.
The future of American jobs, continued: following up on my discussion last week about the United States BLS jobs of the future report, Ron Griggs points out a related chart from the same federal agency. “Most new jobs” displays the “20 occupations with the highest projected numeric change in employment”, rather than the jobs growing proportionally.
Here are the top ten:
- Registered Nurses
- Retail Salespersons
- Home Health Aides
- Personal Care Aides
- Office Clerks, General
- Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food
- Customer Service Representatives
- Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers
- Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand
- Postsecondary Teachers
These share many similar characteristics with the “Fastest growing occupations” report: an emphasis on service (not manufacturing), a lack of educational demands. There isn’t much sign of the vaunted knowledge economy. There’s also a tendency towards lower salaries:
A new online learning initiative made waves this morning, as Georgia Tech partnered up with Udacity and AT&T to launch a MOOC-based master’s program. Please read that link or the Chronicle’s story for background.
I’d like to offer a few first thoughts, based on my work over the past several years. These are provisional comments, not polished assessments:
First, the new degree program’s price point is very important. Inside Higher Ed reports that the normal, face-to-face program costs $40,000 (for out of state residents), and that the Udacity one costs 1/6th of that, or about $6,666.67. This will certainly appeal to some students, especially during a time when Americans are so concerned about price and debt. As with San Jose State’s Coursera experiment, we can imagine people willing to lose some personal contact in order to save money. G-tech is hoping for up to 10,000 paying students.
What are the rising jobs of the future? According to a report from the United States government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), they tend to involve physical labor or medical service, little education, and relatively low pay.
Here are what the BLS deems the “Fastest growing occupations, 2010 and projected 2020″:
- Personal Care Aides;
- Home Health Aides;
- Biomedical Engineers;
- Helpers–Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters;
- Helpers–Carpenters, Veterinary Technologists and Technicians;
- Reinforcing Iron and Rebar Workers;
- Physical Therapist Assistants;
- Helpers–Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters;
- Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
What are the implications for education? Note how little schooling is required for these, except for the two medical technology positions. Indeed, many workers in these fields learn by apprenticeship, not college. So should the American education system rethink the old vocational track in order to direct learners towards these positions?
For higher education, are colleges and universities making the implicit argument that their graduates won’t have to work in these fields? If so, this fits in with the theory that modern American education reinforces rather than reduces class divides (a point Andrew Delbanco makes). Further, the leading jobs that actually require higher education are medical. Perhaps institutions should expand their biomedical capacity.
Note, too, the relatively low salaries. They seem consistent with macroeconomic arguments that the American middle class is being hollowed out.
These patterns continue for quite a ways as you read down the chart.
American private colleges and universities received some major financial news this week, which raises the possibility that higher education prices are at a decisive point.
A report from National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO; paywalled) found that only a minority of private institutions saw student enrollment increase. Instead,
slightly more than half of the survey respondents said they saw a decline in enrollment or no growth.[emphasis added]
At the same time, these institutions offered the highest tuition discount rate of all time. (“Discount rate” means the average price cut students receive after a school gives grants, scholarship, and other financial aid)
A TIME writer puts it succinctly:
many private colleges in the United States are ramping up their financial aid packages in an attempt to attract new students and boost sagging enrollments…
But those enrollments continue to flag. Especially for small colleges and universities: “Tuition discounting … often failed to have the desired effect, especially at small, less-selective institutions…”
What does this mean?