In this week’s news roundup, we tackle 4 stories happening in the world of higher education.

This past week, Cleveland State University in Ohio, my undergraduate alma mater, released a series of reports detailing their plans to innovate in the coming years. The multiple task forces, who were commissioned long before the pandemic, each focused on a specific segment of the university from academics to administration.

Before we get into my critiques of their study, let’s address what they did correctly. First, the task force groups were diverse in that they consisted of faculty, administrators, and students. Second, it appears…

Much like the students they teach, colleges have a lot on their plates. They attempt to live up to competing expectations, often at the expense of their stated missions.

“[Colleges] are generally expected to be simultaneously traditional yet innovative; elite yet open; competitive yet collegial; international yet local; and so on.” (Source)

The product they provide (a liberal + occupational education) is seen as the backbone of our knowledge economy. …

Higher Education Number of the Day: 4,400

There are approximately four thousand four hundred degree-granting colleges in the United States as of 2018 (the last time NCES conducted their national study). This number is interesting for a couple of reasons.

First, it signifies that over 1,000 colleges have been added to the marketplace since the 1980s. That’s an incredible rate of growth. At least 2 brand new universities have started operating in America every month for the last 40 years.

Part of this growth can be explained by our nation’s population growth. Since 1980, America has added roughly 100 million…

In this week’s news review, we review 4 stories from higher education’s headlines. These include a critical look at tenure, college’s financial priorities amidst COVID, coaching salaries, and the continued rise of alternative credentials.

Bryan Alexander, a higher education futurist, wrote a piece this week on Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s decision to cut 128 faculty positions. Many of these are were full-time instructors on the tenure-track.

This is a trend we’ve seen across the industry over the last few years. The pandemic offered administrators the opportunity to supercharge this strategy with “legitimate” financial hardships.

Why is tenure so ruthlessly targeted?

Higher Education Number of the Day: 119,618

One-hundred nineteen-thousand six-hundred and eighteen students. This is the last official enrollment total reported by Western Governors University. Over the last 5 years, they’ve seen their growth rate hover around 17% per year. Then, once COVID-19 hit, that number soared to over 30%.

This places WGU in an exclusive “100k Club” — universities that have successfully crossed the 100,000 student mark. Other members include Liberty University, Southern New Hampshire University, and the University of Phoenix.

Their explosive growth over the last year can be primarily attributed to 2 factors. First, as students were…

Soon after starting our marriage, my wife and I stumbled upon the FIRE movement. For the uninitiated, FIRE stands for Financially Independent, Retired Early.

Their philosophy is an evolution of minimalist thinking. They extend the idea of owning less and spending less into a mathematical formula for freedom called the 4% Rule. Below is a picture of a FIRE calculator which can help you determine how early you could retire based upon your savings rate and financial needs.

Source: Playing with Fire

I bring up this movement because one of their foundational beliefs might be the shift higher education needs to survive. …

College is a public good with a luxury price tag.

Tuition has risen by an astronomical rate at nearly every university in America since the 1980s (Source). What’s surprising, then, is how small of a role tuition plays in the overall funding structure for most colleges. The tens of thousands of dollars you pay to attend college often accounts for as little as 15% of their total budget.

Most universities don’t make the majority of their money by teaching students. …

Microservices architecture is a software design methodology that creates and connects applications as “suites of independently deployable services.” (Source)

Understanding this model can help us better picture what a modularized university could look like.

In much of the same way that technology will mirror nature as it develops (biomimicry), so business models will come to model the very technology that disrupted them.

Computer science is more of an interest than an area of expertise, so I will defer to the experts for this section. …

Writer Bonnie Gillespie captures the problem of the modern university in the following sentence.

When you try to be everything to everyone, you accomplish being nothing to anyone. — Bonnie Gillespie

Universities are too big. They attempt to do too much, to solve too many problems, to reach too many types of students.

The answer is not to bundle services, as some colleges have attempted to do, or even worse — add additional services to help students navigate the maze that is the college experience.

What we need is the adoption of a model already prevalent in the business sector…

Higher education needs to change.

Nearly every person, both inside and outside of the academic world, would agree. The issue is what should that change look like?

Herein lies one of the core concepts of this project: true adaptation.

First, let’s build a clear definition, followed by some present opportunities to bring this idea to life.

Whether a student takes a course online (informal setting) or in a brick and mortar setting (formal setting), they can expect to engage with the same, familiar types of assignments such as quizzes, tests, short writing projects, and similar assessments. Basecamp founder and author…

David Ramos

Husband, dog dad, writer.

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