As a result, potential students and parents alike are scrutinizing how much bang they get for their higher-education buck. My son, now a senior in high school, is not sure he wants to go to college. We would like him to, and we are looking at where and how he can get a degree that will give him an edge in the job market without it costing an arm and a leg.
It’s not just us; more parents and potential students are weighing the cost of the education and asking themselves if it is worth it. These consumers are really beginning to question the value of incurring high student loan debt.
One thing is clear: Now is the time for college and university administrators to develop and implement plans that will enable them to survive the inevitable changes on the horizon for the next two decades. Some administrators will embrace change and lead, while others will fixate on their institution’s perceived self-importance and may be unable to deal with the disparity between that illusion and reality.
For leaders who are willing to confront change and lead courageously, here are three specific, critical actions they can take.
• Manage costs to temper the coming tuition competition crunch. Many institutions already offer significant tuition discounts to lure students. As this practice ramps up, combined with increases in student loans to deal with rising costs, tuition revenues will continue to decrease.
• Adapt to the trends. Online degrees are not going away. Just as public and private institutions have needed to upgrade their technological infrastructure in recent years to remain competitive, so will they need to consider offering online or hybrid programs to maintain their relevance.
• Look at alternatives. Mergers and alliances among universities are trends that will continue. Smaller private universities will need to find ways to scale their cost structures while providing educational offerings that appeal to potential students.
The challenges ahead in higher education are manageable, with the right strategy. Institutional leaders unwilling to make tough decisions and necessary changes may find themselves in a Willy Loman-esque funk resulting from the failure of self-realization and true wisdom.