Colleges and universities are in trouble. Enrollment is declining; Demographics show students of less traditional age in the pipeline, and changing attitudes about higher education threaten to erode the idea that a good career requires college.
What to do? Construction, apparently. This trend has been unfolding for decades, but for some reason, schools are responding with new dorms and gyms. This may even be less future students coming to campus in person.
New buildings may be needed, but after three decades of silent partnerships with higher education in which I work with my career-transition clients to identify what needs more training and what Maybe, I’ll have to ask:
School, what are you thinking?
You have time to find out, and for the most part, you’re still acting as if any student who isn’t coming straight out of high school is a nuisance.
Following are five stories from real people, from this past month of my work:
Story 1 – Sandra completed all classes except two for her masters at a private non-profit university 10 years ago, stopped to raise her children, and now wants to finish the degree. She didn’t expect all classes to count, despite a 4.0 GPA, but was shocked to find that none of them could be used. Worse, the school closed this masters program during COVID, but didn’t tell it. Sandra’s only option at this school is to spend another $9,000 to earn a certificate so that she can re-attend the four classes she has already completed. A certificate they will no longer give him, although he has completed almost four times as many classes in the discipline.
Story 2 – John’s practical training at a state technical college was converted to online instruction during the pandemic, wiping out the option of an internship before graduating last year. He is now competing with this year’s graduates, all of whom have taken internships, and the program director is not returning calls or emails to help arrange practical training.
Story 3 – When she graduated with her online masters from a state university three years ago, Tabitha was encouraged to continue on to her doctorate and was told that some of her earned credits would apply. Now she’s being told she can earn a doctorate with daily, on-site attendance on a rural campus two hours from her home—though dozens of other schools nationally offer the program online.
Story 4 – Anna has inquired several times over four years about purchasing or auditing a master’s course at a non-profit university, but has been told that she must commit to a full master’s before doing so. Committing means first being accepted into the program—requiring an exam, an essay, three recommendations, an application fee, and a student financial aid form—a process that must be completed before she can identify whether she can work full-time. While doing research, you can keep up with it. ,
Story 5 – Finally, an optimistic story. To his delight, a state university reviewed Kelly’s 10-year-old credits, and he will be able to complete the final two courses and earn his master’s degree this summer. They were told, “We want to do this work for you.”
So you see, universities and colleges, it can be done. As a matter of survival, it is time for all higher education to follow suit, making it possible for students to continue their training and derive value from the investments they have already made. These steps will help:
, Let people in by phone in the evenings and weekends, when working adults (and parents of traditional-age students) are most available.
• Improve web pages so that each degree clearly displays: number of classes to be completed; cost per square; Description of each class; Total program cost and completion time, and which classes can be accessed online.
• Recognize that we are in a pandemic and training programs were interrupted, halted or only partially delivered. What accommodation are you building for this extraordinary situation?
• Most importantly, create a review department to help students preserve the past credits they’ve earned while showing them the way to completion of a certificate or degree.
It doesn’t come as a threat, but I feel comfortable guessing that schools that don’t provide at least that much value and customer service will complete the journey of being irrelevant.
And even if I’m wrong, I really don’t want to see another Derrick on a local campus setting up another hostel with funds that can be used to reach the full range of students trying to learn there. can be done for.
Amy Lindgren is the owner of Career Consulting Firm in St. Paul. He can be contacted at email@example.com.