Any examination of postsecondary education begins with the students. What careers do they seek? What kind of education and skills will enable them to pursue their dreams? How do we design and deliver education in a way that meets them where they are in their personal lives and careers? While students determine their own futures, institutions have a responsibility to deliver education in the most effective, efficient way possible — especially considering the federal government’s investment in making college available to all Americans. Today that investment is over $175 billion, including student loans, grants and tax benefits.
Our country continues to slog through a multi-year jobless economic recovery, while employers increasingly demand mid-level skills in their employees. As a result, we have entered a period where postsecondary education is imperative for global competitiveness and economic growth, but it needs to be an education that prepares students for success in the workplace.
Despite the sluggish jobs recovery, employment projections for the future give us hope. By 2020, there will be 55 million new job openings in the United States. Twenty-three million of these openings will be for jobs that don’t even exist today, while 32 million will replace retiring baby boomers. Sixty-five percent of all jobs will require some level of postsecondary education and training.
Part of the postsecondary education conversation concerns what role the federal government should play in where students decide to enroll, how much the student should spend on tuition and what degree or certificate (everything from a B.A. in Healthcare Administration, to an associate degree in Network Systems Administration) the student can pursue. Federal financial aid has increasingly become a key component in any discussion on education affordability, access and opportunity. This is due to the rising cost of education at private nonprofit institutions, and selective admissions and recruiting policies at public institutions that direct states’ higher education funding to upper-middle class students.
Reuters recently ran a lengthy story that captures the ins and outs of this evolution and the disinterest by public and private nonprofit universities in educating the “new traditional” students. New traditional students work full-time while attending school, don’t live on campus because they have a family, pay for education with money they personally saved, and/or are enrolled in a certificate program. The schools I work with are addressing a critical gap that exists in American education, by providing access and opportunity to these students.