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Evolving Higher Education

Facing a New Future

The field of higher education is facing a future that no one person can fully understand. Leading scholars in the field are pointing out the emerging issues, but there are so many moving pieces for a single state, a system of colleges or universities, and single institutions that it is very difficult for leaders to plan beyond their immediate challenges. This is where NCHEMS can help by gathering the specific data relevant to the individual case, putting that into perspective, and helping leaders look into the future (while they carry on solving their immediate problems).

Emerging Challenges Presented by Changing Demographics in Higher Education

At this point in time, all leaders in higher education are aware of the shifting demographic realities. For most, that means accommodating to lower income populations of potential students seeking services from their colleges or universities. It also means a shift in the types of people who may become students. There are differences in socio-economic status and differences in the racial and ethnic mix. The obvious implication is different types of support services will be needed for these new students to be successful. Planning for and financing these shifts present yet another challenge for leaders.

To make matters even more complex, the students who do come to colleges and universities do not always have the same interests and goals as those for which a traditional curriculum was designed. They want clear explanations of how their required courses will have relevance both to their lives now and to their future careers. These students come to their higher education experiences with expectations that information and services will be provided to them the way their banks or other service industries provide them. Expecting students to stand in lines at physical locations between 8:30 and 4:30 to secure their financial aid forms is no longer feasible. NCHEMS can guide leaders as they build strategies to change the cultures of their campuses to better meet the real expectations of new generations of students.

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Governance and Finance Challenges Facing Higher Education

The changing student and workforce landscapes can test state policies and financing models that may already be stressed by other state priorities. In just the last few years, NCHEMS has assisted several states in re-designing their higher education financing. NCHEMS has also helped states develop new governance policies for their colleges and universities that more closely fit current realities. This work takes the engagement of many groups of constituents around a state. NCHEMS usually has a good grasp of who needs to be engaged and has the team to do it.

As state leaders begin rethinking higher education governance and finance, the effects on institutions can be profound. In order to avoid disrupting the quality of the educational services to students, it’s important to open channels to both institutional and professional accreditors. NCHEMS recognized this issue a few years ago and began the process of working with the national association accreditors and organizations of state higher education officials to open channels of commutation. That work has expanded and continues to grow as both communities of professionals recognize their interdependence.

Higher Education Challenges Associated with Changes in the Types of Programs Valued by Students

A growing interest among younger and older students is the achievement of shorter-term credentials that can help them move into a field of work in which they can prosper. While the initial organizations offering learning pathways to achieve these credentials were companies that focused on specific, well-paying career fields, now more traditional higher education institutions are testing the waters. This is a tricky enterprise in many ways, but one for which there seems to be a growing demand.

At the moment, there are no recognized quality assurance agencies offering independent evaluations of an institution’s or organization’s ability to serve students well. NCHEMS is helping to realize that need. In addition, if traditional higher education institutions develop these types of services and they prove popular, the problem of traditional business models being based on students staying in a program of study for years at a time will be disrupted. NCHEMS recognizes this issue and is partnering with others to develop some new funding and business models.

NCHEMS Can Guide Your Organization to a More Successful Future

When NCHEMS is asked to be engaged with a state, system, or institution, we always start with assuring there is a clear and shared understanding of the problem before anyone jumps to a solution. That means NCHEMS goes deeply into the information at hand, gathers more, and gets all the constituents to a similar point of understanding. From that starting point, workable solutions can be built for the future.

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