Posted in Higher Education
(Editor’s Note: Change is difficult. This is especially true in organizations that have heretofore been immune to the broader forces of disruption–such as institutions of higher learning. To shake presidents, administrators, and faculty out of their stupor I have drafted the following fictional press release. I encourage all university and college presidents and their boards to read it and then discuss how they can–and must–adapt in order to remain competitive in the future.)
PRESS RELEASE (Fictional Scenario: For Internal Discussion Only)
(Note: All links in the press release highlight real advances in the field of higher education).
State College to Close at End of 2021-2022 Academic Year
Washington, DC – December 16, 2021 — State College, one of the country’s leading public universities, has decided to cease academic operations at the end of the 2021-22 school year.
Dr. Harold Miller, President of State College, reiterated the school’s commitment to its students and faculty and promised they would assist every current enrollee in making a smooth transition to an alternative school of their choice. “This was a difficult and painful decision,” said Miller. “Unfortunately, over the past few years, a perfect storm of political, competitive and technological changes lead to declining enrollment and a steep drop in tuition revenue. The resulting financial challenges were insurmountable and left the university no choice but to shutter its doors.”
The turmoil began in the spring of 2017 with the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump. With assistance from a Republican-controlled Congress, the new administration overhauled the federal student loan program and made draconian cuts to the Pell Grant Program that, in turn, made it increasingly difficult for students to afford institutions such as State College. The situation was exacerbated by a political climate that was not conducive to attracting international students to U.S. universities.
In 2018, the landscape began to morph at an accelerating rate as a significant number of new educational platforms began attracting growing numbers of students. These new platforms included, but were not limited to, Coursera, General Assembly, Udacity, Minerva, and Edx as well as innovative corporate educational programs. Conversely, other businesses–most prominently Ernst & Young–openly questioned the value of a college degree, further depressing the global demand for graduates.
The 2019 calendar year then witnessed a global recession which created the toughest market for new graduates since 2008. With the number of new graduates not finding suitable work approaching 25 percent, students became even more discerning shoppers of education and State College found it difficult to remain competitive with private universities that used their endowments to slash tuition. Still, other students opted for programs such as Georgia Tech’s new $7,000 Masters Degree in Computer Science, while others came to view community and technical college as providing a better return on their educational investment dollars.
The final blow was struck in 2020 as the quality of MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) advanced to the point where online schools were able to quickly create personalized learning modules for students in high-demand fields such as data analytics, artificial intelligence, and the Blockchain. Unable to get tenured faculty to adapt to these new realities, State College had no option but to close.
“One could say that in theory our university understood the concept of disruption; in practice, we did not,” said the outgoing dean of the business school at State College.”