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Higher education’s transformation: Is it helping?

Higher education has been a widely discussed topic among politicians, communities, parents and students of late, largely due to the massive financial strain that accompanies this now critical step toward landing a good job. Although the college funding landscape is indeed looking a bit more positive with the passing of each year, thanks to lower rates and looser terms on loans, other changes are also throwing more coals into the fire. 

"Many trends are transforming higher education."

Technology, the demands of the modern private sector and other trends are transforming higher education, and many have begun to wonder if these changes are yielding positive gains or missing the mark entirely. The No. 1 function of college is to prepare students for post-graduate life, but is that what universities are doing today?

Changes heating up
Karin Fischer recently conducted an interview with Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education President David Longanecker for the Chronicle of Higher Education regarding his opinions on the changes taking place. The first topic of discussion was the financial aspects of attending universities and running the schools themselves. Longanecker explained that the rise of for-profit education, the incorporation of advanced technologies, economic turbulence and an evolving private sector are making matters trickier. 

He also told Fischer that the student body is changing, with greater diversity leading to a demand placed upon colleges to evolve as quickly as possible, though Longanecker asserted that there have been times in which administrators are somewhat lost. This is not all that strange when looking virtually anywhere else in the private and public sectors. The rapid transformation of global markets has put many organizations in a state of perpetually being behind the times. 

Interestingly, he also pointed out that the onus should be placed on higher education to prove that attendance will actually yield substantive opportunities for students after they graduate, affirming that right now everyone says higher education is critical, but few can argue why. Longanecker told Fischer that programs that do not directly benefit students need to be completely eradicated, as they create waste both for the school and the student. Finding ways to become more efficient on both sides of the coin can help to ease the strain of higher education. 

Higher education is transforming, but are students benefiting?Higher education is transforming, but are students benefiting?

Actual preparation
The Statesman Journal recently published a blog post from Sririam Khe, Ph.D., who is a professor at Western Oregon University. In the article, Khe explained that one TED talk given about a decade ago by Ken Robinson included a comment that continues to be valid today: that school prepares students to be good at school, but bridging the gap into professional life is still a bit tricky and elusive. 

According to the author, restructuring the delivery of education, while also including non-major courses that will develop the skills necessary to function in the modern workforce, is a critical measure that needs to be taken as soon as possible. 

Students and parents who are looking to better understand which schools they should attend and how to finance higher education should consider scheduling a one-on-one meeting with a Smart TrackTM college funding expert.