While the economies of the U.S. and other nations are moving to greater automation and technological growth, the role of the liberal arts degree is getting lost in the shuffle or being disparaged as being out of alignment with workforce growth.  The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field is growing as a result of automation, artificial intelligence, big data, robotics, and autonomous vehicles. Advances in healthcare have led to a higher than average growth in the healthcare industry.    Institutions offering liberal arts credentials have been slow to reinvent their degrees and other credentials or to better align them with in-demand occupations. 

An analysis of labor and workforce information[1] shows that many degrees coming out of STEM disciplines result in a clearer pathway to employment.  The figure below shows that more than one-half of those graduating with a computer science degree find themselves in a fairly predictable occupational grouping, such as a software developer or systems analyst.  Those who earn a bachelor of science in nursing, to no surprise, find themselves as registered nurses, nurse practitioners or in other closely related healthcare professions.  When looking at liberal arts degrees as a whole, we see intense fragmentation with 22% of graduates moving into 10 defined professions and another 13% in the next 10 professions.


Career Paths by Degree


So, the question is whether more value needs to be created for liberal arts degrees, or whether or not the degree needs greater alignment or adaptation?  Analyzing the components of many liberal arts programs and the skills and competencies earned shows what appears to be many valuable skills for tomorrow’s workforce.  In fact, with new economies rapidly growing and changing, one could argue that many of skills earned through a liberal arts degree are more valuable today than they were in the past.  What will the workforce look like in 10 or 20 years?  Will the skills learned today be applicable to the jobs of the future?  According to a 2016 Morningstar Research study, teamwork, clear writing, problem-solving aptitude, and strong oral communication along with critical thinking are traits of a traditional liberal arts education.  The interdisciplinary approach is valuable today as well as in years to come. 

Liberal arts graduates may be better able to manage the complexities of working with a Generation Z or multigenerational and more diverse workforce.  More demand for these graduates could also result from growth in a distributed or “work-from-home” workforce, as well as a global workforce.

As professional, continuing and online (PCO) education units and higher education in general, address a rapidly growing economy that is being fueled by big data, artificial intelligence and metrics, the skill to develop this new generation of workers may not be far behind.  More progressive companies such as Google, Zillow, Salesforce or SAS may be more adaptive to change or acknowledge the need for a more employee-centered and low employee turnover environment.  An analysis of many job postings[2] of these companies shows many skills and competencies that are developed through a liberal arts degree, such as communications, customer service, creativity, writing, presenting, and critical thinking among others, are more difficult to teach than how to read a financial spreadsheet. 

For PCO units and their respective institutions, the question of creating more value remains.  Should colleges and universities better promote their existing degrees to suggest more alignment to business and industry?  Would the integration of more applied learning or internship experiences for the liberal arts student generate more value?  Would the creation of alternative credentials (badges and certificates) for high demand skills, while one works toward a degree, elevate the value of the degree by highlighting specific skill sets?

Research shows that current Gen Z’ers, those with or without an undergraduate degree, will soon be a PCO’s new adult learner, as they are more likely to value alternative credentials.  A 2017 UPCEA survey[3] shows that 23% of Gen Z’ers are very positive about college regardless of certificates.  Another 15% who have mixed opinions about college strongly believe in certificates and another 34% somewhat agree they would add value.  These findings suggest that Gen Z is open to alternative forms of education.


The survival or ‘thrive-al” of the liberal arts degree is dependent on many things, but potential to connect it to the needs of a shifting and fast-moving economy through the creation of alternative credentials that could be stackable, should be intriguing to what is forecasted to be a struggling higher education sector in the coming decade.


[1] EMSI 2018

[2] EMSI 2018, Indeed, LinkedIn and CareerBuilder websites

[3] UPCEA Survey of Generation Z and Young Millennials, 2017

The organizations will be focusing on workforce policy, online education, and many other topics related to state and federal policy and higher education.

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 24 — Four higher education organizations are joining together to host a June event focused on state and federal policy trends impacting higher education. The University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), and the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) have partnered to address policy issues that are vital for adult and non-traditional students that now constitute more than 80% of today’s post-secondary learners. This is the first time these four organizations have joined together to focus on policy related to online and adult learners.

The Policy Track at the 2018 Summit for Online Leadership and Administration (SOLA+R) will include speakers from the Washington D.C. policy community, including experts on a number of issues like Net Neutrality, workforce policy, Open Educational Resources (OER), congressional action on reauthorization of HEA, and state trends. There will also be a working session during the event where attendees will help shape a shared agenda on topics of importance. The organizations will then create an advocacy brief from these working sessions and input from the partnering organizations.

“Policy is such an important aspect of serving the adult learner,” Bob Hansen, CEO of UPCEA said. “Issues at the federal and state level impact how institutions operate and integrate adults into their programs, which is why this focus at the Summit is so important, and this partnership strengthens the impact of these efforts.”

“There is nothing more impactful for the adult learner than to remove structural and financial barriers to learning and credential attainment — and policy change is an important way to do that,” adds Pamela Tate, President and CEO of CAEL. “This Summit is pushing the boundaries of how we think about educational policy change — from technology infrastructure to support for innovative cost-saving strategies.”

“Policy remains an important issue for the adult learner population, which is why it is important for us to join with our partners in participating in the Summit,” said Kathleen S. Ives, DM, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director, Online Learning Consortium. “We are committed to educating our members and keeping them current with what is happening at both the federal and state level, and how it may impact institutions.”

“Innovation inevitably outstrips policy…and always will,” according to Russ Poulin, Director of Policy & Analysis for WCET-the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies. “The partners in this Summit envision a space that will help attendees find pathways to manage existing policies, while informing and developing strategies that encourage new ways to support learners.”


For more information, contact Jordan DiMaggio at jdimaggio@upcea.edu, 202-400-2689


About the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL)
Founded in 1974, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization based in Chicago that assists adults with their educational endeavors, finding practical ways to help them earn college credit for learning acquired through life and work experiences toward the completion of a postsecondary degree. CAEL works with the public sector, private sector industries and higher education institutions to ensure that adult students receive the most efficient training and education to occupy a meaningful professional place in a 21st century economy. For more information, visit www.cael.org or follow us on Twitter @CAELNews.

About the Online Learning Consortium (OLC)
Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is the leading professional organization devoted to advancing the quality of online learning worldwide. The member-sustained organization offers an extensive set of resources for professional development and institutional advancement of online learning, including, original research, leading-edge instruction, best-practice publications, community-driven conferences and expert guidance. OLC members include educators, administrators, trainers and other online learning professionals, as well as educational institutions, professional societies and corporate enterprises. Visit https://onlinelearningconsortium.org/ for more information.


UPCEA is the association for leaders in professional, continuing, and online education. Founded in 1915, UCPEA membership includes most of the leading public and private colleges and universities in North America. For more than 100 years, the association has served its members with innovative conferences and specialty seminars, research and benchmarking information, professional networking opportunities, and timely publications. Based in Washington, D.C., UPCEA also builds greater awareness of the vital link between contemporary learners and public policy issues. Learn more at www.upcea.edu.

About WCET
WCET is the leader in the practice, policy, & advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET is a national, member-driven, non-profit which brings together colleges and universities, higher education organizations and companies to collectively improve the quality and reach of e-learning programs. Visit http://wcet.wiche.edu.

It’s that time again! The eDesign Exchange is coming, and this month we have a guest facilitator. Ms. Kristlin Dalton of Loyola Chicago will be tag-teaming the discussion with us. Please come and meet her, and share ideas with our peers.

Date: Thursday, April 26
Time: 2:30 – 3PM ET
Title: Fool’s Errand
Topic: Designing by Assumption

  • What pitfalls are out there and how do we address them?
    • Building with and without usability testing
    • Faculty assumptions about learners

How to Join us

Use the following Eventbrite Link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/upceas-edesign-exchange-april-2018-tickets-45032123293

Mark your calendars for future events, too!

We meet the fourth Thursday of every month at 2:30PM ET.

Here’s a sneak peak at future topics.
May – Mother’s Day theme
Title: Mother Knows Best?
Topic: Sharing best resources for keeping on the pulse of latest ID trends and news

June – Father’s Day Theme
Title: Don’t Tell Dad! My Career Crush is ……
Topic: Sharing career aspirations/dreams, and how we plan to get there.

July – Independence Day Theme
Title: Stars and Stripes of ID Design?
Topic: Who deserves Carrots (Awards/Kudos) and Sticks (Shame on them!) of ID Design?

August – Back to School Theme
Title: Panic Button!
Topic: Last-minute stressors of Course Launch and how to deal with them.

UPCEA, along with ACE and 35 other organizations signed onto a letter to Secretary Nielsen of the Department of Homeland Security regarding the renewal process for current Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) registrants. We urged the Department to process all renewal applications in a timely and prompt matter. We strongly encouraged DHS and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to expedite the review and processing of all renewal applications and give prompt attention to submissions that have recently expired or will expire in the coming days and weeks. UPCEA is concerned about how these renewals will impact students who are DACA recipients at universities and institutions nationwide.

Click here to read the full letter.

New economies and ecosystems are moving at a rapid pace. Outside of a handful of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees, one could argue that higher education isn’t keeping up with the needs of a fast-moving economy. For some institutions, their response has been moving campus-based master’s degrees online or developing new online professional master’s degrees. For others, it has been investing into more just-in-time learning or the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) initiative. The application of blockchain technologies into a variety of business processes, and its impact on the workforce of the future, offers great opportunity for higher education to partner with business and industry on the leading edge.

Most people understand blockchain as the underlying distributed ledger technology that cryptocurrencies are built upon. So why should higher education care about blockchain? Because there is a boom of other real world blockchain applications that is driving a race for blockchain talent. Employer demand is real and is growing at a meteoric pace. Emsi is a labor market analytics firm that continuously searches millions of job postings across the web. When Emsi searched for the word “blockchain” in those jobs, they found 2,304 jobs in 2016. That number increased to 7,131 jobs in 2017. In January 2018 alone, Emsi found 1,933 blockchain jobs posted. This exponential growth suggests that the market is screaming for new employees or new skills for existing employees.

Click here to download the full report.

Partnership will focus on aspects of accessibility including faculty support, student support, and cultivating institutional advocates

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 4, 2018) – AHEAD, the organization of professionals committed to full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities, has partnered with UPCEA, the leading association for professional, continuing, and online education, to exchange resources, engage in collaborative research opportunities, and identify skills and best practices for stakeholders that support accessibility in online education.

It is incumbent upon higher education institutions and administrators to serve all students – and especially persons with disabilities – appropriately across the entire online learning experience. Removing barriers that occur across the full spectrum of academic and student services during a student’s learning lifecycle requires a proactive strategy.

The need for resources, research, and best practices surrounding accessibility in online courses was the impetus for the partnership between AHEAD and UPCEA. Through the partnership, institutions will have expanded access to the tools, support, and networking needed to build appropriate infrastructure for online course accessibility.

“Access has been part of UPCEA and UPCEA members’ missions for decades. It is natural for PCO leaders to consider all aspects of access, specifically accessibility,” said Julie Uranis, Vice President, Online and Strategic Initiatives for UPCEA. “By partnering with AHEAD, we’re encouraging UPCEA members to examine their accessibility efforts and to look to UPCEA and AHEAD for support and professional development.”

AHEAD and UPCEA will be collaborating in the coming months to mutually explore accessibility through the lens of online education (and specifically the operational aspects that institutions need to consider) through both organizations’ conferences and webinars.

“We recognized that the best way to elevate the topic of accessibility in the work of professional, continuing, and online education units is through direct collaboration,” said Stephan Smith, Executive Director of AHEAD. “We are proud to work with UPCEA and the association’s members on accessible media, web, and technology – all of which are integral to both the work of today’s institutions and the needs of persons with disabilities in higher education.”


# # #



Since 1977, AHEAD has offered an unparalleled member experience to disability resource professionals, student affairs personnel, ADA coordinators, diversity officers, AT/IT staff, faculty, and other instructional personnel, and colleagues who are invested in creating welcoming higher education experiences for disabled individuals. Informed by its diverse membership, AHEAD delivers exceptional professional development opportunities through conferences, workshops, webinars, publications, and consultation; fosters community and member networking; informs members of emerging issues relevant to disability and higher education in the legislative and regulatory spheres; and disseminates data, promotes research, and furthers evidence-based practice. AHEAD boast a membership of approximately 3,000, representing all 50 states and over 10 countries. In addition to its direct memberships, AHEAD has formal partnerships with 37 Regional Affiliates and numerous professional organizations. AHEAD members are actively engaged in service provision, consultation and training, and policy development on their campuses and promote accessibility across the field of higher education and beyond. Learn more at www.ahead.org.



UPCEA is the association for leaders in professional, continuing, and online education. Founded in 1915, UCPEA membership includes most of the leading public and private colleges and universities in North America. For more than 100 years, the association has served its members with innovative conferences and specialty seminars, research and benchmarking information, professional networking opportunities, and timely publications. Based in Washington, D.C., UPCEA also builds greater awareness of the vital link between contemporary learners and public policy issues. Learn more at www.upcea.edu.



Valerie Spears


Molly Nelson