Every year our degrees “expire” in relevancy and timeliness if we don’t refresh each class with an eye to the future, Ray Schroeder argues.

We all know the tech expectations of new hires have changed rapidly this century. While many of the soft skills of communication, leadership, critical thinking and social sense remain relevant today, a whole host of technological infrastructure changes continue at a rapid rate. The tools, the cloud, the networks and their capabilities that we use are rapidly changing. Leadership decisions are informed far more by data and analysis than instinct and intuition.

This raises the question of whether we are best educating our students for jobs that will be in rapid decline, or no longer exist, when they graduate. How can we predict the future career environment? We can’t, with 100 percent certainty. But we can, and must, carefully and continuously share the trends with our students so they are prepared for the emerging environment. Columbia University, along with UPCEA, has opened a call for papers on the very topic of the future of work and its implications for higher education. I encourage you to submit your thoughts, and I look forward to seeing the results from that work.

One good place to start looking now is the 2018 World Economic Forum Future of Jobs report. This 147-page report from WEF is full of well-researched data, trends and predictions. It is deeply valuable for planning for the future. For example, some of the key tech influences it sees:

Four specific technological advances — ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet; artificial intelligence; widespread adoption of big data analytics; and cloud technology — are set to dominate the 2018-2022 period as drivers positively affecting business growth. They are flanked by a range of socio-economic trends driving business opportunities in tandem with the spread of new technologies, such as national economic growth trajectories; expansion of education and the middle classes, in particular in developing economies; and the move towards a greener global economy through advances in new energy technologies.

The top trending skills the report suggests in the next two years will be:

  • Analytical thinking and innovation
  • Active learning and learning strategies
  • Creativity, originality and initiative
  • Technology design and programming
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Complex problem solving
  • Leadership and social influence
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Reasoning, problem solving and ideation
  • Systems analysis and evaluation

Are we integrating these skills into our learning outcomes map? Have we engaged professionals and leaders in the field to regularly advise us on the local trends and needs they see? To the extent we fail to educate ourselves in these areas and adjust our curricula, we are cheating our students — all of our students, undergraduate, graduate, professional and continuing — of perhaps the most valuable assets they expect us to provide: currency and relevancy.

The first step is that we, ourselves, must be informed. A second challenge we face is to assure that our students are asking the right questions and getting reliable information about their futures. One tool I found is a recent podcast by Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist, best-selling author and co-founder of string field theory. His guest is Tracey Wilen, a researcher and speaker on the impact of technology on society, work and careers. Wilen is a former visiting scholar at Stanford University who has held leadership positions at Apple, HP and Cisco Systems and is a prolific writer and speaker on careers of the future. In this half-hour program, they address jobs of the future for college students, including midcareer students.

This could be an excellent stimulus for a discussion in an introductory class, or a faculty development meeting, or an open forum for students online or on campus.

I recommend that the WEF report be placed on the computer of every dean, department chair and student adviser. And I recommend that that we all listen to the podcast by Kaku and Wilen to see if this might be worth sharing with our students to stimulate thought and discussion, as well as keep an eye on the work by UPCEA and Columbia University. These actions are foundational to beginning to teach to the future. Your students will thank you in the years ahead!

This article was first posted January 23rd in Inside Higher Ed’s Inside Digital Learning. 

It’s that time again. Courses are showing up in dashboard, and faculty are beginning to think about what changes they plan to make in their course design. As we near the start of the semester I’d offer these three tips for instructors who look to clean up and streamline their courses.

Consider What’s Essential – Fewer Resources

A common mistake I’ve observed is instructors putting too much content or activities in their course. I too have been guilty of thinking the more I put in a module the more substantial it feels, but that’s not the case. The course page becomes bloated, and the learner loses sight of what is essential. Less is more. Remember the course is designed to be a space for learning activities, not a place
to archive files, and to think carefully about the files you need.

An early step for many instructors, using the Learning Management System (LMS) for the first time, has been to post the supplemental resources (PDFs, slides, documents) in the course for the learners. It is a great way to get started and use the LMS to replace the handing out of paper. However I’d encourage restraint, and post only what is necessary. If everything in the course is important, then nothing is.

Examine the files you are posting and ask Is this meeting my learning goals? Do I consider this to be essential? It is very tempting to leave a resource in the course for “just in case.” This kind of thinking leads to course sections filled with additional resources that, in many cases, are never accessed by the majority of your students. Many courses become large file repositories that are backed up and restored every semester with little change to the course files. Too many times a supplemental reading from several semesters long ago just keeps existing.

Remove that which is unessential. Many LMS’s have ways to examine which resources the learners access and download. Check out the logs or reports from the last time you taught the course. If an activity or resource is not being accessed, is it necessary to keep it there? You may find that the more superfluous stuff you remove, the better your students perform with the content you are using.

Depth and Breadth – Few Tools, Used Very Well

The second tip in this “Less is more” approach concerns the activities in a course. As an administrator of an LMS I decide, with a group of admins and faculty, what activities will be available to the courses’ instructors. But over time the menu of tools has grown to fit the varied needs of the faculty who use it. Though you may see many options for assessment, many skilled instructors use just a few of these options, and focus on using them very well. The quality of how tools are used, not quantity, leads to more success and better sense of satisfaction for your learners.

A simple tool like a discussion forum can be used in many, simple ways. Balance the need for a variety of learning activities with the purpose of using the tool. Often it is not how many tools you have, but how well you use the ones you have. Become an artist using one of the features. Better to be an expert at one or two that you use in meaningful ways rather than a novice of many. There are common tools in all LMS’s that can be used effectively with little technical expertise. Your students may appreciate the restraint as well.

As you plan for the upcoming semester, choose a couple of things to use and plan ways to use them very well.

Design for Mobile

Finally, think of the different devices that students use to access the course. A course that looks great on a large monitor in your office might look very different on a netbook, tablets or, even more likely, a smartphone. Think about the ways that modules and sections might look differently when accessed on smaller touchscreens. Try it out on your phone and see how different it looks.

Although most of the traffic to our LMS is from laptops, many use smartphones as their primary devices. These learners might be the ones we most need to consider in the course design.

An easy first step is to think about the ways media might cut down on the text in your course. A short video to introduce the week’s activities and learning goals might be preferable to a longer text summary — or you might consider trying both and seeing how it might benefit your learners. The barriers for creating high-quality video for your courses are low. Some video options for doing short instructor-created videos are built-in to the LMS and are easily embedded in the course modules. Try it and you might find this is a nice alternative to the bodies of text in a course. Consider consulting the instructional technology team or instructional design team on your campus. They might be able to suggest some simple ways to make the course better for mobile delivery.

In summary, put some time and energy into designing for less content, use fewer tools and consider mobile delivery. All of these likely lead to a better experience for you and your students.


About the Author

Emory Maiden is an Instructional Technology Consultant at Appalachian State University, where he works with faculty on course design and supporting the effective use of instructional technologies in their courses.


In a growth market, such as online education in the late 1990s and start of millennium, producing products and services is relatively easy or carries with it less risk, as growing market share is the goal rather than stealing share from competitors. Having good intelligence and market research was a luxury back then…to move more swiftly and to leapfrog competition took two steps instead of one. In recent years, many industries are tighter due to a transforming economy and the evolution of new technologies. Launching new products and services, especially in the higher education community, has become more challenging and the need for better, faster intelligence has become essential. Building a process for intelligence into the professional, continuing, and online education unit (PCO)—whether it’s having their own researchers or working with outside consultants—is essential in launching new, sustainable programs.

While one could use the latest greatest occupational forecasts, labor analysis or surveys, one overlooked non-empirical indicator is “observational research.” Among the many tools in the UPCEA Center for Research and Strategy toolbox, next to the portfolio review model wrench and underneath the in-depth employer interview hammer, is the tool of observation. My most recent observation or reflection has been the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which concluded in mid-January. After reading multiple columns and watching many live web feeds of the event, the following insights can be extracted:

This year’s show featured many products that are maturing, such as personalized robots. Robots have been with society for decades, but their sophistication through artificial intelligence and advancement in engineering coupled with built-in efficiencies is slowly working its way into the consumer household. While largely unsophisticated, the Roomba (designed by iRobot) was introduced to the masses at CES 2014. While gaining some attention, Roomba was in the shadows, as many consumers and the media at CES 2014 were flooded by the push for greater mobility and viewing. CES 2014 had many products that focused on smart TVs, tablets, laptop and cellphones that were adopting 4G technologies.  he buzz around self-driving cars was also starting to take place as Audi, BMW and Mazda were demonstrating driver-assisted or “piloted driving” through the migration of more sophisticated radar, cameras, and GPS technologies into the driving experience. Reflecting back a decade to CES 2009, auto manufacturers showcased groundbreaking systems that would help drivers stay in their lanes, consoles that would have Internet access and systems that would allow for satellite entertainment.  Much of the automotive technologies showcased in 2009 are common in the middle range auto of 2019.

Trends that should continue to emerge from CES 2019 include further developments in robotics and artificial intelligence (including self-driving cars), alternative fuel systems and electric vehicles, virtual reality and personal assistants (Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, etc.). The show continues to promote the quality viewing experience, as well the portability through new technologies that leverage 5G connectivity and an 8K viewing experience. This will effect engineering and science curriculums, and business will also be looking toward the future for employees skilled in these areas. The impact will trickle down or domino further into related industries, as it is likely that our cities and municipal places will adapt to different modes of transportation and the new worker.

Source: Emsi

Engineering jobs are defined by SOC 17-200
Blue collar jobs are defined as electrical, electronic, and electromechanical assemblers, except coil winders, tapers, and finishers; assemblers and fabricators, all other, including team assemblers; coil winders, tapers, and finishers; first line supervisors of production and operating workers; inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers, and weighers

Looking at the impact of automobile manufacturing, the industry overall has started to recover and projects out favorably over the next decade. The chart above, focused solely on automobile manufacturing (not dealers or distributors), as opposed to the spectrum of motor vehicle or parts manufacturing, shows that employment of engineers (SOC 17-2000) will increase and with it many blue collar professions (electrical, assemblers, tapers, finishers, first-line supervisors, sorters, testers, etc.) within the industry. The industry is seeing a transformation through the integration of artificial intelligence, green fuels and self-driving or driver-assisted technologies. The transformation has forced many manufacturers to close older plants focused on combustion and pivot to the production of more electric vehicles.

Higher education will need to stay in step or ahead of industries in transformation. It can do so through improved intelligence systems or proven market research techniques. While CES is one potential data point for those impacted by trends in consumer electronics, strong advisory panels and market research are others. Higher education, especially those in PCO units, needs a close ear on developments or to be part of the development process by educating the employee based on industry needs and supplementing the education later in life through training and post-graduate education. What higher education institutions can do:

  • Strengthen industry ties through advisory committees and long-term partnerships
  • Use market research and other modes of intelligence gathering to speed up the needs of identification process
  • Identify new degree needs earlier and shorten approval processes while still mitigating risk

Surviving and thriving in a transformative economy is about being relevant for an extended period of time.

10 of top 11 ranked institutions are members of UPCEA

WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 17, 2019) — UPCEA, the association for college and university leaders in professional, continuing, and online education, is pleased to congratulate the many UPCEA members recognized in the 2019 U.S. News & World Report Best Online Programs rankings.

U.S. News rankings include more than 1,500 online programs, covering bachelor’s and graduate programs across a variety of fields. The U.S. News rankings focus on online programs, using information provided by participating institutions. Factors included in the ranking methodologies include student services and technology, student engagement, and faculty credentials and training.

“UPCEA members, as a community, continue to advance online learning on their campuses and share their practices with their peers.” said Julie Uranis, Vice President of Online and Strategic Initiatives for UPCEA. “Seeing Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the first institution recognized through an UPCEA Hallmarks of Excellence in Online Leadership review, retain its #1 U.S. News ranking highlights the phenomenal work being done at both the program and enterprise level at that institution.”

Ten of this year’s top eleven ranked institutions are members of UPCEA:

1 – Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University—Worldwide
2 – Arizona State University
3 – Ohio State University—Columbus
3 – Oregon State University
5 – Pennsylvania State University—World Campus
5 – University of Florida
5 – University of Illinois—Chicago
8 – Colorado State University—Global Campus
8 – University at Buffalo—SUNY
8 – University of Oklahoma

“We’re incredibly pleased to be recognized again as one of the top-ranked institutions offering online bachelor’s programs.” said Lisa L. Templeton, Associate Provost for Ecampus at Oregon State University. “We deliver our programs in partnership with OSU’s Colleges so this ranking reflects the work of Ecampus, over 800 faculty, and countless staff that support students in over 50 online degree programs.”

Congratulations to all of the UPCEA members recognized in this year’s rankings. Click here to see those featured in the top 100 institutions.

“UPCEA member institutions have been the leaders in online learning since its inception,” said Bob Hansen, CEO of UPCEA. “I’m proud to see so many of them recognized for their hard work and exceptional programs by the U.S. News & World Report online rankings.”




UPCEA is the association for professional, continuing, and online education. Founded in 1915, UPCEA now serves most of the leading public and private colleges and universities in North America. With innovative conferences and specialty seminars, research and benchmarking information, professional networking opportunities and timely publications, we support our members’ service of contemporary learners and commitment to quality online education and student success. Based in Washington, D.C., UPCEA builds greater awareness of the vital link between adult learners and public policy issues. Visit www.upcea.edu.

The advent of online education was a classic Clayton Christensen disrupter. That was a quarter of a century ago. Now the disrupter is becoming disrupted.

Harvard professor Clayton Christensen described disruptive innovation as “a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.” That’s just what started in the early to mid-1990s for online learning and continued until today. Colleges and universities efficiently reached new, underserved markets by virtually bringing the university to the student. The trend continues with overall college enrollment in the U.S. dropping for a fourth year, while the online portion of that enrollment continues to rise. But something else is coming into play — in a very large way!

Online programs at thousands of colleges and universities are beginning to see a flattening of the growth curve. It is an inflection point in the inevitable product life-cycle curve. We are now topping the maturity segment of the curve for many modest-size programs. As markets are saturated and new competition and innovations enter the field, we are moving into the decline segment of the “traditional” online program.

A number of players and factors are changing the field. Georgia Institute of Technology calls it “at-scale” learning; others call it the “mega-university” — whatever you call it, this is the advent of the very large, 100,000-plus-student-scale online provider. Coursera, edX, Udacity and FutureLearn (U.K.) are among the largest providers. But individual universities such as Southern New Hampshire, Arizona State and Georgia Tech are approaching the “at-scale” mark as well. One could say that’s evidence of success in online learning. And without question it is.

But, with highly reputable programs at this scale and tuition rates at half or below the going rate for regional and state universities, the impact is rippling through higher ed. Georgia Tech’s top 10-ranked computer science master’s with a total expense of less than $10,000 has drawn more than 10,000 qualified majors. That has an impact on the enrollment at scores of online computer science master’s programs offered elsewhere. The overall online enrollment is up, but it is disproportionately centered in affordable scaled programs, draining students from the more expensive, smaller programs at individual universities. The dominoes fall as more and more high-quality at-scale programs proliferate.

Sean Gallagher, executive director of Northeastern University’s Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy and executive professor of educational policy, explains the slow-motion seismic shift we are watching in higher education. The benefits are huge; the potential is even greater!

But, somehow, it does not feel the same being disrupted as it did 20 years ago when we were doing the disruption. So, what can be done by nonscaling universities? Much.

We can begin disruption anew with microcredentialing of just-in-time modules that anticipate the tech-driven training that industry will need in the coming year or two. We can offer microcredentialing of the communication, leadership and social skills that businesses say our graduates lack such as online leadership; communication skills (verbal, video and interactive); creative and innovative thinking; and more. We can serve international markets where growth is faster than domestically and needs are even greater. And we can seek to collaborate with other colleges and universities to jointly offer programs that draw upon the more diverse base of knowledge experts across multiple institutions.

Even if enrollments have not yet reached a plateau in your traditional online programs, now is the time to begin to look at the life-cycle curve and plan for the eventuality that your university will also be disrupted.

This article was first posted January 9th in Inside Higher Ed’s Inside Digital Learning. 

Beginning Tuesday January 15, following a day and a half of weather delay, the Department of Education initiated negotiated rulemaking sessions covering a considerable number of issues important to UPCEA and its membership. Meetings will continue through the months of February and conclude in March. Among the issues being discussed include, but is not limited to:

  • State authorization
  • Regular and substantive interaction
  • Definition of “credit hour”
  • Discussion of EQUIP-style programmatic delivery by third-party providers
  • Barriers to innovation
  • Direct assessment + competency-based programs
  • Faith based entities taking part in title IV/HEA programs

The department has decided to split this rulemaking session into one main committee regarding “Accreditation and Innovation”, and three topic-based subcommittees: the Distance Learning and Educational Innovation Subcommittee; the Faith-Based Entities Subcommittee; and the TEACH Grants Subcommittee. The Department has also aligned the rulemaking topics into three “buckets” which align with these subcommittees. The most consequential and in-depth bucket will fall to the Distance Learning and Educational Innovation subcommittee, as they are tasked with covering important and weighty items like state authorization, regular and substantive interaction, definitions of credit hour, and accreditation, among others. The Department has provided recommendations for how they would like to see the committee change these regulations, and those recommendations can be accessed below. UPCEA encourages our members to weigh in and follow these sessions and reach out to the negotiators (list found here) who represent your constituency group, and let them know your thoughts on these regulatory developments.
Main Negotiated Rulemaking Site from the Department. For more information and access to the live streams, click here.

Click here to access a list of the negotiators.

Materials handed out by the Department prior to the negotiated rulemaking session 1:

  • Agenda  MS Word 
  • Draft Protocols  MS Word 
  • 602 Accreditation  MS Word 
  • 654 Robert C Byrd Program  MS Word 
  • 668 Student Assistance General Provisions  MS Word
  • 686 TEACH Grant Program  MS Word 
  • Religious Inclusion in Title IV Grant Making  MS Word
  • Summary 600 Institutional Eligibility  MS Word 
  • Summary 602 Accreditation  MS Word 
  • Summary 654 Robert C Byrd Honors Scholarship Program  MS Word 
  • Summary 668 Student Assistance General Provisions  MS Word 
  • Summary 686 TEACH Grants  MS Word 
  • Summary Religious Inclusion  MS Word 
  • 600 Institutional Eligibility  MS Word 
  • Faith-Based Entities Subcommittee Overview  MS Word 
  • Faith-Based Entities Subcommittee Memorandum  PDF 
  • Faith-Based Entities Subcommittee Opinion


Full Schedule of Rulemaking Committee/Subcommittee Meetings:

Accreditation and Innovation (Main Committee)
Live streaming available on: edstream.ed.gov

Session 1: January 14-16, 2019

The U.S. Department of Education
Barnard Auditorium
400 Maryland Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20202

Session 2: February 19-22, 2019

The U.S. Department of Education
Potomac Center Plaza (UCP) Auditorium 
550 12th St. SW
Washington, DC 20202

Session 3: March 25-28, 2019

The U.S. Department of Education
Barnard Auditorium
400 Maryland Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20202

The Accreditation and Innovation Committee meetings are open to the public to attend in person. The committee meetings will also be made available to the public through a Department-provided livestream accessible from edstream.ed.gov.


Distance Learning and Educational Innovation Subcommittee

Session 1: January 17-18, 2019

Session 2: February 12-13, 2019

Session 3: March 11-12, 2019


TEACH Grants Subcommittee

Session 1: January 17-18, 2019

Session 2: February 12-13, 2019

Session 3: March 11-12, 2019


Faith-Based Entities Subcommittee

Session 1: January 17-18, 2019

Session 2: February 12-13, 2019

Session 3: March 11-12, 2019


The  Subcommittee meetings are not open to the public to attend in person. The subcommittee meetings will be made available to the public through a Department-provided livestream.

….According to the National Center for Education Statistics, just 0.3 percent of students pursuing a degree are aged 65 and over. And education programs targeting those aged 55 and older rarely generate significant long-term revenues, according to Jim Fong, founding director of the University Professional and Continuing Education Association’s Center for Research and Strategy.

“The target market is conditioned to not want to pay for much in terms of educational programming,” he said.

Read the full article. 

Gale Tenen Spak, Ph.D., Associate Vice President of Continuing and Distance Education at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) retired on January 1, 2019. Dr. Spak served as Associate Vice President for 26 years. Located in Newark, New Jersey, NJIT is the science and technology public research university of the State of New Jersey. Through her oversight of NJIT’s Division of Continuing Professional Education, she has had extensive experience in the area of professional workforce development and continuing education programming which are subjects about which she writes and presents broadly. Her experiences include managing, developing, marketing, proposal writing, evaluating and implementing programs for working professionals and job seekers who require new education and training to keep their skill sets at the cutting edge. The programs she designs involve collaborations among academe, industry, and government; and utilize, as appropriate, online instruction.

Recent awards include: “Made in NJ Honor Roll” conferred by the NJ Manufacturing Extension Program on National Manufacturing Day, 2018; Leading Women Intrapreneur, conferred by NJ Leading Women Entrepreneurs, 2018; and Best 50 Women in Business, conferred by NJ Biz, 2016. In 2018, she was the Principal Investigator of three NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) grants: (1) Construction & Utilities Talent Development Center, (2) Construction & Utilities Talent Network, and (3) Technology Advisory Network (TAN). Among her numerous publications her co-authored paper, “m-Outreach for Engineering Continuing Education: A Model for University-Company Collaboration,” was selected to receive one of five Best Paper awards out of 1700 submissions presented at the American Society for Engineering Education’s 118th Annual Conference. 

Before joining NJIT in 1992, Dr. Spak was Dean of the School of Professional and Continuing Education at New York Institute of Technology, Old Westbury, New York, and, during America’s first energy crisis, served as the Director of the Center for Energy Policy and Research and authored “how-to” reports which were sent to every American Governor.  

She earned her Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science and Master of Arts from Yale University, and her Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, in Political Science from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.

The end of 2018 marked a challenging year for institutions of higher education, although the warning signs of declining enrollments and increased competition have been very visible over the past five years or more. For many institutions, there seems to be little sense of urgency to re-think educational products, institutional mission, or alignment to employment despite advances in technology, the aging of America, and the future of blockchain among other economic developments. As de Vinci once said “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” At the turn of this century, many institutions innovated by adapting the existing curriculum to a new mode of delivery…online education. They expanded their traditional geographic footprints and charged into that of their competitors. Noting lost opportunities or declining enrollments, other institutions followed suit. Those that have resisted the online movement and not innovated with new degrees or credentials soon found themselves fiscally challenged. 

Like many of the United States’ bridges, the infrastructure for higher education is showing significant cracks and fissures. The investing firm Moody’s continues to remain negative on U.S. higher education and forecasts constrained tuition revenue and higher costs due to higher labor[i].

Evidence of a clear trend can be seen over the past seven years or fourteen periods of declining revenues as reported by the National Student Clearinghouse[ii]. NSC most recently reported a decline of 1.7% in Fall 2018, from Fall 2017. EducationDive has been monitoring closures, mergers and consolidation of higher education institutions since 2016[iii]. After removing double counting due to multiple institutions merging into one or one party acquiring another and supplementing the database with additional information, such as the recent announcement that Newbury College would be closing[iv] or the consolidation of multiple University of Wisconsin campuses, UPCEA has concluded that the trend of unhealthy institutional performance is still moving upward and will continue to do so in the near and possibly long-term.

While the sample size year-to-year is small, a further UPCEA analysis revealed that of those closing, merging or consolidating:

  • Most are private institutions (over 90%), despite the fact that nationally, just under half of all higher education institutions are private.
  • While the universe of higher education has more non-profits, the proportion of for-profit institutions merging or folding is disproportionately higher, as can be witnessed with activity from ITT, Capella and others.
  • Many struggling or recently closed institutions are also located in the Northeast and Midwest regions of the U.S.

Colleges and universities only have a few paths to buck the trend: increase revenues, decrease costs, or both. 

What can colleges and universities do better in 2019? Consider the list below a checklist for senior leaders.

  1. As a cost and revenue strategy, institutions can re-assess existing portfolios for curricular areas of strength to continue to build, extend, or re-package, while retiring or re-engineering legacy programs. While many liberal arts programs and degrees are struggling, the possibility of better aligning them with greater employment possibilities should be explored.
  2. As a way to attract new markets and revenues, deconstruct or bundle educational offerings to better meet the needs of employers and students. In a new economy with new participants (Generation Z and young Millennials, as well as Millennial managers and Generation X leaders), there are many educational choices. Being wed to a degree-only mentality is dangerous and diversification through curriculum, delivery, and credentialing is likely to stave off closure.
  3. As a means for greater internal efficiencies and a focus on enrollments, develop a “true” strategic plan. A “true” plan—in the sense of actionable and intentional planning and execution among many parts of the institution—is needed, as opposed to the creation of a politically safe document that sits on the webpage or shelf with easily achievable goals. The plan should also have real-time and longitudinal metrics to encourage accountability while measuring progress.
  4. As both a cost and revenue strategy, strengthening advisory committees (not ones for show or politics) is essential in a new and chaotic economy. While having donors and highly visible individuals on boards and committees has been the norm for many institutions, the value of information and guidance from truly engaged representatives of the employment community will help identify curricular and enrollment winners and losers faster.
  5. Identify new markets and streams of revenue through market evaluation of new program ideas. Launching a new program or degree without due diligence and relying solely on the content expert is an unnecessary risk. While the intent of a new program is usually to create new revenues, a bad program can greatly impact the cost side of the equation, as well as divert resources away from positive revenue programming.
  6. As a measure to improve efficiency and return on investment, the institution should critically review conversion and intake processes. UPCEA research has shown that many institutions invest heavily in “top-of-the-funnel” activities with marketing and advertising, yet fail to convert as a result of antiquated enrollment management processes aimed at the wrong generation.
  7. Nurture existing markets more effectively, such as alumni. Many institutions have a low return transactional approach to alumni—they hope for a gift from a small percentage of “past customers” to their capital campaigns instead of broadening the portfolio of offerings to them. The advancement department becomes the gatekeeper of alumni interests, when in reality, they should be developing more meaningful relationships across the institution. The new generation of alumni expects a return on investment, as opposed to previous generations where a gift was given with little expected in return. Millennials and Generation Z alumni are more likely to re-engage with the institution for life, but are driven by causes or receiving value back. They are prime candidates for graduate education, as well as certificate or badge-based education, as they are the true lifelong learner.

Time is running out for the highest levels of leadership at many colleges and universities to make meaningful change. Those that cannot accelerate decision-making processes, don’t work in a positive or future-facing manner with faculty or unions, or those that are wedded solely to campus-based degree learning are likely to die a slow death, following many that suffered this early fate in 2016 to 2018. 



[i] Moody’s Investor Service, “U.S. higher education outlook remains negative on low tuition revenue growth,” www.moodys.com, December 05, 2018

[ii] National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, “Current Term Enrollment – Fall 2018,” www.nscresearchcenter.org/tag/enrollment-trends/, December 13, 2018

[iii] https://www.educationdive.com/news/how-many-colleges-and-universities-have-closed-since-2016/539379/

[iv] https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/12/14/newbury-college-shut-down-spring/s2w8WjwpFXAqUsyNUsjixM/story.html


Nearly half of all college graduates are reported to be underemployed in their first job and a third in non-STEM fields remain underemployed after five years. There are more college graduates available than college-requisite jobs in the marketplace at this time. But, there are many more openings than qualified applicants among middle-skill job positions.

Burning Glass and Strada Institute last year reported that 43% of recent college graduates are underemployed in their first job, and 29% of all college graduates (including those in STEM fields) remained underemployed after five years. The report indicates that the underemployed earned $10,000 less a year than one might expect for their credential. 

Just as there are more college graduates looking for jobs than there are appropriate jobs, so too there are more high school graduates than there are jobs requiring only the high school diploma. But, the middle-skilled applicants – that is workers with some post-secondary education or training, but not a baccalaureate – are finding a sweet spot in marketplace where they are in demand, with fewer applicants than jobs available.

This phenomenon is persistent. The National Skills Coalition has compiled data, state-by-state, describing the job market for college, high school and middle-skilled credentialed workers. Nationally, nearly half of the job openings expected in through 2024 will be middle-skilled jobs. 

Boston University Professor and author of “Work and Its Future”, Ellen Ruppel Shell, says the vast majority of future jobs will not require a college education. When asked by US News if a bachelor’s degree is going to be necessary in the future of work, she replied in part: “For some people, absolutely. The problem is that many people are disadvantaged when they start. So they are not in a position to graduate or to benefit as much from the experience as people who are wealthier. They also come out at a great disadvantage, often with extreme debt. So it really depends. College shouldn’t be a blanket recommendation.”

So, how are we serving the middle-skilled workforce? These workers include skilled health care workers, many low-to-mid management positions, networking specialists, and skilled technologists in a vast array of occupations that often require certifications, but not formal degrees. Just as with all workers in today’s marketplace, their jobs are shifting with the advent of smarter technologies and networks. As the jobs shift, so too do the requisite training, credentials and skills.

Most successful colleges and universities are already carefully tracking and adjusting to the needs of employers for graduates in the fields where they offer degrees. But, are we putting equal emphasis on tracking and projecting the needs of prospective students who will enter the middle-skills fields with certificates, micro-credentials, and other non-degree certifications from our institutions? A significant portion of these students may even be degree holders (perhaps even from your own institution) who have become tired of underemployment and are now seeking more fulfillment and higher salaries in the middle-skills job marketplace.

The workforce is changing and with it the skills that will be needed. We are on the cusp of the “fourth industrial revolution.”  It is drawing on advanced computing, innovative networking, and associated technologies to blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres. Lori Kletzer writes in Harvard Business Review: “With robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, what we call automation seems poised to take on a greater share of high-productivity jobs and a range of tasks that were previously the domain of humans. These are tasks requiring problem solving, decision making, and interaction within a less-than-fully-predictable environment. Automation of this sort includes self-driving cars and diagnosing disease.”

Now is the time for us to more carefully consider the changing workforce and where we can provide meaningful certifications and credentialing to students who are preparing for the fourth industrial revolution.

Of course, I will continue to track the developments in emerging trends, technologies, pedagogies and practices, Continuing and Online Education Update blog by UPCEAYou can have the updates sent directly to your email each morning  – no advertising, no spam!