Future U Podcast

100th Episode: A Look Back and Forward

Episode Summary

Michael and Jeff celebrate the 100th episode of the podcast, with its origin story, some themes that have emerged in five seasons, and lots of predictions from previous guests and our listeners.

Episode Transcription

Jeff Selingo:

Michael, let's go back in the time machine to October 2017, and both of us were in Nebraska speaking with trustees at Bellevue University.

Jeff Selingo:

Do you remember what happened afterwards?

Michael Horn:

I do, Jeff.

Michael Horn:

I remember riffing together for nearly three hours on the future of higher ed. When we were finished, someone came up to us and said, "You guys should do a podcast together about the future of higher ed," and lo and behold, Future U was born just a few months later.

Michael Horn:

And Jeff, I think it started really off as a fun hobby for both of us, almost a side project. And given that, it's hard to believe that as we approach the end of our fifth season, this is our 100th episode of Future U.

Michael Horn:

Today, we'll both think about the past five years and look ahead to what the next five years hold for higher education.

Sponsor:

This episode of Future U is brought to you by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and by Salesforce.org.

Sponsor:

Subscribe to Future U wherever you get your podcasts and follow us on Twitter at the handle, @futureupodcast.

Sponsor:

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Jeff Selingo:

I'm Jeff Selingo.

Michael Horn:

And I'm Michael Horn.

Jeff Selingo:

And so here we are, the episode 100 of Future U. In the last 99 episodes, over five seasons of Future U, we hope that in the interviews with university presidents and former presidents, as well as other higher ed leaders, entrepreneurs, policy makers, journalists, and authors, among others, that we've given you a flavor of the issues and the people shaping higher education, the Future U, of course.

Jeff Selingo:

But I've always thought Future U had a double meaning as well, the future of you as a learner, so I hope that you've learned something about your own learning journey as well.

Michael Horn:

And Jeff, our listeners and their feedback and suggestions really helps make this endeavor worth it for both of us, and we want to continue to encourage all of you listening to reach out with comments, questions, suggestions, because getting listeners more involved in the show is a goal I know we both have for the next 100 episodes.

Jeff Selingo:

Uh oh, Michael. I think you just committed us to another 100 episodes.

Jeff Selingo:

So it's not only our listeners, Michael, but we've also been fortunate to get the podcast sponsored in recent years, so thank you to those organizations you hear at the beginning and the middle of each episode, including the Gates Foundation and Salesforce.org.

Jeff Selingo:

Today, we're going to start with some memories from the first five years of the show and what has happened in higher ed, and then we're going to turn to predictions for the next five years. And Michael, I know how much you love making predictions.

Michael Horn:

Indeed, Jeff. Clay Christensen always said a good theory helps you navigate the future. So from disrupting class in K12 to disrupting college and higher ed, I have never shied away from a prediction, be it closing colleges or the percent of students learning online.

Michael Horn:

But for today, we also asked some friends of the podcast, three presidents who appeared on some early episodes to provide their own predictions for the next five years.

Michael Horn:

And then, Jeff, you and I get to react to those in the second half of the show, as well as share predictions that came out over social media from our listeners in recent days.

Jeff Selingo:

So, Michael, I'm going to put you on the hot seat first. There's obviously a lot ahead for higher ed in the next five years, but we've also covered a lot on this show over the last five years, and of course, a big part of that was COVID-related.

Jeff Selingo:

So let's start there over the last five years. As you look over the past 99 episodes, what struck you?

Michael Horn:

So Jeff, for this, I wanted to steer clear of what I'm often known for, which is predicting the numbers of schools that will close or merge. We've certainly covered that plenty here over the past five seasons, so I'm going to try to avoid that, Jeff.

Jeff Selingo:

Darn it, Michael. I was really hoping that we would get that headline number that we could advertise in promoting this show.

Michael Horn:

Yeah, I'm avoiding the headline search engines, I suppose.

Michael Horn:

But Jeff, I want to go different direction, which is by my count, we've had at least 27 current or former college or university presidents on our show, and they've ranged from people who are leading community colleges to HBCUs, and from state comprehensive universities, to R1 institutions. They've led institutions from across the country in geographically disparate places, from West Virginia to California, and from Louisiana to New Hampshire, New York, Georgia, Arizona, and more.

Michael Horn:

Interestingly enough actually, we've had only one president from an Ivy league tier school. So I think we've listened and learned on this podcast from presidents that represent a set of institutions that frankly, broadly and roughly mirror where students enroll proportionately in the US, and thus really represents the diversity of higher ed.

Michael Horn:

And by my count of that group, eight of the schools were at one time or another in the last recent history, they were smaller schools, fewer than 3,500 students when you include grad and undergrad, and I'll rattle them off quickly. Simmons University, Morehouse, Paul Quinn, Trinity, Washington University, Dickinson, Davidson, Dominican University of California. And then the one that no one today would call a smaller school, but it once was, which is Southern New Hampshire University.

Michael Horn:

And hopefully, I didn't leave out any or include any that I shouldn't have.

Michael Horn:

But interestingly, Jeff, only one of these, Paul Quinn College is what you would call a really small school. One of the 40% of institutions with fewer than 1000 students.

Jeff Selingo:

And, Michael, that figure always strikes me, that 40% of the American higher education market is made up of colleges with fewer than 1000 students. Because one of the predictions we're going to hear later from a president is really focused on scale, and clearly scale starts much larger, I think. Given tens of millions of students that need to be served around the world, it's going to start much larger than 1000 students.

Jeff Selingo:

So does that mean we're ripe for a topic that I think we've discussed probably more than anything else on the show, which is consolidation?

Michael Horn:

I'm really trying to steer clear of it, Jeff.

Michael Horn:

It's a topic I think that we've exhausted at least for now. Instead, I want to reflect on something that Mary Marcy spoke to us about in the show, which is that for small colleges that are tuition dependent, well, it's true. There's a lot threatening right now in higher ed.

Michael Horn:

There's actually a lot of opportunity as well, and Mary addressed that in her book, The Small College Imperative: Models For Sustainable Futures, and she listed out five different strategies that institutions could pursue.

Michael Horn:

And when I reflect back on what we've done in the show, I think we featured schools, many of which have shown very different ways to carve out what Joseph Aoun, president of Northeastern, called differentiating. Not just being diverse, but really to create a distinct offering that allows them to not just survive, but actually thrive.

Michael Horn:

And I won't go through them all, but just to give a sense of the range, you have Southern New Hampshire University and Simmons, really leaning into online learning and SNHU, of course went from roughly 500 students online in 2010 to over 160,000 now, Jeff. So about a decade later.

Michael Horn:

And Simmons changed from being Simmons College to Simmons University, which there's recent research that shows that when you rebrand like that, it actually helps schools attract more applicants.

Michael Horn:

Then you have Paul Quinn College leaning into being one of nine federally-funded work colleges with some very neat models that have dramatically lowered the cost of higher ed for students who typically don't have a lot of means.

Michael Horn:

Then you have Dominican where Mary was president, and they've done an assortment of partnerships and a true rethinking of its curriculum to create something that's distinct, but also true to its mission, and origins, and valuable.

Michael Horn:

Now, Morehouse, perhaps more than any other on this list, they started with real prestige. The phrase, "The Morehouse Man," comes to mind, Jeff. But Morehouse is also doing some very interesting things with online learning and a coherent strategic plan to bolster what it does, and extend who it serves.

Michael Horn:

And then you have Davidson that you know quite well, which has done remarkable things to bring in key skills that are valued in the workplace, and merge, and put them alongside the liberal arts curriculum that they're so well known for.

Michael Horn:

And of course, Trinity Washington University. It's president, Pat McGuire grew the institution from, get this, Jeff, roughly 300 students when she took over in 1989 to some 1,700 students today by bucking tradition, in leaning into their location of Washington, DC, changing to a more active learning pedagogy to match what their learners needed, frankly not what the faculty wished that they were getting, and leaning into greater diversity, and better programming to match the job market.

Michael Horn:

And you get the idea. There's not one common playbook among those to survive and thrive as a small college. But I think there's some common imperatives.

Michael Horn:

One, know who you are built to serve and lean into serving them well, and that means second, don't try to be all things to all people.

Michael Horn:

Third, differentiate for sure, but as you do, make sure you're doing so with a value proposition that, as we've spoken a lot in the show this year, is valuable, will have a return on investment. Because I think more important than affordability in higher ed, is really value, and far too many colleges right now just don't showcase that real value. But when you do so, the price in resources, your dollars, time, whatever, it's more than worth it.

Michael Horn:

And as you differentiate, it's the fourth one I guess I'd list, lean into what makes you special and different. Don't try to take on or do something that isn't authentic to your mission, or your past or current assets.

Michael Horn:

And if you do this and you serve students well as you do so, I think there are a lot of opportunities ahead and innovation can really help you carve out a great path forward.

Michael Horn:

So maybe, Jeff, that's my prediction for the next five years, which is the opposite of consolidation but for those smaller schools that lean into what differentiates them and nail people's jobs to be done, and what's valuable. I think they're going to thrive. And yes, they won't be rendered as statistical footnote in my list of schools that close.

Jeff Selingo:

Michael, that quote you chose from President Aoun during our tour at Northeastern, the difference between a diverse higher ed system and a differentiating one is one that also stuck with me since that interview.

Jeff Selingo:

And I think the playbook that you laid out is a really good one. And I'm going to add one more and that's get out of your own way, and I think you mentioned that a little bit with Pat McGuire and what she did at Trinity.

Jeff Selingo:

As we tape this, I just got back from Arizona State where I was visiting with a program that I helped start there, The Academy For Innovative Higher Education Leadership, which is a partnership between ASU and Georgetown. And it takes mid-career leaders in higher ed through an innovation journey to help them in their own jobs and their careers.

Jeff Selingo:

And we have visitors come in from other universities from time to time, sitting presidents usually. And this time, one of the presidents who came in was Lori Carrell, who's the chancellor of the University of Minnesota at Rochester.

Jeff Selingo:

And the Rochester campus, if our listeners don't know the story of the Rochester campus, which is where the Mayo Clinic is located in Minnesota, it's really different than any other institution within that University of Minnesota system.

Jeff Selingo:

It's small. It's about a thousand students. It's really young. It just opened in 2009. It doesn't own any of its own buildings, so it's doing it all through public-private partnerships in terms of real estate. It awards tenure to faculty not on the research in their disciplines, but how best to teach those disciplines, how that contributes to student learning and development.

Jeff Selingo:

And as I was talking to Lori, it really reminded me of something that Kasia Lundy from EY-Parthenon said on a recent episode of Future U, that the way most universities are constructed and organized today, is not the way we would do it if we had to start them all over again today.

Jeff Selingo:

And I think the Rochester campus obviously got the chance to do that, so they were lucky work with that blank slate.

Jeff Selingo:

But as Lori Carrell told the fellows in the program at ASU, there's no reason why they can't do that at their own institutions. They just have to better understand what are those barriers that, to be honest with you, we have largely put in place ourselves, whether that's how institutions use semesters, course requirements, when they teach, and really have to decide what they want to do away with.

Jeff Selingo:

So that's the one I would add to your list about how to survive, is to think of this as a design challenge and what are those barriers to student and institutional success that you really can deconstruct?

Michael Horn:

Jeff, I love that.

Michael Horn:

My friend, Alex Hernandez, who used to be The Charter School Growth Fund dean at UVA's extension school, and incoming president at Champlain College, he always says, "Educators give away so many degrees of freedom that they didn't even know they had because they start with these basic templates and don't leave them behind when they turn to this design challenge."

Michael Horn:

So I want to turn now to you, put you on the hot seat, because I'm curious what's something that you look back at our five years, you've thought about, and you wanted to highlight?

Jeff Selingo:

Yeah. So Michael, I want to focus on talent and specifically leadership and staff, because we talk a lot about the quality of US higher education and it's top place in the world.

Jeff Selingo:

And when we do that, I think it's mostly about faculty in two parts. One part is their research prowess, the knowledge creation portion of their jobs.

Jeff Selingo:

And the second part is how faculty shape the next generation and their role in research, and teaching, and mentorship.

Jeff Selingo:

But as I look back on the topics we've covered on Future U and the guests we've had on the show, there's a whole swath of the academic workforce that frankly, we don't really treat as talent. And I'm thinking specifically of the staff, but maybe even leadership itself.

Jeff Selingo:

So let's first talk about leadership. So often in academia, when somebody moves into leadership from the faculty, we hear quote unquote, they're moving to the dark side.

Jeff Selingo:

And that really doesn't make it appealing to academics who might make great deans, or provosts, or even presidents.

Jeff Selingo:

And let's zero in on the presidency for a minute. The model of the college presidency, in my opinion, is really broke. These have become short term gigs, five to six years at the most, for many of these presidents, and that's a lot less than the average for corporate CEO.

Jeff Selingo:

And I think this problem with the presidency really starts with the process of hiring the president. I think search firms are recycling the names of candidates. They're not incentivized, meaning the search firms are not incentivized to take risks in who they recommend. And their goal is really to get in and out of this process as fast as possible, because that's how they maximize their fee.

Jeff Selingo:

And new presidents, meanwhile, are really looking for low hanging fruit in these jobs that they can harvest for accomplishments that can send them onto their next job. Or at least they can show that they've accomplished something if things go south with the board, as they sometimes do, and there's a lot of strained relationships between the board and faculty, and we're also in a pretty tough fiscal climate right now.

Jeff Selingo:

So on the presidency in particular, I think we need to do a few things.

Jeff Selingo:

One, is encourage both through the search process and through contracts, presidents who will stay. One thing to note about the three presidents we're about to hear from in the second half of the show is that their accomplishments have come over 10 plus, and in some cases, 20 plus years.

Jeff Selingo:

Now, I'm not saying we need presidents to stay for 20 years, but I don't think, in my opinion, you could turn around to college in three to five years.

Jeff Selingo:

Second, we need to really think presidents as talent and develop them as talent, have scouts and coaches in finding the next generation of leadership and helping them along.

Jeff Selingo:

In many ways, it's almost as if they need agents. Talent in Hollywood, the news media, the sports world, they all have advocates working on their side and we need the same in higher ed. We need to stop depending on search firms to solely source presidents. There's not a week that goes by where I don't get a call from a search firm saying essentially, "Jeff, give us some more names. We need some more names for the search."

Michael Horn:

Yeah. I hear you, Jeff. It's interesting.

Michael Horn:

Just two reflections off that. I think the need for time is really important and it's not something we talk nearly enough about. I'm working on a new paper that takes this tools of cooperation framework that Howard Stevenson at Harvard developed alongside Clay Christensen about how do you get change when people disagree.

Michael Horn:

And one of the mechanisms of movement and building culture so that people will agree, frankly, is demonstrating success on that low fruit stuff that migrates you to a place where you can really put these bigger changes into effect. And that takes time.

Michael Horn:

They don't write about it in the paper, but as I was writing about it and using these case studies, exactly what you said jumped out, is that all of these changes took place over several years, and so you need a board of trustees that gives that rope, if you will, to the president, so that they have that political capital. And something that I listened back to the Pat McGuire episode, first season we did, and she talked a lot about how her board just really gave her a lot of insulation so she could make the changes she needed to make.

Michael Horn:

The second thing that just resonates on the talent development is something we talk a lot about. The professor, I think, at UCLA, who wrote about often, we like to select for people based on them, quote, unquote, having the right stuff like magical charisma or stuff like that, as opposed to asking, have they had schools of experience that translate into the things they will actually be doing in the job. And it turns out that being a president or a provost, a lot of the day to day things, they don't come naturally just from being a star faculty member.

Michael Horn:

There are actually specific schools of experience in terms of budgeting, and leading, and working with people who don't agree in fundraising, and on, and on, and on, that actually should be cultivated very intentionally through a series of posts for those that want to go that route and are able to then therefore lead well in higher education, which I think leadership is one thing. But leadership in higher education has its own specifics and peculiarity, shall we say, Jeff, that are distinct from other sectors?

Jeff Selingo:

Yeah. And Michael, just to move off of presidencies for a second here, the bigger issue to me is as I look back on our episodes, the last 99 episodes over the last couple of years, is we focus a lot obviously on the show around innovation and change in higher education. But the question to me is, who's going to carry all this out?

Jeff Selingo:

Obviously, the president and leadership matter, but the front line to students, prospective students, innovations around employer relationships, online programs, co-op student engagement, you name almost anything that we have talked about over the last five years, is you really need talented staff behind them.

Jeff Selingo:

And I think for so long, higher ed has really depended on finding staff who were driven to their mission, people who wanted to work for universities because of their mission, and as a result were willing to take lower salaries or work on campus, and etc.

Jeff Selingo:

But I think higher ed, in my opinion, has done a terrible job in developing their staff, and specifically in succession planning as well.

Jeff Selingo:

And colleges and universities, they think of themselves as learning organizations, but they think of themselves as learning organizations for everyone else besides themselves. They're not really good internal learning organizations.

Jeff Selingo:

And also I think before the pandemic, the thin margins many colleges and universities were operating on meant they hired staff at low salaries and they might have had to sacrifice talent or they expected people to do the jobs of two or three people.

Jeff Selingo:

And then the pandemic hit and people started to really reevaluate their lives, and now, the rest of the corporate world, of course, is facing this as well, and they're thinking about more flexibility. "You can live anywhere, work from home, four day work weeks."

Jeff Selingo:

They're also investing, as you know from your role at Guild, in continuing education and up-skilling and re-skilling their employees.

Jeff Selingo:

And so it's no wonder that we see higher ed is losing staff right now. They can't pay as well. They don't really do the training in professional development that's needed. They too often need to be in-person for work. And these are employees that don't necessarily believe in the mission of the university anymore. Not all of them.

Jeff Selingo:

So I think going forward, simply put, we're going to need to think of staff as talent. And what does that mean? I think there's a couple of things that I think we need to think about.

Jeff Selingo:

One is what is the core of the university and what is the context that surrounds that core? And I think that we're going to have to really rethink where do we outsource staff, if it isn't student-facing, and it isn't unique to higher ed, physical plant, finance, IT, I think we really have to have a serious conversation about how to outsource a lot of that work so that we could invest more in the core staff that is student-facing.

Jeff Selingo:

Second, I think we need to develop that core staff. What is a development plan that keeps them in higher ed and helps develop them over time?

Jeff Selingo:

Third, I think for our undergraduates particularly, we need to start to frame higher ed as a career. I don't think there's anyone working in higher ed today who went to college saying I want to work for a college or university. So why don't we take advantage of these young adults that we have on our campuses and really try to frame higher ed as a career to them?

Jeff Selingo:

Trinity College in Connecticut, for example, is thinking about developing co-ops for their students in IT. Now, obviously that's going to give them real skills that they could use to leave higher education, but perhaps they could work in higher education.

Jeff Selingo:

So what are some of the student jobs where you can help develop these careers among your own undergraduates and really think of student jobs, not only developing skills for them to go elsewhere, but perhaps stay within higher ed?

Jeff Selingo:

And then fourth, I think that colleges and universities really need to do a full analysis of what they need so that they're not trying to spread too many jobs over too many people, and that you're paying them appropriately.

Jeff Selingo:

It's interesting, just in the last couple of weeks, Moody's put out a warning to colleges about staffing because they know that there's this war for talent going on in every industry, and they're really worried that higher ed is going to have a hard time filling these jobs.

Jeff Selingo:

And I think that colleges and universities were able to coast with the staff that they had before the pandemic and now they're going to have to compete in this much larger market for talent, going forward, and that's going to impact how they are going to be innovative over the next five years.

Michael Horn:

Sage words, Jeff, I would say, and stuff that we will want to dig in more on as we turn the corner on our first 100 episodes as we're finishing this up. But for now, we're going to leave it there, and when we come back, we'll feature the predictions of three previous guests of Future U, as well as your ideas about what's next, and our thoughts and reactions on those predictions.

Michael Horn:

Stay with us after this short break on the 100th episode of Future U.

Sponsor:

This episode is also supported by Salesforce.org. Salesforce.org is proud to partner with institutions like yours to build a better future for all. We believe creating a technology-enabled personalized and continuous experience throughout the learner life cycle is so critical to driving student and institution success from anywhere.

Sponsor:

Learn more at salesforce.org/highered.

Jeff Selingo:

We're back on Future U, our 100th episode.

Jeff Selingo:

So we asked three college presidents, all of whom appeared on the podcast in its first season, to send us their predictions for the next five years. So let's hear what they have to say.

Jeff Selingo:

First up is Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, since 2002.

Michael Crow:

We're going to see massive expansion of higher education, both in the US and globally. This expansion is going to be implemented or the result of four simultaneous accelerations.

Michael Crow:

One is the acceleration in scale. The sheer number of individuals on a planet of eight billion people seeking higher education will accelerate, far outstripping everything that we have available in terms of infrastructure or means without massive technological innovation. Number one.

Michael Crow:

Number two, the second dimension of change driver here, relative to massification, is time. No longer will higher education be just short window of time before age 30, but will be a universal thing, universal learning, lifelong learning, what have you.

Michael Crow:

The third dimensionality here is personalization. That massive expansion will be also a result of the empowerment of fully personalized methods for learning.

Michael Crow:

And the fourth driver of massive of expansion will be design differentiation. The notion that we'll have not five types of colleges and three types of universities, but 25 types of learning institutions, 25 types of colleges, 10 types of universities, thousands of other pathways of learning and so forth and so on, all of which at the end of the day, actually is higher education.

Michael Crow:

So one prediction, five years, massive expansion of higher education, both in the US and globally.

Michael Horn:

Love Michael's vision, Jeff. It obviously reflects what we've talked a lot about on the show and I'm struck by how fundamentally optimistic it is compared to the traditional narrative of challenging demographics.

Michael Horn:

And I think what Michael's comment shows, there's a lot of opportunity when you realize how many people worldwide will need and want education throughout their lives. And I agree with him on this.

Michael Horn:

I also love his point about no longer a few types of colleges, but really a broadening of types of programs and organizations and institutions that serve adults. And what I read into that is that some of those will be accredited colleges and universities and many others not, but they will all comprise what we sometimes loosely call a system of higher ed.

Michael Horn:

And if we take that expansive view of it, then I think he's on to something.

Michael Horn:

But I will say, if we look at just the five-year window in just accredited schools, then I'm less certain that we will see this massive expansion within just five years.

Michael Horn:

What do you think, Jeff?

Jeff Selingo:

As you know, I'm a special advisor at ASU, and Michael Crow is anything if not impatient. So I have a feeling that these things may happen. He probably didn't take our instructions on five years that seriously. He probably thinks they could happen sooner. But for most people, you're probably right.

Jeff Selingo:

I think it was the design differentiation that I found pretty fascinating as well. Going back to what I was talking about earlier with the University of Minnesota at Rochester. And my question though, is how can we encourage colleges to rethink their missions and even their organization?

Jeff Selingo:

I think there's going to have to be some incentive to do that, and whether that comes from the government at the state level or federal level, and I'm probably pretty skeptical that's going to happen, but some sort of innovation fund where colleges could tap, and the only way they really get paid out of that innovation fund is if they change and rethink their mission, organization, the types of degrees that they give out and so forth, I think that's what's going to have to happen.

Jeff Selingo:

And whether, again, that comes from the government or probably more likely from big nonprofit foundations. I know if I sat on the money of MacKenzie Scott or others, that's probably where I would put my money as to encourage that innovation.

Michael Horn:

I agree, Jeff. I'd love to see a new school's venture fund for higher ed.

Michael Horn:

But let's turn to our next guest who came back and gave us a prediction. It's Pat McGuire, mentioned earlier, and she's been president of Trinity Washington University since 1989 and was on our first season of Future U. So here's Pat.

Pat McGuire:

Driven by what we learned in the pandemic and the pressure to diversify revenues, an era of declining numbers of high school graduates, higher ed in the next five years will break free from the rigidity of traditional semesters and even degrees as the premier credential, replaced by flexible, shorter term learning opportunities, leading to more certificates and stackable credentials.

Pat McGuire:

Continuing education programs, once the backwater of the academy, will grow in importance, both as revenue, generators, and incubators of best concepts for long-term program change, as even the most traditional universities look to capture the market of more than 35 million adults who started, but did not complete college.

Pat McGuire:

In the same way, lifelong learning will move from a sideline curiosity for ambitious 30-somethings to an absolute necessity for professional advancement across the entire career span, with all things technology dominating the menu of course offerings.

Pat McGuire:

Residential campuses will also adapt to having more older students in residence for shorter periods of time for professional and executive programs.

Pat McGuire:

Elites may continue to ignore these trends, but for the vast majority of institutions of higher education, the most creative will thrive while the hidebound will die.

Jeff Selingo:

It was interesting that Pat talked about adult students because so often I hear college presidents saying that's what's going to save them, are this huge market of adult students.

Jeff Selingo:

In many ways, adults are the siren song for a lot of these struggling colleges, and I just don't think enough of them are willing to change to make that happen.

Jeff Selingo:

Obviously, Trinity did that because it was their path to survival.

Jeff Selingo:

In many ways, I think colleges are going to have to set up entities within their institutions, perhaps even move them off campuses, much like Southern New Hampshire did when it moved its online division off campus in order to give people within the university, within the college, permission to break the rules to serve adult students.

Jeff Selingo:

I just don't see colleges and universities serving adult students in the way that they need to be served under the traditional construct of most colleges and universities.

Michael Horn:

Totally agree with you, Jeff. And that of autonomy is critical for this type of innovation as we've talked about in past episodes of the show.

Michael Horn:

I will say, I love Pat's vision, and I feel like, so far, they're all singing our tune as well. I'm also struck by how on-message it is with what Michael Crow had to share. And as we've discussed, though, I do think there will be continued friction between institutions and between institutions in the workplace with stackability, even as a lot of entities right now are trying to solve and pave the way.

Michael Horn:

But I do think that these squabbles over verification of actual learning will continue to be obstacles in the way, and I'm not sure that will be resolved in the next five years, but I couldn't agree more with Pat that continuing ed is really the locus for accredited institutions for where the innovation can come from. Those are the schools within the schools that you can set up.

Michael Horn:

And it's obviously something I've been saying and writing about for years now, so perhaps, I'm a broken record, but autonomous models, as you said, are clearly important because that's where schools can pioneer disruptive innovations themselves.

Michael Horn:

And I think that she's right, that many of the exclusive institutions, frankly, we'll be able to ignore some of this innovation and they'll be able to at least keep skating by and we'll decide on their terms, whether to engage or not, Jeff.

Jeff Selingo:

And finally, before we get to some listener predictions, here's Michael Sorell, president of Paul Quinn college in Dallas since 2007, with his prediction for the next five years.

Michael Sorrell:

More and more of what we have once considered to be the elite institutions will realize that the only way for them to continue to meet their enrollment goals is to dive head first into addressing the needs of adult learners.

Michael Sorrell:

So, more and more of this idea, that college is only for students and the English model of residential campuses will give way to just a cold hearted fact that students are older, and if you want to go get more students, you're going to have to go get them from the adult population.

Michael Horn:

Jeff, so what I found interesting about this besides the fact that all three of presidents chose independently to focus on adult learning and we didn't give them any direction or tips to do so. Frankly, it took us by surprise that they all focused in the same area.

Michael Horn:

But what I took from Michael Sorrell's comment is that beneath all the overlap between these three predictions, one big difference I think I heard, is that Michael is saying the cold hard reality will essentially cause exclusive institutions to focus on the adult learner, which is different from what Pat argues.

Michael Horn:

And I think the reality is we'll see a bit of both. Pat's right that these institutions will have to engage in serving adult learners to the extent of big scale. But I think by the same token, many already have, and many will continue to lean into the adult learner out of a sense of mission, and purpose, and opportunity. Not perhaps because they need to or want to grow like Michael said, but because they'll see it as consistent with their broader mission in society, Jeff.

Michael Horn:

What do you take away?

Jeff Selingo:

Yeah, I actually found the same thing. I actually thought Michael might have made a mistake when he said elite institutions, but I think he was deliberate in saying that, that not as many institutions, first of all, are as protected as they think they are by the market. But that the fact that there are these 35 million adults out there, sitting out there who need further education, or need to complete a degree, or need another degree as opposed to about two million high school graduates in the US.

Jeff Selingo:

And if you were Apple computer, or P&G, or Macy's, if you were any other industry, essentially, outside of higher education, and you were looking at your market, and on one side you saw 35 million and on the other side you saw two million, well, what market would you go after? Whether you were an elite product or not, you would find out that there's a way to serve that.

Jeff Selingo:

It's just like Toyota and Lexus. They figure out how to serve the top of the market, but also the middle of the market. And it's really amazing to me that you have hundreds, thousands of institutions, I would even argue, going after this small minuscule part of the market, that means the high school graduates, as opposed to this 35 million in a growing adult market out there.

Jeff Selingo:

It just makes no sense to me from a business perspective, and I think that's really what Michael is saying with his perspective.

Michael Horn:

So, Jeff, that caps off the president's giving us some thoughtful predictions for the next five years, but let's turn to some predictions that our listeners sent us over social media.

Jeff Selingo:

Yeah. So we have Gary Stocker who runs the website College Viability and he said, buyers, and this is, if you read my book, buyers and sellers. So these are the institutions that have to heavily discount, or sometimes just discount tuition to get students.

Jeff Selingo:

He said that buyers will merge. 10 to 20 colleges will merge together in an attempt to get the scale and market share that they need to stay financially viable.

Jeff Selingo:

I thought that was an interesting idea that we're not just talking a merger of a couple of colleges, but a much larger group of colleges might merge together.

Jeff Selingo:

We had Laura Venos, who is a college and career counselor in Fairfax County Public Schools, and she wrote that more colleges and universities will offer deferral to a January start date, Spring admit option. So we're going to have different calendars for college freshmen.

Jeff Selingo:

We also had Robert Gibson, director of learning technologies at Emporia State University, and he wrote, "Based on what I'm hearing from the ASU+GSV Summit attendees, private equity would infuse more money into higher education equivalencies, serving as a disruptor to the traditional model. This may lead to more education and training that is direct to consumer."

Michael Horn:

So three interesting ones there. I've got a few more to read, Jeff.

Michael Horn:

Brian Reed, an associate provost at the university of Montana said, "Two things. One, more states and industries will do away with a BA as a job qualification and two, outside out of elite higher education, 18 year-olds will opt out of higher education in greater numbers above and beyond anticipated demographic declines. That is even if the students are available, they will not be enrolling." Big words from Brian.

Michael Horn:

And then we've got Kevin Molloy from Workday who said, "An outsourcing of more services, especially in the trades that maintain an aging campus."

Michael Horn:

And then one more that we got, Jeff, that we will read. We unfortunately didn't get to read them all. We had a lot come in.

Michael Horn:

But from Travis Smith, a compliance administrator and higher ed doctorate student at Indiana University, and we should note one of our biggest fans, so thank you to Travis. He wrote and said, "College athletes will be employees at certain institutions."

Jeff Selingo:

Amazing, Michael. An amazing group of predictions from our listeners.

Jeff Selingo:

Any overall thoughts on these predictions?

Michael Horn:

I'll give three quick lightning thoughts.

Michael Horn:

One, I like the 10, 20 college mergers idea, but I think it may be too complicated given accreditation as we've learned from the experience of our guest, Jeff Senese earlier this year. And I think that's where a creative partnership, as opposed to a consolidation, may be more likely.

Michael Horn:

Second, Brian's prediction about more 18 year-olds opting out of higher ed, that should be both sobering, but I also think it's realistic. And if Pat and my name sakes, Michael and Michael, are right, then I think higher ed will figure out how to innovate to become more you valuable throughout people's lives, just not necessarily when they're 18 to 22.

Michael Horn:

And finally just Travis' comment. I agree Jeff, that college athletes will be employees, or at least paid at some institutions, and that we will see that materialize and change the fate of college athletics even more in the years ahead.

Michael Horn:

But, Jeff, is there one or three that you want to take?

Jeff Selingo:

I'm just going to take one, and it was the one from Laura who is a college and career counselor in Fairfax County Public Schools in Northern Virginia, and this is about the pathway into the college.

Jeff Selingo:

I think that, especially over the next decade, we know that there was a lot of student learning lost during the pandemic. We know that there's a lot more questioning about college and that transition from high school to college. So I think we're going to see a lot of differing pathways into college.

Jeff Selingo:

We're going to see some early college programs grow. I think we're going to see many more summer transition programs grow because colleges are going to want students that are better prepared to start as freshman.

Jeff Selingo:

I think we're going to start to see first year students start elsewhere. Our friends at Verto Education where they get to start their freshman year overseas. I think we're going to start to see a much bigger group of those types of organizations start up, where students can start elsewhere besides a college campus.

Jeff Selingo:

I think one of the things that the pandemic taught us is that there is going to be a lot more flexibility and optionality, and that's not just going to include for undergraduates, but it's also going to include that pathway from high school to college.

Michael Horn:

And, Jeff, I'm a big fan of colleges figuring out ways to do that gap year, discovery year like Verto has done, so I think that would be a prudent path, but we will leave it there for today's show.

Michael Horn:

And thank you all for listening and helping us make it to our 100th episode. And here's to the next 100 for Future U.