Are colleges and universities ready to change their approach to educate the nation?
Many colleges and universities struggle to register. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC), college enrollments fell to 16.9 million students last spring. This number represents a decrease of 600,000 students from the previous academic year, with all of the decrease attributable to undergraduate enrollment. Although Covid-19 is one of the reasons for the drop, enrollments were down before the start of the pandemic due to falling birth rates and other issues.
As a result of this decline, colleges and universities are wondering how to attract and better serve diverse student populations. In order to better understand the needs and wants of higher education, Jenzabar – a company that helps universities put in place the most effective resources and tools to serve a diverse population – conducted a survey of adults at United States. how adults perceive the relationship between their current career, future career goals and higher education.
The main results of the survey, which involved nearly 2,500 adults, are as follows:
- Almost half of those polled believe they are underpaid, underemployed or failing to reach their potential.
- Almost a third of those polled, who are college graduates, believe the college has not prepared them effectively for their current jobs.
- A majority of respondents believe colleges and universities need to be more affordable, and more than half of respondents want more options outside of traditional four-year college experiences. They prefer a hybrid model for college education.
- More than half – including those with and without a college degree – would enroll in training and education to pursue a well-paying career if it were affordable, accessible and easy to do in their spare time.
- Eighty percent (80%) of survey respondents believe colleges and universities are too expensive and should offer programs that help students find well-paying jobs and provide health and retirement benefits.
In their work with colleges and universities, Jenzabar has noticed that non-traditional students have expressed disappointment with college course offerings. According to Ling Chai Maginn, Founder and CEO of Jenzabar, “The higher education system needs to transform so that we can fill the growing skills gap. Learning options need to be accessible to low-income or working adults so they can get the training they need without taking on more debt. Many traditional programs are expensive and do not offer the right mix of job training and life skills needed to secure employment opportunities in booming fields.
According to a recent report from the US Department of Labor, US employers are looking to fill 10 million positions, many in science and technology. However, there is a major gap that needs to be closed between American adults and the skills they need to fill those jobs. Colleges and universities need to change their approach to meet the needs of all students, including non-traditional students who make up 40% of college students today, Jenzabar and many others say.
When asked what the company is doing to respond to calls for change expressed in its survey, Maginn explained that Jenzabar works with many colleges to be more responsive to the needs and career aspirations of their students. Many of the institutions they work with are under-resourced and enrollment-driven; they also serve a student body of traditional and non-traditional, low-income, first-generation students who reflect the future of the nation rather than the past. Most recently, the company helped Philander Smith College, in Little Rock, Arkansas, strengthen its technology to better support course offerings, and Tougaloo College, in Tougaloo, Mississippi, expand its career development services.
The cost of colleges and universities will continue to widen the wealth gap in the United States, especially in a post-pandemic world where employers are looking to fill skill-based jobs and colleges are experiencing declining enrollments. According to Maginn, “without the colleges transforming and disrupting the current approach, the United States envisions an even deeper economic slowdown in the years to come.”