Given the extraordinary regulatory and political challenges facing career education, what improvements/innovations does the sector need to implement to remain a leader in higher education?
First, the political challenges are really significant. All of higher education is going to face great political challenges coming in the next decade. Obviously, the movement is to increase transparency and that is going to be a critical part of what we do – having to be more transparent in terms of our processes and procedures. Right now, the public does not understand that in the recruitment arena we are different than traditional higher education. We cannot seek out 18 year olds. Our market is the adult learner, someone who is not currently sitting in a classroom at a high school. The public has to understand how and why we do what we do in the admissions process and to make prospective students feel comfortable. It’s not an over-the-top process where we’re forcing students to make decisions.
Second, we have to be accountable in the regulatory and political environments. We have to increase our accountability in terms of our outcomes and processes. We have to be accountable to society that students get what they sign up for and that we not only meet expectations but exceed them. Then we can demonstrate to the public we are meeting and exceeding them. That has to be carefully done, because the results can be used in different ways. If we compare placement, retention or graduation rates, we all see the same common definition. We have to make sure we accommodate those definitions.
Unless we have at least a fighting chance to make sure the data is inclusive, explicit and rational, we can always be viewed in a different light. We want the same light shined on us as is shined on other sectors.
The third innovation is more of a partnering effort – working with different foundations and organizations for them to understand what we do and how we do it. There are some great opportunities to do that, because we are flexible and fairly efficient as one organization as opposed to our colleagues in traditional higher education. We should take advantage of our ability to channel education to meet the needs of the organization.