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?
Colleges and organizations that have always focused on doing what is best for each student are in a position of not having to undergo great changes to be compliant, and others must learn from them if our leadership role is to be retained. Doing what is best for each student includes having a meaningful academic assessment for admission to help ensure the student can handle the academic rigor of the program. It means spending sufficient time in information gathering in the interview process; asking tough questions to understand the interests, motivation and goals of the student to ensure there will be a good match between student and program; and providing good information about the programs to enable an informed decision. We cannot be afraid to tell a student that the school is not a good match or to require all students to make cash payments. All of these steps improve quality and graduation rates. Additionally, when “doing what is best” is the basis of company decision making in regards to equipment and capital purchases, facility improvement, hiring decisions, and career services development, we have an environment where students start, graduate, become employed in better and higher paying jobs, and pay back loans. Our students are successful; we are successful; and our leadership role is solidified.
Please explain the innovations you’ve brought to (or observed in) career education. What led you to recognize the need for these innovations? What has been their impact on students and higher education?
I am proud of many accomplishments, but my biggest innovation in over 24 years in career education has been the focus on high school marketing and admissions programs to help improve student quality and graduation rates and to positively impact the 90-10 rule as a byproduct. For many years, schools described their high school recruitment program as attending the local college fair; schools did not want to invest in the three years it takes to build a high school program. However, a program can be built in increments with success at each level. A properly set up program with presenters in the classrooms and enrollers working with families is successful because of the rapport built at each stage. Students enroll because of rapport and trust, and what better way to start building rapport than one of your representatives presenting in the high school classroom. My first job in this industry was an admissions representative doing in-home interviews with high school seniors and their families. I quickly saw how the rapport built with students, teachers, counselors and parents benefited both college and student. High school seniors make good students. They are used to being in school, studying and taking tests, and they graduate at a higher rate. Students win and the college wins by getting higher quality students and by building long-term relationships in the high schools that most traditional colleges already have.
What quality about career colleges or their students motivates you personally?
The impact on people’s lives. Many of the students in career colleges choose us because they do better in the hands-on education process, and because of that, they did not have a history of academic success. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a student who started school fearful of failure (or success) and uncertain whether the sacrifices will be worth it transform into a different person at the end of the first term after even a small measure of success. Career colleges serve a niche of students who most likely would not have made it at a traditional college. Many students have already not been successful at traditional colleges and need a second chance. These students can now attend and graduate from a career college with skills, help for finding a career, goals and hope for the future. We help build dreams and make a difference in lives for students. Every graduation ceremony I attend adds probably five years to my career. There is no better motivation than the pure joy of students and families at graduation.