Todd Zipper

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?

I believe a lot of the regulatory and political challenges stem from the mismatch of the cost and value of an education, which is clearly exacerbated by the 90/10 rule for for-profit schools. Colleges need to get their tuition levels in line with the long-term value of the degree or diploma. In addition, schools need to focus on various admissions standards to make sure they aren't enrolling students that are likely to default. As I move back slightly to the "teaching and learning" side of the equation, I see a real need for two other areas of growth and improvement. First, mobile needs to become ubiquitous in online learning since that is how students/consumers want to interact with content. Second, schools need to increase efforts on developmental education products, especially in career education where students, in most cases, are not freshmen-level ready.

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?

To date, most of my innovations are school-centric versus student-centric. While still at Education Connection, we saw the major retention problem, and we started a concept called "Test Drive College." We did this before any school announced their "free course" or any other like program. We knew from our days at Kaplan University that students most likely to succeed were ones who already demonstrated success online. I believe fairly strongly that all students in career education, where there is such a high risk of dropping out, should go through some kind of "boot camp" or extended orientation period. Additionally, and this is more of a marketing tactic, Education Connection pioneered telephonic transfers. When we first started the channel, we had leads converting well north of 10 percent. The benefit to the school is tremendous as it cuts out a lot of the heavy lifting of getting a student on the phone and properly qualified. Furthermore, in joining Learning House, we are really focused on student retention and have recently designed a product called "College Essentials" which is a self-paced, teaching-assistant-led set of college remediation courses.

What quality about career colleges or their students motivates you personally?

Career colleges are and should be laser focused on training and getting students jobs. When this value proposition is executed properly, career colleges become a truly mission-driven business. All stakeholders – students, colleges and taxpayers – are aligned. Additionally, there is nothing more motivating than seeing a human being better off having gone through an educational process.

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