Top Issues Facing Higher Education In 2014

Career College Central summary:

  • The last several years have seen much white water in higher education. The currents of change have propelled the sector toward, or onto, one rock after another. This year offers no prospect for relief. The top issues of 2014 will undoubtedly include the following:
  • Cost continues to top the list of concerns for the President, Congress and, most importantly, the public. Much of the cost increase over the past five years can be attributed to reduced state tax support for public institutions which has forced an offset through increases in tuition and fees. The highest increases have been at public colleges and universities where 75% of students are enrolled. President Obama will be drawing further attention to this issue with a White House Conference on the subject planned for January.
  • Renewal of the Higher Education Act by Congress got started last year. However, the in-depth work of shaping and testing new policies and regulations will pick up steam in 2014. At this point, accreditation reform appears to be one of the few issues parties agree is needed although consensus on its purpose is lacking.
  • Workforce development is taking on greater importance as employers are once again hiring but they are still having difficulty finding applicants with needed skills. This is creating dialogue around America’s “skills gap” and the need for higher education to do a better job of preparing future workers. Meanwhile, business and industry remain largely on the sidelines in terms of efforts to increase employee degree completion.
  • Competency-based education (CBE) is receiving attention from the media as more schools dip a toe into these new waters. There is much to be done here. Few understand exactly what is meant by “competency”, know how to measure it, or comprehend what can actually be done with a degree attained through such a process (employers may like it, but what about grad schools). Even the appropriateness of the term “competency-based education” is questioned by some as such programs are focused on the assessment of one’s ability to apply learning already acquired rather than the attainment of new learning. Should this be “competency-based credentialing” (CBC)?
  • Accreditation has become the “piñata” of both the political and policy communities. Few of those who are critical of it understand the present system, a big part of the problem. However, before any meaningful reform can be undertaken, there needs to be agreement as to whether the present system is “too difficult” or “too lax” and whether the desired end state is a regulatory enforcement body or one of quality assurance.

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