Brief

How to reverse declining confidence in higher education

Dive Brief:

  • Storytelling around individual student successes, institutional breakthroughs and industrial development are the keys to convincing the public that higher education remains an essential investment, according to presenters at a recent meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. 
  • Private institutions should be considerate about providing well-rounded education and industrial preparation, but aligning more with the latter is one strategy to close the gap between executive perception and public perception about higher ed.
  • Recent data suggest that more than 70% of leaders believe individual growth to be the aim of a college education, while more than 55% of the public believes college is primarily for career development. 

Dive Insight:

College leaders are in unfamiliar territory having to navigate public ideas about the politicization of higher education and the ways in which political malaise extends to distrust of family spending on higher ed. However, they should be more aggressive in sharing the institutional story of how students enter and leave better prepared to make a difference in the world. What is missing from the narrative is that one story does not fit all family or student narratives, and the majority of college student stories aren't centered around an extraordinary work ethic or overcoming hardship to succeed. 

Presidents and deans must dive deeper into the statistics on the percentage of students who enter gainful employment or graduate school within two years of completion. Which industries attract the highest percentage of students from a school, and which programs command the most public and private research funding? These are the stories that engage diverse sets of students and private donors in the search to find value in an institution.

Filed Under: Higher Ed