Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A higher standard for higher education

Harvard researchers recently conducted a study comparing student graduation rates, federal loan repayment rates, and student success in securing jobs between nonprofit and for-profit institutions.

Chris Kirkham reported on this study in The Huffington Post, highlighting a lot of important points from the data. While studies like this are important, what we really need to be focusing on is not the type of institution, but whether that institution provides the best value for students’ investment.

Regardless of whether the institution is for-profit or nonprofit, the most important factor to consider when evaluating the institutions within our education system is whether they provide a high quality educational experience.

I touched on this in a comment I left for Chris on his article, and I wanted to expand on those thoughts here. It’s our responsibility as educators to ensure that we deliver value to our students, and there are many ways we can do so:

  1. Provide financial aid focused on student needs. Practical and responsible financial aid guidance must be part of the support that an institution offers its students. Work with students to find the best financial aid packages that suit their needs. Don’t encourage them to take on any more than they can afford. Colleges should want their students to be able to afford an education! We work hard to make sure affordability is ensured.
  2. Give ongoing support from enrollment to graduation. A school should support its students every step of the way on their path to success. From working one-on-one with an enrollment officer to get started, to offering a nurturing environment with academic and career development support, institutions should strive to provide value at every stage of the educational experience.
  3. Offer degrees that lead to careers. We agree wholeheartedly with the concept noted in the article that all colleges should offer degrees that arm students with the practical skills they need to succeed in their careers. At Peirce, for instance, we continually update our degree offerings according to business demands and employment opportunities. We recently added new healthcare, accounting, and criminal justice degree programs to help prepare students to seize careers in these fast-growing fields.

Bottom line, every institution of higher education must ensure that its programs and services contribute to providing a high quality educational experience and a better future for its students. What are your thoughts?