The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is comprised of a vibrant group of dedicated education professionals who have a major collective impact on student success at their respective institutions of higher education.  The 2014 AASCU Annual Meeting reinforced this premise, with presidents, chancellors, and other educational leaders and partners coming together to learn, share, and create vision for the future of higher education.

The world of higher education is changing at a rate unprecedented in modern history—this trend was a common thread throughout the AASCU Annual Meeting proceedings.  Discussion abounded about student swirl, competency certifications, and the concept of badges, challenging thought about traditional degree completion.  Student access to higher education and degree or program completion were also major topics in the dialogue.  Thoughts on enhancing campus and community engagement to assure student success were intertwined throughout the sessions and side conversations.  The opportunity to participate in this annual meeting was both energizing and informative.  A few key takeaway points from the meeting include:

How we educate students as a nation, and indeed the world, is changing at a very fast pace.

  • Student swirl is already a reality in higher education, but more possibilities and complexities regarding education and lifelong learning are on the horizon.
  • Linear paths toward degree completion will soon be replaced, or, at the very least, complimented by certification in competency areas and/or “badges”.
  • Targeting specific competencies for job performance will become more relevant in the future, and being able to easily upgrade and/or add competencies as one moves through a career path will become critical.
  • Transcripts as they exist today will need to change to keep pace with the new realities of how students are educated.

Rethinking success measures and ratings for institutions of higher education is a must as students choose to move between various institutions to achieve specific goals.

  • Graduation rates and time frames will no longer be efficient measures of institutional success, and in fact will become misleading in terms of the value an institution provides for students.
  • Education will become more competency-based and less rooted in time and place.
  • Aligning faculty and staff roles with factors that contribute to student success, along with new pedagogies, learning environments, and processes, is the future.
  • Student success requires intentionality and presidential leadership on a campus.

The fast pace of technological change will necessitate the concept of lifelong learning, and higher education institutions must adapt to working with new populations.

  • Managing the process of change at institutions will require dedication from all members of the campus community.
  • There is a changing definition of the “traditional” college student—the non-traditional student is now the traditional.

Higher education is more important than ever today, and into the foreseeable future, due to the ever-changing demands of the world of work.

  • The majority of minimum wage jobs as we know them today will not exist in the near future, therefore requiring a more educated workforce.
  • A large majority of current minimum wage jobs will be replaced by robotics, and in turn will require a change of thinking about job and career preparation.

The chances that a student today will stay in one career area or with one company for a lifetime are almost nil.

  • Preparation for future career pathways will become more focused on individual learning plans and options.
  • Tracking outcomes and assuring strong advising will become more important than ever in the future as students choose from multiple options for achieving their goals.

Strong presidential leadership will make all the difference in institutions successfully transitioning into the new world of education.  Being able to articulate future needs and educational changes to governmental entities to inform policy has, and will continue to be, an important responsibility of higher education leadership and their partners.

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