Home Editorial A Review of all the U.S. Education Issues I Wrote About in 2022
A Review of all the U.S. Education Issues I Wrote About in 2022

A Review of all the U.S. Education Issues I Wrote About in 2022

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Before I authored one of those “What are the Top 10 Issues in U.S. K-20 Education” articles for my first post of 2023, I thought I should review what I wrote about education in 2022. As much as possible, I attempted to organize my 2022 topics by education category.

K-12 Education

A Washington Post article about the shortage of K-12 teachers triggered a post that focused on the short-term stopgap measures deployed to find teachers versus the long-term solutions. From a conversation with a K-12 educator and friend, I learned about the administrative bureaucracy and reporting requirements that cause nearly half of all teachers to leave by their fifth year. I found an interesting paper that provides the statistics about teacher turnover, the aging of the teacher workforce, and the reduction in the percentage of experienced teachers indicating the situation will get worse before/if it gets better. Some of the proposed solutions recommend tighter partnerships between K-12 districts and higher education so that teacher candidates can be mentored and trained more effectively. Others include utilizing companies dedicated to developing and evaluating K-12 teachers as part of school districts’ annual professional education plan. Without a national strategy because of our decentralization of K-12 education, the likelihood that the situation improves anytime soon is not promising.

Is There Hope for K-12 Education Reform? was a question that I posed after reading the Out of the Box report published by New Classrooms. While the roadmap they publish is excellent, I think the political barriers to change are overwhelming in most states. I also wrote an article about the declining NAEP scores for fourth and eighth graders and cited the innovative approach for changing the learning paradigms in K-12 education as expressed by the authors of the Out of the Box report.

Federal funding for technology in K-12 schools increased during the pandemic. I wrote about an EdSurge article authored by Emily Tate that reported some progress toward edtech companies seeking certification that their product met the standards promulgated by Congress when it passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015.

Higher Ed

Community Colleges

A story about a promising program called the Alamo Promise offered by the five community colleges that form the Alamo Colleges District was inspiring. Promise programs that pay for college tuition are not new. However, the Alamo Promise includes low-cost healthcare programs, daycare, food pantries, and emergency financial aid. It also offers three years of tuition provided students apply for financial aid. Promise students can also be either full-time or part-time. During a period of declining enrollments in community colleges, enrollments from the 25 high schools targeted for the program increased by 17 percent. Even more impressive is the fact that over 85 percent of the first-year students that enrolled this fall are Hispanic. Total cost for the program in 2021 was $1.87 million. Only tuition and fees are included in the costs as the other services are offered to all students attending the five Alamo Colleges. The Promise Program has raised $12 million since its announcement in 2019. Its success encouraged voters to support a $450 million bond issue. In the fall of 2022, the program expanded to target 47 area high schools. I encouraged other community college leaders to visit San Antonio to see this program in action.

Why Aren’t More Adults Finishing Community College? was the topic of a two-part post. Part I reported the results from UVA researchers analyzing the earnings of students who attended a Virginia Community College during 2009-2014 but who did not graduate or re-enroll at another institution for at least three years. Some of the key insights from the research included: (1) many adults exit college with some credits, but most of them may not be academically ready to succeed in postsecondary education, (2) after leaving college without a credential, students with substantial academic progress typically experience steadily increasing wages, and (3) most students with substantial academic progress who left college without a credential were in a field without significant earnings premia associated with completion.

Part II provided more details from the research paper including the analytics of parsing 376,366 students to 95,380 that met the targeted parameters. I noted that the 280,986 students that did not meet the requirements represented a 75 percent failure to complete and were not analyzed by the researchers. Because of the researchers’ UVA connection, they were able to access salary data from the Virginia Employment Commission. At the same time, wage data from students who were employed by the federal government or an out-of-state employer were not included. This might have impacted outcomes for students who were active-duty military in the Tidewater and DC areas or who were government workers or worked for a large out-of-state employer in the DC area. This is one of those research papers that I believe would benefit community colleges in other states if a similar analysis is possible.

An article co-authored by an economist at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at UVA researched community colleges enrollments during the pandemic and provided another perspective on reasons why our most affordable higher ed options would experience enrollment declines. My post noted that the researchers looked at enrollments in programs that focused on assembly, repair and maintenance courses of study that required hands-on involvement and concluded that most of the enrollment decline was concentrated in the male student population. These programs of study were almost impossible to shift online during the pandemic, required spacing reduced the number of students who could participate, and because graduates of these programs earn more money, the availability of instructors to teach these programs may have been impaired as well.

The Texas 2036 initiative issued a recommendation supporting a proposal by a Texas legislative committee to substantially increase funding to the state’s community colleges. If approved, the state will increase funding to community colleges by $600M to $650M over two years.

Not satisfied to wait for increased state assistance, the Austin Community College District received approval to issue $770M in bonds to expand facilities and high-in-demand programs at 11 campuses. How they prioritize the spending and how long it will take to fully implement is a question that I would like to see answered in 2023.

State Colleges and Universities

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board adopted an updated strategic plan and revised its name to Building a Talent Strong Texas. My post highlighted the changes in the plan including the expansion of the post-secondary education goal from the 25-34 age bracket to everyone from 25-64. I liked the plan’s revisions and I recommended that individuals interested in Texas’ data reporting review the plan’s annual almanac (see the 2021 almanac).

I reposted an article that I wrote about the NC Promise program and updated it for changes. The NC Promise program lowered in-state tuition to $500 per semester and $2,500 per semester for out-of-state students at three state institutions. Enrollments at these institutions increased, so legislators agreed to add a fourth institution to the program. I noted that most of the enrollment increases were transfer students and that it will take a while to see how successful this program ultimately becomes for these four low enrollment state universities. I also noted that the program did not reduce room and board costs which are substantial for low-income families.

In addition to reading education news from the regular sources like The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, Education Week, etc., I follow certain education blogs. I wrote about Higher Ed Works, a blog tracking the progress of education initiatives in the state of North Carolina with a goal to focus on bipartisan improvements to North Carolina’s public higher education system. It’s a 501c3 and dependent on donations to keep its reporting relevant and active. Thus far, its rich content and opinions have not disappointed me.

The University of Kansas System Board of Regents commissioned a consulting firm to help them develop a process for reviewing and analyzing duplicate degrees and programs across the various institutions. News of the preliminary report should not be a surprise to those who understand that higher education is not a mandated benefit across the various states. It also foreshadows the many different changes that will occur at publicly funded institutions as well as private colleges and universities over the next decade. Earlier in the year, I wrote about a similar project at the University of Kansas that was conducted by the same consultants.

Higher Ed Programs

An early-in-the-year announcement by the Thunderbird School of Global Management about a free five course online certificate in Global Management and Entrepreneurship led to a post that questioned the feasibility of reaching 100 million learners in four years and teaching them in 40 languages. Two Thunderbird alums (husband and wife) provided $25 million in initial funding that was to be matched by another $25 million of “in-kind” funding. Eventually, the school hopes to raise the balance of the $100 million estimated cost of the free program. Ed Tech analyst Phil Hill noted that it took Coursera a decade, $446 million in investment, and the brands of 200 colleges and universities to reach 100 million learners. I believe this announcement was more hype than reality and haven’t read anything about its progress since the initial press release.

I wrote about participating in an invitation only session with a Graduate School of Education to discuss how to transform it to meet America’s K-20 needs as well as lifetime education needs. Based on the participants’ ideas, I suggested that the best way to facilitate a transformation would be for a school of education to establish a communications center that could offer a forum for its faculty, faculty outside of the college and school, K-20 faculty and teachers, employers, policymakers, edtech entrepreneurs, foundations, etc., to collaborate and share their problems, experiences, and solutions. I noted that schools of education were not changing fast enough to match the pace of changes in education and the workforce.

I added a second post about transforming schools of education and utilized data from the Top 10 U.S. News & World Report ranked schools for discussion purposes. I wrote that half of those schools no longer offer undergraduate degrees in teaching. The half that offers undergraduate degrees has very low enrollments except for UC Irvine. US News provides separate rankings of schools of education by nine categories. Reskilling, upskilling, and professional education are not included in the existing nine categories. The top four ranked schools have three or fewer rankings in the existing nine categories (evidently, categories are not aggregated as part of the overall weighting). I compared data from Western Governors University’s education degrees to determine if America’s largest school of education differed from the top 10. Notably, most of its graduates were grouped in a few degree areas and two thirds were master’s students, not undergrads.

A $1.1 billion gift from venture capitalist John Doerr to Stanford University to establish a department to study climate change triggered an article. I noted that if the entire gift is included in the Stanford endowment, it should yield approximately $55 million per year which is a very small amount of money when you consider what it will take to move the needle in climate change. One critic said that the money would be better spent trying to influence public opinion so that politicians would acknowledge the need to make changes in policy and federal programs. It will be interesting to see how Stanford might solicit other major contributions now that Mr. Doerr’s gift has established a new department, the first at Stanford in 70 years.

Admissions and Enrollments

Is there an upside to the downward trend in higher education enrollment? was a question that I posed after reading an article by Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Mr. Petrilli opined that the current higher ed enrollment declines were encouraging for three reasons: (1) students are finally making a decision that is in their best interest, (2) the downward trend is a sign that the U.S.’s “college for all” fever is breaking, and (3) the declines will force the higher ed establishment to make changes that will benefit students and taxpayers alike. Mr. Petrilli wrote that community colleges have taken students’ checks and Pell Grants for years while allowing them to drift away because they are unprepared for college. I applauded him for stating that many of our college dropouts were unprepared for college because of a subpar K-12 education. At the same time, I believed that he failed to acknowledge the attempts by many community colleges to enroll students in courses that could help them boost their math and reading and writing skills.

The Common App has made applying to colleges easier for many students. A recently released set of data regarding how many colleges different high school students apply to reported that students applying to elite institutions apply to more institutions than other students. Given the single digit percentage chance of gaining admission at many elite institutions, that fact should not be a surprise.

The pending demographic changes that portend even lower college enrollments were the subject of a Kevin Carey article in Vox. I wrote about his observations and concluded that demographic declines should not be the biggest concerns of college leaders but that relevancy, affordability, and ROI should be at the head of the list.

In a two-part post, I provided a few thoughts about whether brand name colleges and universities would be able to capture a substantial share of the online adult enrollments. In part one I compared the websites of the 10 institutions with the highest number of online adult students enrolled with the websites of 10 state flagship universities. In part two, I interviewed a former colleague and friend, Bob Gay, to discuss what needs to happen after a prospective student finds a college website. Bob’s student-oriented answers reveal that there’s much to learn for an institution focused on traditional full-time college students to meet the needs of online adult students.

Higher ed enrollments have been declining since 2011. Direct admissions are a trend that may or may not make a difference for both students and institutions. I wrote about Scott Jaschik’s Inside Higher Ed article reporting about initiatives in Chicago, Minnesota, and a 14-institution pilot project at the Common App. Notably, when students receive notification of admission and financial aid awards from colleges they never applied to, the net benefit of that should be that they consider attending an institution that they didn’t think they could afford. Unfortunately, I think community colleges are the most likely candidate for most students who will receive these offers of admission. Only time will tell.

The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) provides many insightful reports because of the sheer number of colleges and universities that submit enrollment and completion data to the Clearinghouse every year. Findings from this year’s Credit Accumulation and Completion Rates Report indicated that students earn approximately 75 percent of credits attempted (a huge opportunity for improvement as well as a red-flag for impressions about college’s return on investment (ROI). Only half of all first-year students earn 24 credits or more (another red flag) and less than a third earn 30 credits or more indicating that few will graduate in four years. Barely one-fourth of first-year, full-time students are on track to graduate in four years. Even worse, less than one-fourth of first-year, part-time students are on track to graduate in eight years. College readiness or the lack thereof, particularly in English and Math, is demonstrated to be a major reason why students don’t complete on time. That fact reminded me of my post about America’s need to improve adult literacy which was triggered by a report indicating that 130 million adults in America read below the level expected for their age. In addition, the U.S. currently stands at 16th on the list of 39 developed nations for its reading score on the OECD’s Survey of Adult Skills.

The release of the NSC’s Spring Enrollment 2022 report triggered another post. The report’s author stated that he was surprised that the decline in higher ed enrollments post pandemic continued. I cited other reviews including one from EdTech analyst Phil Hill who noted that the decline in enrollment has totaled 3.7 million since 2012. Calculating the impact of the demographic change and pandemic effect is likely easier than calculating the impact due to enrollment in alternative credentials or no enrollment due to dissatisfaction with the ROI from college.

The NSC issues several major enrollment reports each year. I reported that the First Look Fall 2022 report indicated that undergraduate and graduate student enrollments continued to decline this fall over the same period a year ago. There were differences in growth rates and/or declines by region and by degree program. The only surprise was a double-digit growth rate in dual degree students attending community colleges.

Online Learning

I expressed my disbelief that the House of Representatives could pass a bill increasing Pell Grants to include short term programs but exclude online programs. I wasn’t the only one to have this opinion, community college leaders as well as the head of WICHE voiced similar opinions. Unfortunately, data availability at the U.S. Department of Education on the outcomes of online only programs is limited and there are still too many people who choose to ignore the outcomes of successful online programs.

An opinion piece in Inside Higher Ed called for improving outcomes data for online programs. I critiqued the article in a post, chiding the author for utilizing data from online students at the University of Phoenix. I noted that there were other major studies that provided better representation of the outcomes for online students. I supported recommendations for classifying data in the College Scorecard to segregate online only programs from on ground programs but noted my continuing disappointment in a lack of representation for data from students who do not borrow to attend college. I encouraged colleges to publish their outcomes data from online programs as we did at APUS.

With all the calls for increased online college student enrollments after the pandemic-induced experiences, it was appropriate that someone wrote a book titled Using ROI for Strategic Planning of Online Education. I reviewed the book from my perspective of leading one of the early and more successful online institutions and recommended it as a primer for institutions considering an expansion of their online programs. The book is an excellent follow-up for those who read my post about the risk of assuming that online degrees are an easy source of revenue for traditional institutions.

Another article about online learning was my review and assessment of the annual Eduventures and Quality Matters survey of Chief Online Officers. The survey confirmed that online courses had moved to the mainstream thanks to the pandemic. The biggest change in the survey was the prediction by the Chief Online Officers that only four percent of college students would complete their degrees taking only face-to-face courses. Their survey results don’t indicate a wholesale change to online only. Instead, they believe that hybrid or blended courses will become the norm.

Online course sharing was the topic of an article written by New York Times reporter Jon Marcus. I wrote that the pros far outweigh the cons for institutions that participate in course-sharing platforms. I am most familiar with the platform offered by Acadeum a company based in Austin, TX. Thanks to more than a few discussions with its leaders over coffee and otherwise, I like the results the platform offers to participating institutions and their students.

Ed Tech

The 2022 EDUCAUSE Horizons Report – Trends in Education Technology was the topic of another post. The 57-page report identified technology trends across five broad categories. These trends were: hybrid and online learning, skills-based learning, remote work, learning analytics and big data, redefining instructional modalities, and cybersecurity. There were six categories that rose to the top of the list related to impact on teaching and learning. These were: AI for Learning Analytics, AI for Learning Tools, Hybrid Learning Spaces, Mainstreaming Hybrid/Remote Learning Modes, Micro-credentialing, and Professional Development for Hybrid/Remote Teaching.

The value of edtech that connects learners versus just providing them content was the subject of a Clayton Christensen Institute article that I reviewed. The Institute listed companies with these offerings under the category, EdTech That Connects, and listed the categories under which these software tools operate.

I was invited to participate on a panel discussion at the Emerge Education summit in London and wrote an article about my experience meeting with leaders of Europe’s top edtech companies. The topics for the five panels at the conference were: Future of Higher Education, Future of Workforce Development, Future Pathways into Employment, New Models in EY & K12 education, and Growth Investor Perspectives. Emerge is clearly a leader in venture funding of edtech companies in Europe.

Online Educational Resources (OER)

The continuous expansion of content on the internet is both a positive and a negative, particularly when it involves legitimate resources for academic research. I have been a fan of Open Educational Resources (OER) for years. One of my posts provided a current overview of the OER movement and the various repositories of curated educational resources. When I became aware of an initiative called Open Syllabus, I wrote about the group’s attempt to collect all college courses’ syllabi and eventually compare learning outcomes to the specific items on the syllabi through extensive use of Artificial Intelligence data analytics. Meanwhile, the database is a great way for an instructor to determine how frequently certain materials are utilized in similar courses around the world.

I also wrote about an initiative by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that funded the development of general education courses to be made available to any college or university through the OER section of its website. Assigning the development work to faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, Rice University, and Texas A&M University – College Station was likely to gain more acceptance of the courses within Texas if not outside of Texas.

Online Program Managers (OPMs)

Whether 2U was the first company to provide online program management (OPM) services to traditional colleges and universities is not as important as knowing that their strategy to provide those services to some of our better-known universities for a substantial percentage of revenues has generated criticism of the sector and the company. I found the news interesting about a 2U pivot where it decreased its “base fee” to 35 percent of revenues instead of 60 percent. Thanks to many publicly available documents, I was able to create a table predicting that very few of 2U’s university partners will opt for the fee pivot unless the base fee is less than 35 percent because of the negative impact on enrollment with the lower contribution to marketing expenses. 2U has clearly made a big bet ($800 million) that its edX purchase will provide the same quality of education leads at a lower cost for its OPM clients. Whether it will is the unanswered question in whether the pivot will work.

Another article that I wrote about OPM’s focused on EdTech analyst Phil Hill’s overall assessment of the sector and the potential for marketing flywheels to be created by converting the learners flocking to the Coursera and edX MOOC platform to paying students. I am skeptical that the flywheel effect will apply because of the low completion rate, the low cost (free) of many MOOCs, and the short-term nature of many of the MOOC courses.

Georgetown University’s partnership with Coursera to offer an online bachelor’s degree in liberal studies was newsworthy for a short period of time. I noted that there are similar online degrees that are less expensive and more transfer friendly. I am not sure there is a benefit to this degree other than it is a less expensive way to earn an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University (even if it is from the School of Continuing Studies).

The edX platform announced a partnership with Emeritus to promote its online degree programs and courses to millions of potential students in many countries around the world. I wrote that I’m not sure that Emeritus can promote the edX programs to enough learners in India to provide a profitable margin for the “geographically priced” online programs.

College Rankings

After reading an article about a new college ranking system in University Business magazine, I wrote about its merits. While I liked how its focus was on alumni earnings versus cost of attendance, I did not like how it focused on data from the College Scorecard since that data source only publishes data from students who borrow. There were some pleasant surprises in the top 30 undergraduate rankings including two online for-profit institutions, American Public University System (the institution I formerly led) and Capella University.

Graduate Earnings

A Texas Public Policy Foundation analysis of college graduates’ earnings by specific degree program triggered another post. Andrew Gillen and his colleagues used data from the College Scorecard to construct their analysis. Among their findings were that next to the credential itself (associates’ degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s, etc.), the most important thing influencing median earnings is the academic field selected by the student. These latter findings are not surprising. They were evident when I was an undergraduate in the 1970’s.

Student Loans and Employer Tuition Reimbursement

I posed the question Are Full Tuition Reimbursement Programs Utilized by Front-line Employees? in a post reviewing the initial “success” of Amazon’s decision to allow full-tuition for its 750,000 front-line employees. The company’s goal is to upskill 300,000 of those workers so they are eligible for higher paying jobs. I noted that my experience has been that many front-line employees don’t utilize their tuition benefits because they don’t have a desire to pursue additional education or because they don’t have the time to pursue additional education. I suggested that if companies like Amazon want to increase front-line employee participation in education programs that they give them paid-time-off to attend class.

I wrote about the changes in debt related goals that the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) implemented in its 60x30TX strategic plan. The new goals are undergraduate student loan debt will not exceed 60 percent of first year earnings for graduates of Texas public institutions and no more than half of all students who earn an undergraduate degree or certificate will have debt. I did not agree with the decision to eliminate parent debt incurred for students’ education. I have never been a proponent of the federal government’s Parent PLUS loan program, primarily because I believe it allows institutions to charge more money than students and their parents can afford.

Will Joe Biden Cancel Student Debt? was the topic of a May post. A Boston Globe article reporting why Mr. Biden was slow to address a campaign promise triggered my post. I added a few areas of concern as to how the forgiveness should be allocated and whether it would survive legal challenges.

Debt as a Percent of Earnings (DPE) was the focus of a Texas Public Policy Foundation analysis of loans incurred by students attending colleges and universities using data from the College Scorecard. I wrote about the merits of the methodology as a simple way to determine whether or not a degree provides an ROI to someone who borrows. In simple terms, programs with a DPE less than 100 are safe. Programs with a DPE greater than 100 may find that their graduates struggle to repay their loans.

I wrote about the Biden Administration’s proposed student loan forgiveness program on August 25 and September 1. I correctly predicted that the issue would go to court and that regardless of the outcome, a bi-partisan solution will be needed to reform the student loan program. The fact that no solution was proposed by the Biden administration highlights the fact that there is little agreement on the topic among members of both parties.

A chance meeting with a student working a second job to support a full-time unpaid 1200-hour internship triggered another post. I think requirements like this for graduation and licensure are ridiculous, but the system is unlikely to change any time soon.

Higher Ed Disruption and the Value of Higher Education

I posed the question When Does a Revolution Become a Transformation or Vice Versa? in a January post that critiqued Professor Steven Mintz’ article titled The Revolution in Higher Ed: Are You Prepared? Dr. Mintz listed seven transformational changes occurring in higher ed that include a far greater range of educational models that target distinct demographic populations, deepening disparity in access to faculty, majors, advising and support services; undergraduate education taking a backseat to other functions; students at less selective institutions concentrating in business, education, and health and walking away from the humanities and social sciences; growing numbers of students swirling between multiple colleges and universities; government assuming a more active role in oversight and accountability, and high schools increasing their offerings of early college/dual degree programs. Dr. Mintz proposed five steps that institutions can take to react and/or adopt to these changes.

In a January post titled The Signs Are All Around Us, I mentioned seven different articles reporting about enrollment declines at traditional institutions, enrollment increases at online institutions, lower tuition at low enrollment state institutions, a focus on limiting student debt at Texas public institutions, and increased funding for higher ed in California that comes with a few strings attached. I acknowledged the advances in online education that allow students to learn from any place with an internet connection and a smart phone, tablet, or computer. I questioned why college tuition, room and board should range from nearly free to more than $85,000 per year. I also asked why we should pay for degrees that don’t provide career outcomes better than high school degrees and why students and their parents are encouraged to borrow to attend college when there are lower cost options.

A Higher Ed Dive article written by senior editor Rick Seltzer triggered my post about the issues that occur when a survey is self-published and the research is not peer-reviewed. The title of the article was Adults who borrowed for college doubt higher ed’s value and it referenced a recent government report, The Economic Well Being of U.S. Households in 2021. I suspected that a statement made in the Higher Ed Dive article was incorrect, so I read the full government report to find the source. As it turned out, the data was unavailable supporting the statement and instead, the government report cited another paper published in 2010 that did not support the statement. This was another example where reporters don’t bother to check the factual support or choose not to. I noted that Inside Higher Ed’s article covering the report did not cite the unsupported statement.

Another post earlier in the year reflected my frustrations with the lack of a depth of understanding of higher ed data and statistics, particularly when some sources (like the College Scorecard) limit their data collection to a specific category of college student yet report data as if it is applicable to all students at a specific institution.

In a lengthy post, I wrote about a speech that I presented to a group of retired executives titled “The Crisis in American Higher Education: Evolution and Continuing Disruptions.” The speech provided historical snapshots of higher education in the U.S. including major bills in Congress that impacted higher education attendance and funding. One of the books that I recommended reading by those interested in learning more about the pending changes is The College Devaluation Crisis by Temple University president Jason Wingard. Another book that I recommended reading was Will Bunch’s After the Ivory Tower Falls. Mr. Bunch wrote that college is no longer the American Dream and the nightmare for many is how to repay the aggregate $1.7 trillion student loan debt. My 5,600-word presentation concluded with ten challenges that many higher ed institutions are going through or are facing. As a postscript to the article, I have been asked to speak on the topic in the Spring for two additional organizations.

Compilation on Measuring the Value of Higher Education was a report issued by Inside Higher Ed and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I wrote about the report which is an excellent reference source for a number of articles on the single theme of higher ed’s value.

Credentials

A survey of employers’ needs for micro-credentials in Tempe, AZ led by Rio Salado College and the Tempe Chamber of Commerce led to another post. The survey was well-developed to include definitions of micro-credentials to distinguish them from degrees. Local employers indicated a bigger need in areas like sales and marketing, front line management, and customer service. Softer skills like communications scored high as well. Community colleges have distinguished themselves for their partnerships with local employers for many years, and I was glad to see this survey featured in higher ed news.

Early in the year, I posted an article titled The Legitimacy and Illegitimacy of Credentials. I expressed my frustration at seeing badges and other credentials posted on LinkedIn profiles that I was unsure of their legitimacy. At the same time, I reported some of the progress made by Credential Engine to create a taxonomy for classifying credentials as well as a registry for reviewing and auditing those credentials.

An open-source paper titled A Strategic Reset: Micro-credentials for Higher Education Leaders led to a post about the authors’ recommendations.  The paper is intended to be a primer, not a framework. Part 1 provides definitions to help higher ed leaders understand definitions and terms for micro-credentials in the U.S. and around the world. Part 2 provides a snapshot of the global micro-credential market. Part 3 provides a few thoughts about the future of micro-credentials and some considerations for university leaders. I found the paper to be an excellent primer and support the authors’ conclusion – “if you’re not all in, don’t do it.”

Announcements from the SUNY System and the University of Texas System about their micro-credential plans were discussed in a post. The Governor of New York announced that SUNY would offer 426 micro-credentials in 60 subject areas at its 31 campuses and online. A filtered search for online only indicated that 186 were online. The University of Texas System micro-credentials are much less developed than SUNY’s and are part of a pilot program called Texas Credential for the Future. If I were looking for a model to emulate, I would look to SUNY’s where it appears much more embedded than the UT System’s.

Grounded Reality – a Perspective on non-degree Credentials was the title of a review of an Eduventures article about non-degree market tension noting decreases in those seeking degrees as well as increases in enrollments in those seeking non-degree credentials. Author Clint Raine provided five recommendations for colleges and universities seeking to increase their market share of non-degree credentials, four of which I lauded. I was skeptical that the fifth, “balance product names (i.e., badges, micro-credentials, nano-degrees, etc.) with consumer understanding, would be possible to enact until standards for each of these categories are developed and widely accepted.

Credential Engine’s initiative to track all educational and training credentials issued across the United States reported that the total now exceeds one million. Clearly, the sponsors and leaders of the Credential Engine initiative are believers in Peter Drucker’s famous quote “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” I look forward to future iterations of the data as the project continues.

Education Quality Outcomes Standards (EQOS) is a credentials quality framework initiative spawned from the Department of Education’s EQUIP program. Their acquisition by Jobs for the Future triggered an article that discusses the five major metrics of quality assurance – learning, completion, placement, earnings, and satisfaction as well as the feasibility of applying these standards and tracking metrics for all credentials. My conclusion was that the standards were too detailed to apply to micro-credentials unless you were able to increase the price of those credentials to cover the costs of implementing the EQOS framework.

Credential As You Go is another initiative tracking the various efforts by states and others to define the quality of credentials. My review of its program is that it is not as developed as EQOS but its 117 member board has so many higher ed luminaries, that as long as its funding continues, it may be able to build a framework of quality that encompasses all credentials.

UPCEA published the results of a member survey about Micro-credentials that triggered a post. The survey results were enlightening, primarily because they demonstrated that faculty from traditional institutions have very little interest in providing micro-credentials. If micro-credentials are to succeed as a potential growth area for higher ed, this survey points out that the road ahead will be difficult for many institutions.

For a deeper discussion of credentials, I suggest you read my review of the book Credentials – Understand the Problems. Identify the Opportunities. Create the Solutions. I also wrote about the “Wild West” of non-degree credentials offered by community colleges as reported by Lee Gardner in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Workforce Education

A Review of Workforce Education, 2020-2022: Two Years of Enormous Change was written by Workforce Monitor’s Editor-in-Chief George Lorenzo. I wrote about this excellent compendium and recommended reading it by anyone looking for a summary of the many changes occurring in this large and quickly changing area.

A LinkedIn report that provided an overview of the top 20 skills for future jobs based on data from their 830 million member profiles was the topic of another of my articles. Of the 20 top skills listed by LinkedIn, 14 are “hard skills” and 6 are “soft skills. LinkedIn Learning, a division of LinkedIn, offers short courses related to each of these skills. I noted that LinkedIn claims that each of these courses is updated every two weeks. I compared that to college courses that may not be updated for years. Clearly, there’s a deep disconnect between providing skills education courses and college courses, and not many colleges are good at the former.

Marketing Yourself was the title of an article that I wrote about how individuals can utilize features of LinkedIn to market themselves. Given the size and breadth of the platform and its ability to store badges and recommendations from employers, colleagues, and others, it’s a valuable tool for someone who may switch jobs many times over the 60-year career of the future.

Upskilling and Reskilling: The BMO Analysis provided my assessment of a report from investment bank BMO’s analysts on the various areas of needed upskilling and reskilling and the companies that provide those training programs and courses. I wrote that the trendlines provide in the report and sources cited should be useful for colleges and universities seeking to embrace upskilling and reskilling as part of their future education strategy.

Apprenticeships are one of the programs that proponents of higher education alternatives recommend in lieu of earning a college degree. I wrote about how these programs are changing after reading The Changing Face of Apprenticeships report issued by Opportunity@Work and Lightcast.

The Emerging Degree Reset was the title of a post that reviewed a paper with the same title. The paper was co-authored by six individuals, five of whom were employees of Emsi/Burning Glass now known as Lightcast. The authors classified jobs in three major categories (low skill, middle skill, and higher skill) and noted that companies are dropping degree requirements for many middle skill jobs and some higher skill jobs. They predict that these changes could provide up to 1.4 million people without a degree the opportunity to be employed at a higher wage role sometime over the next five years. I am not as optimistic as the authors that companies will change their requirements permanently nor that all companies are resourced equally meaning that smaller companies may not consider dropping degree requirements in a strong market for employers.

Changing the Narrative – But is the Narrative Right or Wrong was the title of a post that reported about an ad campaign attempting to influence employers to reduce the number of jobs with a four-year degree requirement. While its proponents cited the 70 million people held back because they don’t have a four-year degree, Paul Fain reported that a Burning Glass Institute paper analyzing job postings estimates that only 1.4 million jobs could become available if four-year degree requirements were dropped. The article led me to conclude that America would be better off improving the outcomes for graduates of its K-12 system including rebuilding a vocational education system, incentivizing employers to reskill and upskill employees, and finding ways to lower the cost of a bachelor’s degree including dropping the four-year requirement.

A former CEO wrote an opinion piece in the Boston Globe about why more companies should eliminate the four-year degree requirement as a condition for employment. I wrote that Joshua Macht made several valid points that could lead one to conclude that alternatives to higher education like apprenticeships may grow more quickly than higher ed is able to adapt its curriculum to make it more relevant to employers as well as be more affordable and provide a higher ROI than it currently does.

I reviewed a Lawrence Lanahan article in The Hechinger Report that questioned whether the removal of the four-year degree requirement for jobs was sustainable over the long haul. I wrote that America will not solve its employment inequities by removing the four-year degree requirement for jobs. Learning will continue to be an important differentiator for income and jobs regardless of your perspectives about the value of higher education. Until we have a navigable, supportive, targeted, integrated, and transparent learning ecosystem, employers will have the ability to change their job requirements based on the availability of qualified individuals.

Workforce RX is a book written by Van Tonn-Quinlivan that I reviewed. Her experiences working with the California Community College System and employers in California leading workforce development initiatives form valuable lessons in the need for collaboration between employers, educators, and workers. The book could serve as a primer for other states looking to do the same.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence has the potential to change our lives immeasurably, both good and bad. I wrote about an issue of Daedalus that was dedicated to articles about AI. Automation, Augmentation, Value Creation & the Distribution of Income & Wealth was written by Michael Spence, a Stanford professor and recipient of the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001. The main takeaways from his excellent article were that we are dealing with complex structural changes and transitions in work, skill requirements and human capital and it is not balanced. We need to turn automation into digital augmentation. Technology is not stationary and creates a constantly moving target, especially as it concerns applications of AI. Extreme income inequality combined with institutional and policy shortfalls risk turning a complex transition into a trap for the lower-income part of the population. Mr. Spence provides examples of how this digital transformation can be seen at scale through emerging economies in lower income countries. His article provides insights that few politicians focus on.

Another article from that Daedalus issue, AI and Society – The Turing Trap, discussed the need for politicians to support augmentation (education and training) of labor over automation or wealth will continue to accrue to the few who invest their capital in AI-enhanced automation, and joblessness will continue for many. Written by Erik Brynjolfsson, a well-known Stanford University AI professor, the conclusions and predicted economic outcomes are not much different than those reached by Michael Spence, an economist.

AI-Powered Technologies and Practices in Higher Ed was the title of a post that followed up with two specific technology categories cited in the 2022 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report that utilized Artificial Intelligence. The Horizon report authors write that as online courses increase and digitization of course materials increase, colleges and universities will utilize AI technologies to organize and analyze the data to create adaptive and personalized education experiences for all students. AI tools can also be utilized to adjust curricula, course materials, and assessments based on each student’s academic performance, needs, and preferences. The report authors noted that instructors and students rated the AI for Learning Tools category lowest in terms of receptiveness. I noted that the risk is no longer in the technology but in the adoption and implementation.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston was appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity by the U.S. Secretary of Education in 2019. He also serves as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), as a Trustee of The American College of Financial Services, as a member of the board of Our Community Salutes - USA, and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.

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