Campuses are coming back to life, but that doesn’t mean a return to business as usual. Virus containment remains critical, but so is the need to address the pandemic’s huge legacy of disruption. The financial health of many schools is severely challenged, and neither teaching and learning nor the character of student demand will ever be the same. Campus leaders feel an urgent need to close current budget gaps and develop strategies for the future.
Average class size is one of the primary factors driving cost per Student Credit Hour (SCH). But average class size is a bit of an over-simplification: in my home office, my dog and I together have an average of three legs, but that doesn’t really represent either of us very well.
Academic Program Economics,
Academic leaders routinely make decisions about course offerings, course scheduling, staffing, releases, and other topics that drive curricular efficiency. However, Deans and Chairs often lack convenient access to accurate data about instructional costs. As a result, many have limited, and sometimes incorrect, intuition about instructional economics. Asking them to make good decisions without access to sufficient relevant information is bound to lead to less-than-ideal results.
If you have been following the news lately, you may have seen several articles about the American workforce and a trend that has been coined, “The Great Resignation.” Employees are leaving their old jobs for better ones (more than 4 million US workers quit in April), often with a pit stop for skills training. As a country, we are taking stock and retooling, and that includes the state of our skills and careers. Financial giant Prudential has been reporting regularly on survey results regarding worker expectations and the coming talent migration. But in a sense, this is an old prediction now coming to fruition. Back in October, the World Economic Forum published The Future of Jobs Report showing some interesting transitions – such as movement from hospitality to healthcare analytics and higher ed to software development. From these reports and others, and from our GrayData, we can see more interest and demand for training in skills that fall under the category of data science.
program portfolio management,
“The rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated,” Mark Twain
Google Search Volume
University leaders are seriously planning for the post-COVID world. This world will differ significantly from the old, familiar one. The possibilities for restructuring academic activities are increasing dramatically as graduate employment patterns shift and faculty and students accept new modes of digitally mediated instruction. Bob Atkins’ recent blog, “Higher Education: Are You Ready for the Economic Boom?“ speaks to the opportunities available to institutions that are prepared to launch “different types of programs.”
The importance of envisioning future course and program portfolios will be familiar to readers of my recent blogs. Provosts, deans, and others responsible for academic resourcing invest time and money to get better data on their portfolios: e.g., by using Gray Associates’ Program Economics Platform (PEP). These data help them identify strategies for improvement, which is especially important given the current Covid-19 disruptions. We are pleased to introduce PEP+, our new predictive model for envisioning the consequences of changing a school’s lineup of courses and programs, just in time to help mitigate these disruptions.
Academic Program Economics
We have a great deal to be optimistic about in higher education. For one, most state budgets didn’t fall much and the federal government just gave them billion dollar booster shots. The U.S. economy is poised for a boom, led by federal spending and pent-up consumer demand.
In the face of financial shortfalls, many schools make a fundamental error: they focus on employment data to find new programs or current programs to grow. Unfortunately, there is a very limited relationship between employer needs and program margins.
We took a look at our data to find out which programs offer the most promise.
Following the 2008-9 recession, enrollment at public two-year colleges and for-profit institutions grew to 7.6 million, up from about 6.4 million in 2007. Over the following ten years or so, the growth ebbed a bit, but when Covid-19 brought another economic recession, it was expected that community college enrollment would pick up again, especially in Certificate programs–displaced workers would seek short-term training for new jobs. If you are reading this, you probably know that is not what happened.