I think we can all agree that education, just like many other industries, is moving through a stage of considerable change. As our industry moves through this current inflection point and reemerges on the other side, how different might education look in just ten years? A decade is a long time, considering that the Apple iPhone is just celebrating a decade long anniversary. Will the same schools and colleges still be around? In the same configuration with the same programs?
The University of Wisconsin at Steven's Point recent news highlights some of the issues that education is facing. The University has proposed dropping 13 majors in the humanities and social sciences — including English, philosophy, history, sociology and Spanish — while adding programs with more clear and direct career pathways as a way to address declining enrollment and a multimillion-dollar deficit. It is a classic conversation about the role of liberal arts in a new world of career preparation.
While the news was a shock and generated a lot of dismay and protests around the campus, it was not a surprise to many in our industry who have seen these issues bubbling under the surface for years. Find an industry that does not occasionally have to recalibrate offerings, price points, and delivery models. You won't find one. This is the normal regeneration and life cycle of any industry. It is commonplace and I suspect will be a more frequent occurrence in the future.
As we look to the future, there are three prevailing questions facing the future of education. If your school or college is developing a strategic plan or formulating priorities for the future, you should probably start by considering these basic questions as they relate to your organization and context. They are:
- What will be the role of education in the future?
- What should “high quality” educational models really cost?
- How should education be delivered?
While none of us can predict the future, I believe it is fairly certain that it won't look the same as it does today. Building some assumptions about how your school or college will respond to these questions now may save a tremendous amount of recorrection in the future.