Well, another sleepless night. Could be a variety of reasons. But I do know that my mind keeps racing on the current happenings at the institution I work at.
Recently, it was announced that there was a budget crisis — worth $1 million. So, one of the things that happens is a faculty/staff cut-back. Unfortunately, that happens in no matter what field one works in. There were 7-10 positions talked about trimming; they could be through retirements or reductions. It sucks.
The school is also operating with its lowest enrollment in several years, even though they just graduated the largest undergraduate class…EVER. While all of this is happening, there is a brand new building being built, an athletic facility.
Naturally, there are grumblings about the whole situation. A coaching friend and coworker told me he saw a student complaining about the faculty/staff reductions WHILE a new athletic facility is being built. This is idiotic, mainly because the building is only possible because of donations over the past 10ish years! I am sure similar situations are happening all over the United States with the current state of higher education.
So, should higher education evolve into a different model? Should it provide MORE to students? And what may this look like? I have some ideas…
- One of my first posts was about “Where Higher Education Fails.” Basically this was about how colleges do nothing to prepare students for “real life” in terms of mortgages, bills, insurance, and life. This has nothing to do with higher education’s role in getting people ready for a career…it’s ONLY about getting people ready for life, period. It’d be nice if families did that for each other, but the family unit is completely different these days. People need to know how to put together a resume. People need to know about mortgages. People need to know what health insurance is like. People need to know about their own personal budgets and bills. This whole “life lessons” course should be added at the beginning of college and a course to wrap up college. Something like this would also be valuable for high school students. It needs to happen.
I think that is the FIRST thing that needs to happen. Guess what…there should already be staffing available at the institutions for those courses — the career development office should help. It wouldn’t be hard to get guest instructors for budget stuff, insurance stuff, mortgage stuff, and whatever else one wants to throw in there. Easy. Done.
- Institutions need to start getting “real world” or “hands-on” experiences in each career field. I was a Bible/Theology: Pre-Seminary major in undergrad. I never had one thing that prepared me for potentially leading a church or youth group. I thoroughly enjoyed studying and writing the papers, I needed the knowledge. But, being prepared for an actual career would’ve been nice. I started in Pre-Med…better believe I did a lot of hands-on experiences there. But, I am working on my MBA now…not one time have we done something that has been relevant to what I know other MBA students have done. We don’t do hardly anything in business. We don’t have guest speakers. We don’t do projects. Institutions should utilize these bright, young minds and talents to better their “product” and get experiences that will make them work-ready. If you have a marketing major…why not use them to market the school? If you have graphic design, why not help make ALL sorts of stuff for EVERY aspect of the school? If you have business people who want to be entrepreneurs, why not help them with their start-ups? Doesn’t that make sense? Why not operate a hotel or restaurant or bowling alley for these business people to get experience with real businesses? Then, all kinds of other majors can work in there too…culinary arts, electricians, interior designers, etc. Cut out the “busy work” and get with actual educational experiences.
This would be the second thing that needs to happen. There is already staffing there too…all the different professors and staff members. Why employ marketing professors AND marketing people…why not give them dual responsibilities? I am sure it may happen sometime, but not on a regular basis at higher education institutions. Work out partnerships with local businesses, instead of lousy papers, allow the students to do internships through the semester on particular aspects of business. Allow the criminal justice majors to actually help make this world a better place…help them write letters to congressmen, help with social activism by actually DOING something to change, etc. Let the computer people help with all the IT, website, and other computer needs at the institution. Every single major, minor, and department has something better to offer than just reading a book, writing a paper, and taking an exam.
- Cut positions that are not needed. Every school seems to have them, the students and other faculty/staff recognize what those positions are. Sometimes I wonder why we need ADs anymore. Vanderbilt operates without one. What is their role anymore? For big time institutions it’s to clean up the messes left by the coaches. But at the smaller institutions where change can happen more quickly…what do they do? They should be instructing, that’s always a need. Coaches schedule their games. Coaches build their own budgets. The only thing ADs do is “approve” them…but why should they only be responsible for athletics? Why can’t another VP or administrator do that AND something else? Some ADs are tremendous…that’s a given. So, this isn’t a broad sweeping generalization. Some ADs don’t fundraise, why? No athletic recruiting is done by ADs. They are not solely responsible for hires anymore…committees do that. A few years ago, Kent State University gave their professors a “gift” for helping recruit students. That “gift” was a decent sum of money for bringing in students to their department. That’s awesome! Most professors have very little responsibility when it comes to their department outside of instructing. So, why not make them responsible for helping the admissions department recruit students?
This is the third thing that needs done, now. Cutting these lousy positions sucks for the employed. But, it’s life. Maybe it’s looking it as “consolidating” rather than “cutting.” Allow these positions to be more valuable than what they are currently. Coaches have to teach at many schools. Why shouldn’t marketing “gurus” have to teach too? Why shouldn’t the ADs teach in sports management? Why shouldn’t professors make their programs attractive to local communities? If they aren’t good for anything more…let them go! If nothing else, money will be saved and hopefully making tuition more affordable! So, this is third because many positions are valuable…they just may need “consolidated” or they will be cut.
So, these three aspects will help higher education begin to evolve into something better than what’s already in place. A recent study was done about “Is College Too Easy?” It doesn’t need to be about being “hard” or “easy.” It needs to be about preparing people for the future. Make them smart. Make them ready. I want my doctors, nurses, and teachers to be ready. Another friend of mine said his nursing textbooks did NOTHING to prepare him for life in a hospital…get more hospital hours nursing schools! If a kid wants to be a college professor, author, or “expert” in a field…get that kid publishing and researching right away! Help him or her do it. It should happen at EVERY school and it should happen EVERY year.
Until there are some changes, we will continue to hear complaints of higher education. Especially as tuition increases, the complaints will only be worse. I always remember the letter a Boston College law student wrote. Colleges just aren’t preparing kids. Kids don’t come out of college knowing what to do with their lives or how to do it. People shouldn’t be going to school thinking, “College will help me get a job because I’ll have a degree.” Kids should be figuring out that job while they work on the degree. They should have a job ready when they are in their senior years — or at least graduate school ready too. No reason for colleges to fail kids anymore.
If the small college wants to become relevant again…this is how they should do it — in my opinion. It’s so much easier for a small school to pull this off before a 50,000 student Ohio State can. If these small institutions start doing it now, then they’ll get their enrollment numbers up. Kids should WANT to go there because they’ll be ready post-college.
It would be good to add to these three aspects…if you have any ideas, please share! This is just a start. Higher education evolution revolution!