Higher Education: The New Normal

For the opening keynote of the 2016 AIR Forum, David Longanecker, president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), shared his reflections on higher education in the new normal of the 21st century, calling it an era of evidence-based change. He focused his presentation on changes he has noted during his successful career in higher education, including:

  • Why we educate is changing. No matter how higher education professionals may feel about this fact, the new discussion about higher education revolves around preparation for the workforce. There is a movement from focusing on access to focusing on success.

  • The way we educate is changing. There is good news to share on increased participation levels, completion levels, and new approaches to providing education, including increased participation in online learning, competency-based approaches, and other innovations.

  • Who we educate is changing. Attainment gaps exist between white students and students who identify as underrepresented minorities. At the same time, students in higher education are becoming more diverse, so closing the attainment gap becomes particularly important.

  • The way we assess the quality of our enterprise is changing. Completion must be part of the assessment process. The availability of analytics tools and focus of accreditors is increasing the focus on assessment of student learning.

  • The way we finance the enterprise is changing. Enrollment has increased at colleges and universities and state funding has not kept pace with this change. Tuition has increased in most instances to cover this funding gap. Performance funding and affordability policies are increasing at the state and federal levels.

The keynote address challenged IR professionals to involve themselves in these conversations by providing data, information, and evidence to leaders making decisions in this new era filled with change.

Forum participants expressed their appreciation for David’s observations at the start of the Forum:

  • I thought the speaker did a great job of presenting on a topic relevant to all participants in an engaging way. It really set the stage for thinking about the future while going into the sessions.

  • Fantastic keynote. Very valuable information for those new to IR and longtime IR professionals. It was a nice frame to start off the conference!

  • The keynote was timely and informative. I enjoyed hearing the changes going on in higher education.

  • The keynote speaker provided some great overarching themes that are affecting higher education and, subsequently, IR.

 This keynote and many other Forum presentations are available free to AIR members through the Digital Pass.



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