Our future depends on how we address the three A’s: affordability, accessibility, and accountability.
First, efforts to control the costs of education are essential due to challenges facing prospective students. Over the last five years, 43 states have cut funding to students, and some grants to benefit scholars have vanished. To compensate for these losses and keep college affordable, institutions must review their internal processes for savings opportunities, such as determining wasteful or duplicated services in operating expenses, implementing green initiatives to lower utility costs, and even freezing or reducing tuition to help students save.
Convenience is a key factor in whether students pursue post-secondary educational opportunities, particularly for adult learners with responsibilities beyond school. This growing population of students is desperately seeking access to higher education, but they do not want to sacrifice their work-life balance. To that end, we need to increase weekend classes and online offerings, as well as establish partnerships between baccalaureate and community colleges that allow students to transfer credits to more easily receive a four-year degree.
Finally, we need to prove that we have rigorous curricula that set high learning goals for today’s students. Regular assessments can show how well these courses meet internal accountability standards as well as the needs of the community. These student performance metrics should concentrate on revealing how well students are being trained with the practical skills needed to match the employment opportunities that will exist in the future.
For example, at William Peace University, more than 90 percent of our graduates on average are placed in jobs or graduate school within one year of graduation. This evidence-based data should be readily available to anyone and ideally show positive results.
With commitment and coordinated efforts by higher education leaders, keeping our colleges affordable, accessible, and accountable can ensure that liberal arts education continues to be valued in our society.
Debra Townsley, President, William Peace University