Let’s Have Companies and Communities Drive the Change in Higher Education for Adult Learners

If you have read much about higher education for adults, you will have seen many authors lamenting the fact that colleges and universities (CaU’s) are slow (very slow) to change.

So, let’s have companies and communities drive the change in higher education for the adult learner.

There are 3 reasons why companies and communities should drive learning for their employees (adult learners).

  1.  Companies and communities know what they need – and they typically have a large pool of potential students. 
    I am quite certain that the traditional undergraduate and graduate college degrees will have volume and value in the coming years.  However, companies and communities are better positioned to work with CaU’s to suggest formal learning content.  The higher education literature regularly suggests certificate programs will offer more value to companies and communities in the coming years.I encourage companies and communities to create 3-6 course clusters and offer internal certificates for employees to use for better job performance and to prepare for new career opportunities.Properly constructed, certificate programs can build toward a degree.  For adult learners, progress can be measured in months not years.  Who ever said that 120 college credits is a magic number that demonstrates a new level of learning.It can take 8 or more years for adults to earn that many credits.  In my experience, without strong support from their employer, the attrition rates are very high for adult learners who have to wait that long.  Let’s look at ‘serial certificates’ that provide both job-relevant learning to adults and moves them toward a degree.As employees move through the certificates (groups of college courses), make sure there is some form of recognition.  Then — all of a sudden, we are looking at measurable progress in months – not 80% of a decade.
  2. An increasing number of colleges and universities are willing to innovate to get new sources of tuition income.Both public and private CaU’s are looking for supplemental income.  Degree and certificate programs that come from new sources are highly valued.  Even those CaU’s that are still too traditional for the 21st century higher education market, are slowly recognizing and adapting to the changing adult-learner market.When developing these learning programs, make sure to be innovative on the pricing structure.  I was successful in negotiating flat-rate tuition costs per class.  The agreements also specified minimum and maximum enrollments.  If structured properly, companies and communities are able to have lower tuition costs per student, while CaU’s are guaranteed a flat revenue amount.
  3. Companies and community organizations can come together to let multiple colleges and universities bid on their business.  We can call it the ‘Reverse-Priceline Model’Do you really think you can differentiate a quality education?  Why not operate under the premise that all formal college learning is a commodity.  If one college or university vendor wants to charge a higher rate, ask them to demonstrate their thought process.  If it is based on quality, ask them to demonstrate the incremental difference in quality from one vendor to the next.One consideration to add to your negotiating strategy:  ask for faculty used to teach your employees or community members be in the top 25% of that institutions faculty – adjunct or full-time.

The alternative to what I have suggested above is to let your employees and members of your community choose a college or university on their own.  That option effectively limits your organization’s ability to negotiate both price and quality.

Next:  Dynamic Tuition Pricing Models for Adult College Students


About Gary Stocker
Since 2004, I have developed more than a dozen academic partnership programs with 7 different universities. I have developed the web site: www.collegecohorts.com to share the tips, systems, and processes that were used. Theses partnerships include certificate, degree-building, degree programs for a major midwestern health care system. Examples of the academic partnerships include, MBA, MHA, RN to BSN, MSN, Allied Health, and Nurse Case Manager.

2 Responses to Let’s Have Companies and Communities Drive the Change in Higher Education for Adult Learners

  1. Matt Nolan Adrignola, EdD, MBA says:

    Gary’s comments are spot on. In public institutions of higher education, we have a responsibility to promote efficiency and keep costs for students as low as possible. WIth academic partnerships, Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) can save on recruiting and academic services costs of having to work with students on an individual basis. Its time to get “smarter” about higher education.

  2. Pingback: Your Chamber of Commerce Can Start a Learning Cohort with a Local College or University. | College Cohorts

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