5 Reasons Campuses Are Unwilling to Change

The world around us is moving at an incredible pace, and industries are modernizing right in front of our eyes. This shift is due to the urgency to stay relevant and, more importantly, sustainable in a competitive, post-pandemic marketplace. 

Within these modern industries are agents of change who hold various roles from the highest level of leadership to the operational level of the workforce. They have innovated to stay relevant and competitive. Their goal is to ensure they create products and services to meet the expected, fast-paced demands of their consumer. And their nimbleness has allowed them to succeed.

So why has Higher Ed struggled to modernize?

1. Comfortability

Humans are creatures of habit, and we are comfortable with what we know and do. The same goes for Higher Ed, which has relied on the same methodology and technology for decades. Even though these things slow institutions down and inhibit their innovation, Higher Ed is comfortable and unwilling to change.

The good news about the global pandemic is that it has finally forced Higher Ed to evolve the outdated practices that should have been changed years ago.

2. Title Ownership

People are entitled by their titles. Their assigned roles are heavy with accountability. This responsibility creates fear of failure but also over-empowers the role. The focus is on personal advancement, not on the advancement of the institution.

3. Boxed-In

Many leaders are insulated by their campus, laser-focused on internal operations. With their head down, it is difficult to imagine that their problems are the same problems that other institutions are facing. They believe that their problems are unique, so they cannot innovate in the same way as other schools.

Campuses are unique, but not as unique as their leaders may think. Enrollment sustainability, campus affinity, transfer rates, and technology are all top-of-mind within Higher Ed. All campuses need to evolve, and that evolution will be easier and more valuable if campuses look to each other for how to innovate.

On a large scale, campuses need to transform together. Then, once they’ve accomplished that, they can tailor their approach to fit their smaller, more unique needs. It’s time for Higher Ed to lift their head up and look to one another for ways to change. 

4. Tenure Workforce

Faculty and staff (more often than we would like to admit) view tenure as a security blanket, and, once they are under it, they cease to improve upon their role. This goes back to the comfortability of Higher Ed. But comfort inhibits innovation.

Higher Ed is a competitive landscape, and faculty and staff must constantly strive to make improvements. If the tenure doesn’t go away, it at least has to change. It is among the many elements of Higher Ed that do.

5. Retirement Horizon

Similar to the tenured workforce, leaders, faculty, and staff who are within retirement age are not motivated to make improvements. Their sights are set on their personal advancement into retirement, not the advancement of the institution.

A common theme arises among tenure, retirement, and title ownership: the individual is placed above the organization.

What needs to change? Whether it’s a change in operations or a change in culture, Higher Ed needs to align their institutions’ value with the value to its faculty, staff, and students. There is no motivation for innovation within an organization that cannot inspire loyalty. To create loyalty, value must be placed on the campus experience, the services the university offers, and a shared mission.

So how do campuses address each of these struggles?

Try starting here: Consider every campus role with term limits. Put people on the clock and give them a set time frame to make an impact. This will create motivation that leads to innovation. 

It will allow individual mobility to high-impact roles alongside the growing and evolving institution. It will also allow for others to get exposure to new jobs and experiences, creating a workforce with a diverse set of skills. All the while, campuses will benefit from innovative, driven faculty and staff who are striving to make a positive impact.

Innovative campuses are campuses that are constantly in motion, especially when it comes to the ever-changing technology that enables their innovation. Faculty and staff need to be nimble and comfortable in a fluid campus. And they have to start now.

As the new, post-pandemic era begins, will your institution be innovative? Or will it plant its feet in its old practices and get left behind?

Student Mental Health and COVID-19

Due to the long-lasting pandemic that has led to stay-at-home orders, lockdowns, and social distancing, COVID-19 has had a disastrous impact on the mental health of college students. During this time, students have been feeling isolated which has led to an increase in their stress, anxiety, and depression. Many schools have shifted to online learning, and, for some students, this less interactive form of learning has increased that feeling of isolation and its adverse effects.

During increased levels of stress, students may have thoughts of hurting themselves and thoughts of suicide. Due to the lack of access to care, students may put off seeking help when amid a mental health crisis. That is why it is important for school officials, family members, and peers to look for warning signs to make sure that those who need support receive it. Some common warning signs to be aware of are:

  • Isolation from friends
  • Expression of feelings of tiredness or sleepiness more often than normal
  • Drug and/or alcohol use that is more than normal
  • Increased mood swings

It’s also important that students recognize the warning signs in themselves. Students should be aware of these common signs of chronic stress, anxiety, and depression:

  • Feeling like a burden
  • Being isolated
  • Increased anxiety
  • Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Increased substance use
  • Looking for a way to access lethal means
  • Increased anger or rage
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Expressing hopelessness
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Making plans for suicide

If you or someone you know is struggling to cope and need immediate assistance you should call 911, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1800273TALK), or call/text the Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990).

Questions for Higher Ed Leaders:

  • Are schools ready to take care of their student population knowing the increased mental health crisis facing them?
  • How will schools lead the next generation of students to better health and a better life?

The college campus will never be the same again, and old solutions will not solve new problems. Higher education has a responsibility to its students to provide them the mental health resources that they need.

Beyond the Post: 1/8/21

Beyond Academics asks to hear your thoughts, comments, and opinions on the topics we’ve covered throughout the week. Let’s keep the conversation about Higher Education going.

BA Featured

Listen to Beyond Academics members Joe Abraham and Joel Mathew on The Scott Becker Business and Private Equity Podcast as they discuss what motivates BA and how we are actively transforming Higher Ed.

Our Posts

BA’s Top 10 Predictions for Higher Ed in 2021

Though 2020 is over, Higher Ed still has a lot of work to do. We must continue to adapt and transform—as we should be doing every year—to create a better future for students of today and beyond. Take a look at our top 10 Higher Ed predictions for 2021.

Read the full post >>>

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Video: Flexible Learning Options” by Maricopa Community Colleges

Maricopa Community Colleges recently posted this videos outlining their flexible learning options which include online (asynchronous), live online (synchronous), in-person, and hybrid (a combination of in-person and online).

Schools like Maricopa that have adapted their classrooms to better accommodate students are leading the way in higher education. Though creating a campus that works for everyone is still something we need to work toward, offering a variety of learning options is a huge step in the right direction. But we still have some questions.

BA Bold Thoughts:

  • This is great in theory, but how do we execute this in reality?
  • Maricopa lists “campus life” as something all their students (even the online ones) will have access to. What is campus life and how does it translate to digital, asynchronous learning?
  • What technology will be required to allow classrooms to exist on multiple platforms and operate smoothly?

Let us know your thoughts and answers to these questions.

Watch the video >>>

Excerpt: 8 things that could derail innovation at your company—and how to avoid them” by Alex Salkever, Ismail Amla, and Vivek Wadhwa via Fast Company

Replace the word “company” with “university” and these 8 things still apply.

In this excerpt, the authors talk about “ambidextrous leadership,” which gives resources to internal innovations and start-ups without “being eaten or crippled by legacy business units.” In order to transform, universities must give their institution the funding and space to actually innovate.

BA Bold Thoughts:

  • Innovative ideas are not enough, they require action, funding, and support.
  • The entire institution must be willing to change and willing to compromise in order to allow essential transformations.

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BA’s Top 10 Predictions for Higher Ed in 2021

Higher education faced some unprecedented challenges in 2020 and we were forced to adapt. But though 2020 is over, Higher Ed still has a lot of work to do. We must continue to adapt and transform—as we should be doing every year—to create a better future for students of today and beyond.

Here are our Higher Ed predictions for 2021, including the challenges still to overcome:

Online and hybrid education will be here to stay post-pandemic.

Schools will continue to use online and hybrid education to expand their geographic market and reduce costs. The quality of remote learning will continue to increase as faculty build up their skills and schools enhance their technical capabilities. The prevalence of online courses will make it easier for students to transfer between institutions. More students will continue to live off campus which will greatly reduce housing and fee revenue.

COVID mitigation protocols will continue to impact campuses through 2022.

Schools plan for the possibility that the pandemic won’t significantly ease and many COVID protocols become permanent. The appearance of more contagious variants and the slow roll-out of the vaccine will mean academic years 2021 and possibly 2022 will look a lot like Fall and Winter of 2020. The Federal DOE will issue comprehensive COVID guidelines and institutions will have to change their current protocols to meet the new nationwide standard.

Students will expand their choice of institutions beyond traditional boundaries and transfer credit will increase at 4-year institutions.

Student transfers will continue to increase. Remote education will make it easier for students to assemble their diplomas by taking relevant classes from a series of institutions. At the same time, responding to the drop in number of college age students, schools will increase recruiting Sophomores from other schools to become Junior transfers.

Many institutions will reduce their workforces (faculty/staff) and many programs will be sunset due to budget constraints.

Tenured and tenure-track faculty positions will continue to dwindle. Schools will soon have faculties made up entirely of adjuncts and short-term contractors. State systems will consolidate their smaller, financially weaker schools. All schools will start evaluating their programs and close low enrollment programs that are losing money.

ERP / SIS transformation projects will be scrutinized.

The technology budgets of state and private schools will be slashed over the next two years. As a result, schools won’t be able to afford 9 figure ERP/SIS transformation projects anymore. Instead, they will focus their resources on smaller technology initiatives with clear strategic goals targeted on specific processes. There will also be an increase in high-impact transformation initiatives that are not technology based.

Consulting firms dependent on ERP and SIS will downsize.

Without a steady pipeline of large ERP or SIS initiatives, consulting firms that specialize in technology implementations will have to downsize. However, firms that specialize in developing strategy, business process transformation, and the student experience will thrive.

Parents will be more critical of the ROI of sending their child to college.

Parents (and students) will question why they are paying pre-pandemic tuition and fee rates for their children to take online classes. As the pressure to reduce tuition and eliminate fees increase, schools will have to find ways to redefine the value students receive from their tuition investment.

Schools will struggle to maintain their campus affinity with remote learning.

Online learning makes transferring from one school to another significantly easier. Students will see an individual school they’ve attended as simply one stop of many on their way to a degree. This weaker affinity will make it harder for a school to develop its students into institutionally loyal, lifelong learners, supportive alumni, and long-term donors.

Enrollment of socioeconomically disadvantaged students will continue to drop, especially in community colleges.

Enrollment for both 4-year and community colleges dropped in 2020. Economic uncertainty, housing and food insecurity, lack of internet access, and having to teach their children at home are leading many people to put off enrollment. As long as these roadblocks remain, the downward trend in enrollment will continue.

Private schools will have to increase discounts.

In the Fall of 2019, the average tuition discount rate for private colleges was 53%. Institutional aid paid, on average, 60% of the published tuition price, leaving colleges in a tight financial bind. In an effort to keep their enrollments stable, colleges will continue to increase discount rates and institutional aid—further weakening their financial position and causing some schools to close.


Do you agree with these predictions? What other predictions for 2021 do you have?

Beyond the Post: 10/23/20

Beyond Academics asks to hear your thoughts, comments, and opinions on the topics we’ve covered throughout the week. Let’s keep the conversation about Higher Education going.

BA Is On YouTube!

Beyond Academic has two YouTube channels: Beyond Academics and the recently launched FutureX Podcast.

Watch the latest videos from Beyond Academics, or listen to Joe Abraham on the FutureX podcast as he interviews the top leaders in higher education.

Matt Alex Discusses the Value of Microlearning

Joe Abraham Interviews Dr. Paul J. LeBlanc, President of SNHU

Be sure to subscribe to both of these channels to stay up-to-date with the latest in Higher Ed from Beyond Academics.

Other Posts

“Who Should Take College-Level Courses?” by Elisabeth A. Barnett, Elizabeth Kopko, Dan Cullinan, and Clive R. Belfield for CAPR

Are standardized tests a good way to determine if a student can succeed in college-level Math and English courses?

Virtually all schools use placement test to evaluate if a student is ready for college level math or English courses. 68% of community college students and 40% of students at public four-year colleges take at least one of these developmental courses. Many students are assigned to multiple levels of math and English developmental courses—which further delay their entry into full college work. The more developmental courses they have, the less likely they are to complete their degree.

The  Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (CAPR)  completed a study at seven community colleges in the State University of New York System (SUNY) to determine if using a multi-criteria approach to place students in college-level or developmental courses were more likely to complete college-level work. The results were interesting:

  • Using multiple criteria,  placement in college-level English jumped 34 percentage points, from 46 to 80 percent of students.
  • Students who placed into college-level courses because of multiple measures were 8–10% more likely to complete college-level math or English course within three semesters.
  • Students who were placed into developmental courses were 8–10 percentage points less likely to complete college-level math or English course within three semesters.

Read the full post >>>

“Where Are Most International Students? Stranded Here, Needing Colleges’ Help” by Karin Fischer for The Chronicle of Higher Education

There has been a lot of focus on the drop in enrollment of foreign students in American universities. However, according to the Institute of International Education 9 of 10 foreign students who were enrolled in American universities at the time COVID lockdowns started are still in the US, stranded.

BA Bold Thoughts:

  • How can Higher Ed best accommodate and aid these students who are stranded in the US due to the pandemic?
  • What part does Higher Ed play in the national scheme of getting COVID-19 under control and thereby allowing these students to return to their families?

Let us know your thoughts and answers to these questions.

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Tell Us Your Thoughts

Comment on this post, reach out on LinkedIn, or submit your take on any of these topics via email. We want to talk with you about the future of Higher Ed.

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Beyond the Post: 10/16/20

Beyond Academics asks to hear your thoughts, comments, and opinions on the topics we’ve covered throughout the week. Let’s keep the conversation about Higher Education going.

Matt Alex Talks Microlearning

Matt Alex, talks about microlearning and the new competition of Google and Amazon in the world of e-learning. Higher Ed provides the necessary social skills for people entering the workforce, but colleges and universities can also benefit from introducing microlearning into their curriculum.

Has your organization considered, or even introduced, microlearning options as part of the curriculum? If so, we’d love to hear about them!

Other Posts

“A Community College Reopens. At What Cost?” by Madeline St. Amour for Inside Higher Ed

Miami Dade College doesn’t rely on room and board and is located in a COVID-19 hotspot. So why are they reopening despite pushback from faculty and students? Their vice president, Lenore Rodicio, says it’s because “students have different preferences for how to learn.”

  • 73% of students, or 1,762, said they preferred face-to-face instruction.
  • In a more recent study, 51% said they have a preference for face-to-face instruction.
  • 600 out of 700 faculty are teaching remotely.

BA Bold Thoughts:

Should flexibility replace safety, especially in a place where COVID-19 cases are still very high? If not, when is the right time to reopen? (COVID hotspot or not.)

Read the full post >>>

“A Generation Defined by the Pandemic” by Greta Anderson for Inside Higher Ed

This article outlines how students are feeling about the fall semester and what they have found to be the most challenging thing about attending class during a pandemic.

BA Bold Thoughts:

Students in 2020 are feeling isolated, stressed, and are experiences feeling of self doubt. How can we as Higher Ed leaders ease these concerns?

  • We must create a campus affinity for digital learning so that students feel they are not in this alone.
  • We must optimize the digital campus so that students can continue to learn in the way they learn best.
  • We must create real value for digital campuses that go beyond what is offered at physical campuses: this includes more classes, more specialized classes, and learning that promotes both Human-Centric Values and real-world skills.

Read the full post >>>

Tell Us Your Thoughts

Comment on this post, reach out on LinkedIn, or submit your take on any of these topics via email. We want to talk with you about the future of Higher Ed.

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Beyond the Post: 10/9/2020

Beyond Academics asks to hear your thoughts, comments, and opinions on the topics we’ve covered throughout the week. Let’s keep the conversation about Higher Education going.

The FutureX Podcast

Tune in to the second episode of The FutureX Podcast. In this episode, host Joe Abraham interviews Dr. Paul J. LeBlanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). Forbes Magazine has listed him as one of its 15 “Classroom Revolutionaries” and one of the “most influential people in higher education.”

What Higher Ed’s role is in preparing students for the future of work? What does the future of learning look like? What role does an entrepreneurial mindset play in Higher Ed? How does the word “consensus” fit into times of existential change?

As always, sound off in the comments or send us an email. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Other Posts

“4 Steps To Turn Makeshift Digital Transformation Into Long-Term Success” by Tomoko Yokoi for Forbes

This week, Forbes posted an excellent article on how to turn your quick digital response to COVID into long term success.

BA Bold Thoughts:

Institutions need to take these steps:

  • Empower a well-funded team focused on digital transformation. This will shorten the decision cycle and cut through bureaucracy.
  • Set up a process to capture great ideas from within your institution as well as from your students, alumni, and the local community.
  • Create a “Rapid Test and Learn” environment. The mantra “fail fast and fail often” can waste precious time and resources when the life of your institution may be at stake. It is better to create a “test-and-learn” environment that supports hypothesis-driven experiments and tests, coupled with a rapid turnaround of the results.
  • Think about how your short-term response will support you over a long period of time. Ask questions like: “Is the short-term solution flexible enough to accommodate changes in an evolving technical environment?” “What is the purpose of our overall digital transformation?”

Read the full post >>>

“3 Biggest Reasons Why a Company’s Digital Transformation Fails” by Mike Stahnke for The Next Web

This article compliments the above article from Forbes. When transforming to digital, here are some things you should avoid doing.

BA Bold Thoughts:

  • Digital has a connotation of being cold, unfeeling, and not human, but it’s 2020 and that’s not the case.
  • Digital culture is more important than the technicalities of learning online. You have to create campus affinity.
  • Higher education must be willing to make the necessary changes to truly adapt and transform. Ingrained traditions cannot stand in the way of making a successful digital shift.

Read the full post >>>

Tell Us Your Thoughts

Comment on this post, reach out on LinkedIn, or submit your take on any of these topics via email. We want to talk with you about the future of Higher Ed.

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Technology Enables. Ideas Transform.

Technology won’t solve our problems. Technology is a tool, like a hammer or a saw. A power saw will only make you more efficient at building something—it won’t make you a better designer or a better carpenter.

But that is not what most consulting companies will tell you. Article after article, pitch after pitch, consulting firms will tell you that this or that technology is going to “transform your school” and make your institution “better faster and more competitive.” But, until you know your goals and the outcomes you are striving for, you won’t be able to select the technology you actually need. It would be like going to your tool chest and grabbing a saw before knowing if you need to cut a board or change a faucet.

The view that technology alone is transformational is deeply rooted in the 1990s and 2000s. In those eras, technology had a significant impact on higher education—automating paper processes while making transactions faster and easier to track. Massive amounts of paper disappeared as processes moved online. But, in the end, the technology didn’t transform higher education; it only transformed how day-to-day administrative processes were executed.

Yet, consultants continue to promise technology will “transform your business.” And the technology that firms tell you will transform your business happens to be what is sold by the vendors they are aligned with. Most consultants are experts on how a software package operates within a school, not on how a school operates and delivers value.

Technology enables. Ideas transform.

The world is changing fast. You need to step back and ask: What do I do, now? What do I do to develop and deliver on my institution’s vision and mission? What do I do to deliver value to students for their tuition dollars? What do I do to ensure my students are able to use our institution to become lifelong learners? How do I best prepare my students for a rapidly changing job market that has opportunities for graduating seniors that did not exist four years ago when they were first-year students?

None of these “Now what?” questions are answered simply by implementing an updated software.

To serve our industry, consultants must move away from the techno-centric answer to every question. They must learn to answer the “Now what?” questions schools are asking as they face this tidal wave of change. We need to change our focus from what is simply enabling to what is truly transformational.

Only after these questions are answered can the “How do we do it?” question be answered. The answer to that question doesn’t have to be new software. It can be a change in the business process. Or it can be a change in who the school targets to recruit, what programs it offers, or how it supports its community.

So, now what?

First, institutions need to focus on developing strategies and actions to meet the challenges they face and worry about technology later. To succeed, schools must seek out those consultants and firms that truly understand the business of higher education and how it operates, rather than those firms whose primary expertise is a specific software or technical solution.

To succeed, schools must seek out those consultants and firms that truly understand the business of higher education and how it operates, rather than those firms whose primary expertise is a specific software or technical solution.

Consultants need to start the hard work of understanding how higher education operates and what its challenges actually are. They must change their focus from technology-only solutions to business outcomes. They should only propose a technical solution that supports specific outcomes, and only after those outcomes are well understood.

Consulting firms need to drive their business knowledge lower in the staffing pyramid. The practice of sending in a team of new, industry-inexperienced consultants to do the day-to-day work of the project, with the real experts making infrequent visits should end. Experts should be readily available to guide your institution in creating a strategy as well as sharing their knowledge with the rest of their team.

Clients need to choose only those consulting firms that are willing to build long partnerships with them that go beyond technical implementation. Time and money are too tight to pick a consultant who simply installs your software and walks away.

Institutions need to find partners who will help them answer the “Now what?” questions today, tomorrow, and long into the future. They need partners who understand what they are trying to do, ones that won’t simply hand them a power saw to fix a faucet.

Beyond the Post: 9/25/2020

Beyond Academics asks to hear your thoughts, comments, and opinions on the topics we’ve covered throughout the week. Let’s keep the conversation about Higher Education going.

BA Featured

On September 20, Matt Alex and Joel Mathew of Beyond Academics were featured on the radio show Get Down To Business with Shalom Klein. During the show, Matt, Joel, and Shalom discuss the extreme need of innovation, entrepreneurship, and more student-centric values in higher education.

As always, comment below or send us an email. We’d love to hear your thoughts on what we discussed during the show.

Higher Ed in the Press

Strategic Education, Inc. and Noodle Partners Unite to Provide Employers with Access to a Variety of Education and Upskilling Programs from the Nation’s Leading Universities” press release via Business Wire

The ability for professionals to return to university alongside their career does not have to be the rarity that it is today. With the right innovations and technologies like this one, returning to higher education will become more accessible for people already in the workforce.

“The new WorkforceEdge platform will streamline employers’ access to a network of top educational programs and provide full administration of employee education benefits.”

Read the full press release >>>

Other Posts

“Vouchers Over Virus: How the Department of Education Prioritized Private School Vouchers Over Responding to COVID-19” by Neil Campbell for Center for American Progress

There is a trend in higher education (and primary education, too) of not putting their students first and focusing on revenue. Not only does this hinder the safety of student, it also hinders their potential for better learning.

“Rather than urging schools to follow reopening advice from health experts, the Education Department wasted critical months this summer fighting unsuccessful legal battles to divert additional money to private schools…”

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The FutureX Podcast: Ep. 01

The FutureX Podcast Premiere

In The FutureX Podcast, host Joe Abraham interviews the best and brightest minds inside and outside higher education. It’s fun, informative, and inspirational. What does the future hold for Higher Ed?

About the Episode

What’s keeping Presidents and senior leaders of higher education institutions up at night these days? Is it any different now than before the pandemic hit? What should leaders in Higher Ed be considering in times of existential change?

These are just a few of the questions we cover in this segment with the CEO of The League For Innovation In The Community College, Dr. Rufus Glasper. Dr. Glasper also shares insight into what questions we need to be asking about our “innovation readiness” and culture within the campus staff.