Industry Outlook: Higher Education

August 9, 2013

LEASURE: I would use it to invest in technology—to personalize the educational experience, to really understand each student and what their needs are and also understand your system so that you can plan better for where the barriers are to their success. Sometimes it’s at the end, sometimes it’s at the beginning. Sometimes you need to know more about what you do that gets in the way so that you can remove that.   

GOETZ: I dare say that any of us in higher education institutions could find two or three classes where the success rate of our students is abysmal—the gateway courses where students consistently fail. They have to retake it two to three times to get through it. At UVU, math 1050 and biology 1010 were the two courses in which students consistently failed. So to look at those pain points and invest $100,000—you could actually make some very quick improvements just with those gatekeeper courses.

What is happening with USTAR?

HOWELL: We are really proud of what is going on at USTAR. We have recruited top-of-the-line researchers from around the world who are bringing their research and providing opportunities for students that they would get nowhere else.

It is that experiential learning that we talked about. These students not only get to do research with these professors, but they also get to see these professors take their research and go through the whole gamut of spinning it off, whether it’s a company or licensing that product. These students get a much broader education than just doing something in a lab.

There have been a couple of big successes up at the University of Utah and at Utah State. At Utah State recently there was a project called Storm, and it’s building weather satellite sensors. A deal has been made where these are going to be built here in Utah, and so the research that’s been done is translating into millions of dollars coming back to the state.

So that’s what USTAR is excited about. We are bringing in the education side of things but then we also get to see the economic development side of things, as well. That’s a unique opportunity for USTAR, to be in both worlds, where usually we are focused on the academic side of things or the economic development side of things. We have been able to see how those two come together.

A lot of the things we have talked about here today are exactly what we are trying to do—trying to bring businesses together with education. And we think that there’s greater opportunity.

As we continue to become more diverse as a state, what needs to change in education?

BAYLE: First of all, we need to recognize that our demographics are changing, because unless you deal with it every day and work with it every day, you often don’t recognize that in pockets of our community, there are many, many different languages spoken. We just need to create a lot more awareness before we can start to address those issues.

GOETZ: To add to that, we need to address our rapidly growing Hispanic and Latino community as a positive. We have a rare opportunity with this amazing change in diversity—the growing Hispanic population. Our messaging has to be aggressive in that this is wonderful. These students are coming up through the pipeline and they are fantastic and we have a great opportunity to really leverage this growing population for a better workforce and more robust economy. But that’s not always the message that we hear.

HENRIE: We are looking at ways to reach into the communities rather than having them come to us and try to navigate our difficult system. Even our traditional college student has difficulty navigating the system, let alone something that is a foreign language for a lot of folks because their parents didn’t participate in the process. We need to modify our practices, as higher education institutions, to help our communities.

WIGHT: If you want to look at the diversity of the future, just look at what’s going on in the school systems. Part of our challenge is to recruit students of color, but the other half of that challenge is to create communities that help us retain those students and help them complete. Both have to be done.

HOWELL: Education has a tough line to walk in this diversity issue. Starting out with public education, there’s so much focus on a student needs to be reading at this level, they need to reach 90 words per minute by the end of second grade. I don’t think that there’s a value on that diversity of these kids from different backgrounds coming in and what they can offer. There’s so much of an emphasis on, “This is where the student needs to be right here. And they all need to fit into this box.”

Once we get through public education and out into higher education then we say, “Oh, we value diversity and want you to bring your differences in, and there’s a real opportunity for that.” That’s a tough line to walk for education to say, “At this point we need you to fit into this box and at this point we want you to bring your different background.” That’s something that we need to figure out how we are going to address.

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