Industry Outlook: Higher Education

August 9, 2013

GOETZ: A big part of that is embracing more competency-based models versus time in seats and clock-based assessments. It’s a tough one but if we can move more towards competency-based assessments, we get out of the box a little bit and are more custom fit to what students need.

LEASURE: And we couple those with the personalized assistance so that we bring to the student what they need at the moment they need it.

With the first-time college student, they have no role models behind them. They don’t know what it means to persist. And they really need that one-on-one, and sometimes also the activities that help them form a group and know that they are supported.

What data and information should we be gathering throughout a college or post-secondary experience, and how should we be gathering that?

MADSEN: In our new Women’s Success Center, they have merged with some of those data-collecting efforts and we got funding from a business to hire a senior student who actually makes phone calls to these people. They are having some real success with those who they are able to reach.

We have been talking about really trying to identify women specifically who have dropped out. But we look at their credits and we find that there’s just one or two semesters left, and we reach out just to articulate to those people that they really are close and they can come back and graduate.

But some of the responsibility comes back to us as faculty members. We are there on the ground. We see them drop. And are we taking the time to find out why? Sometimes it is just moments—that’s all that’s needed to send an e-mail or do something. Are we making that a priority?

HENRIE: Salt Lake Community College mirrors that. It’s not just faculty. President Bioteau has made calls to students and she will say, “We value you. Why are you leaving?” The No. 1 reason is financial. And that stems to life-changing events. But at the end of the day, they don’t have the time or the money to go to school.

So information is there. It’s just a matter of now what can we do with the information. What kind of programs can we put in place? Do we have the resources to address what they are telling us? That’s where we have difficulty, because we are trying to balance a lot of things, serving a lot of people.

MADSEN: And how do you explain that back to legislators so they somehow get that we are doing well with what we have, but we are missing things?   

LEASURE: Student engagement is a big predictor of whether they are going to succeed or not. So having the systems there, collecting that information using a systematic approach—we call students on a weekly basis, every single one of them, and ask how they are doing and are they getting the things done that they need to get done.

GOETZ: I don’t think we do a good job of using the data we have. We do have data. We have Utah Data Alliance. We have Pam Perlich, and her team is a wealth of information. Are we actually looking at the data when we make decisions?

HOWELL: I don’t think there are a lot of people who know about the Utah Data Alliance. It’s a phenomenal project. It’s looking at longitudinal data from students as they go through elementary school into higher education and then out into the workforce. There is a wealth of information there that I don’t think we are tapping into.      

GOETZ: We don’t. And the sad part about it is that it’s struggling to survive. It is struggling for funding, which is a shame. And it tells you we are not putting enough emphasis on data-driven and evidence-based work if we are struggling to keep such a great project, which already had $7 million invested in it.       

HENRIE: The dilemma is it’s still in the infancy, developing the partnerships and making the connection between K-12 and higher ed and the Division of Workforce Services. There’s still some work that has to be done.

MADSEN: Is the legislature making decisions based on good data?

BAYLE: No. They make decisions based on their guts and their own experiences. Unfortunately, even when they have data, often they don’t believe the data or don’t trust the data.

HOWELL: Going back to the comment we made earlier on, that we need businesses to be a voice for us up on the Hill—if the legislature may not trust something coming from higher education that’s promoting higher education, then if the businesses go in there and say, “We need this money to go to higher education because we are the recipient of the benefits that this money can provide,” that’s where businesses can really stand up and be a voice for higher education.  

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