The latest round of layoffs is dominating headlines. Inflation continues to rise and interest rates are rising. Experts believe that these factors indicate a possible economic downturn.
In a recession the interest in higher education usually increases, and many professionals decide to return to school to enhance their career prospects. We will need to wait to see if this trend continues, given the strong labor market today and the increasing skepticism about the value of higher learning.
Higher education institutions must adopt a strategy that is forward-looking. In today’s uncertain economy, schools must be proactive and adapt to changing market conditions. They also need to be willing to change their offerings to meet the needs of current and future students.
Four Ways Higher Education Can Pivot with the Economy
The higher education sector has seen enrollments decline steadily throughout the pandemic. High tuition rates have been a major factor. Nearly the half of students opt out of college because they doubt that the time and money invested in the degree program will be worth it. Some of them prefer to ask someone “do my homework computer science” and collect any knowledge after all.
If a recession strikes, the rising costs of higher-education could complicate enrollment. Tuition prices increase faster in economic downturns, as local and state governments cut funding.
There is one silver lining, however: the influx of online education programs created during the pandemic gives prospective students a much wider range of choices when it comes time to further their education. Higher education institutions must meet students where they are. For many schools, this means expanding their online learning opportunities and building on the programs that were developed during pandemic.
Here are four ways you can review, analyze and develop continuous learning options to better serve students and professionals as you address the challenges of an uncertain economic outlook.
1. Consider the offerings of your institution
The institutions should look at the current programs and see if they are meeting the needs of prospective students. The first step would be to evaluate the prices of the programs in relation to the market.
How can a higher price be justified? You can use strong ROI data, its student services or even its alumni network in order to demonstrate the value of the program and how it helps students succeed over the long term.
2. Identifying new programs to offer
In the current economic climate, many employees are reevaluating their career paths. Institutions need to be there for them. What programs are offered? Which options could attract professionals who want to advance their careers and make a change?
Some schools may develop fast-track master’s programs, offer micro-credentials, or invest in non-credit certificates that align with the top-demand skills on the market. These short-form programs or courses make it easier for the students to commit from a time-and-investment standpoint while still allowing them to develop skills related to industry to become more instantly employable.
3. Prioritize Flexibility in all Courses
The institution should also prioritize flexibility in their multi-program and degree offerings. Remote learning allows students to study whenever and wherever they want. It also makes quality education more accessible.
Analyze what programs can be shifted to hybrid or remote options. Online learning can be a great option for students who cannot attend classes in person because of their work schedule, are unable commute to school or are unable afford childcare.
4. Create unique and strong programs by looking outside institutions
Keep in touch with your alumni, professionals from the industry, and others who can be advocates for your program. These resources will help you identify and address any changes in skills or needs, and adapt your curriculum accordingly.
This could include creating advisory councils of industry professionals who can provide guidance, conducting alumni surveys regularly and searching for available third-party studies that link degree programs with job descriptions.
Students can now choose a program that fits their career, financial and personal needs. There are many options, including different graduate degree paths, micro-credentials and certificate programs.
Leaders in higher education can expand the options for continuous learning to create new pathways of learning and development, which will help meet workforce demands. Does your institution offer students the flexibility they need to be successful in an uncertain economic future?