10 Higher Education Questions I Can’t Help But Wonder About

As institutions of higher education cope with the global pandemic, I can’t help but think about the implications our rapid change will have on the future. There are only a few occasions in my lifetime that I recall institutions of our size making such strong pivots and in every instant, there were ripples that impacted the way in which we operated and served our purpose in the years that followed.

As campus leaders make decisions about the present and brainstorm about the future, it further exhibits the intricate web that makes up the higher education industry. As I reflect on my experience working in student affairs and academic affairs, here is a sampling of the things I wonder about as we look to an uncertain fall semester.

  1. How will the impending birth dearth, expected to hit college campuses in 2024, exasperate the anticipated enrollment challenges to come due to the pandemic?
  2. How will faculty anticipate and adjust to student’s potential learning deficits in prerequisite courses in which they are currently enrolled in?
  3. How can/will student affairs professionals bring awareness to the impact of delayed trauma related to the pandemic when operations seemingly become fully functional again and how can colleagues support them in keeping this on the priority list?
  4. How will institutions respond to student’s expectations for increased online offerings now that we’ve demonstrated it is possible, even when it isn’t very effective?
  5. How will this pandemic impact regulations related to vaccinations?
  6. As many campuses prepare for declines in enrollment, what areas on campus will lose the budget battle?
  7. How will the current work at home standards influence flex scheduling for employees, including student workers?
  8. How will the current accommodations for standardized testing (SAT, ACT, etc.) impact future admission standards?
  9. How will institutions handle the mass exodus of staff in the coming year, as the combination of this year’s hiring season being delayed, the fatigue of employees dealing with unrealistic expectations or mismanagement, and typical attrition will be compounded? And how are they ensuring continuity within departments?
  10. How will campus presidents overcome the tidal wave of challenges, especially those that serve historically underrepresented student populations and first-generation college students, and balance the needs of the business with the needs of the mission?

I recognize that the answers vary by institution and in today’s climate things are changing by the hour. Truthfully, if you asked me tomorrow I’d have another ten questions, but perpetual curiosity is the path to lifelong learning.

What are some things you’ve wondered about?

2 Comments Add yours

  1. John LoCurto says:

    This is a terrific and timely brainstorm. #4 resonated with me: “How will institutions respond to student’s expectations for increased online offerings now that we’ve demonstrated it is possible, even when it isn’t very effective?” The reason it resonated is that I had the opposite intuition: How will institutions respond to the demand for more online offerings because it has proven to be both feasible and effective?
    Legal education has not embraced online learning. Offerings exist and some programs on the periphery of the law (like Masters of Jurisprudence and certificate programs) offer credentials, but full blown J.D. education has not gone virtual. There exist no accredited online law schools. Now that every law school has moved online, how will they resist the demand for more? There may be no going back.

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    1. theasrtouch says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I certainly agree and probably should’ve expanded my thoughts on that question further. I think it’s reasonable to expect that some grade inflation will occur this semester as faculty and students adjust and yet we’ll still allow students to continue with their studies. Some courses are not as well developed as they could have been due to the time crunch, but my point is that we’ve got to stop believing online courses should mirror face-to-face experiences and recognize that done correctly, more innovative learning methods are equally, if not more, effective. And possibly even more relevant is that there is nothing wrong with extending grace, in both grading and course development, as we make the transition. Face-to-face instruction has not been perfected, so it’s unreasonable to think that online teaching and learning would be as well. I also think we can all agree that it’s beyond time to truly consider making the move, considering there are tools available to ensure it is effective.

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