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Episode 12

transformed: Postsecondary Value, Social Justice, and Motivation

Higher Digital has just published the next installment of its new audio interview feature, transformed. Every other week we interview experts on higher education, digital transformation, and the challenges and promise represented by both. 

For this week’s feature, President Joe Gottlieb sat down with CEO and Co-Founder Wayne Bovier to discuss postsecondary value and social justice in higher education. In their conversation, Wayne and Joe take a deep dive into the barriers to equitable access in higher ed and how institutions should strive to break those barriers down and rely on technology to get there.

Joe Gottlieb: 0:02

Welcome to transformed, a Higher Digital podcast focused on the new whys, the new whats and the new hows in higher ed. In each episode, you will experience hosts and guests pulling for the resurgence of higher ed while identifying and discussing the best practices needed to accomplish that resurgence culture, strategy and tactics planning, and execution people, process and technology. It’s all on the menu because that’s, what’s required to truly transform. Hello and welcome to transformed, a higher digital podcast focused on the new whys, the new whats and the new hows in higher ed. My name is Joe Gottlieb , president of Higher Digital. And today I am joined once again by Wayne Bovier, CEO and Co-Founder of Higher Digital welcome Wayne. Thanks.

Wayne Bovier: 0:54

Great to be with you again. What do you want to talk about today?

Joe Gottlieb: 0:58

Well, two years ago, the bill and Melinda Gates foundation created the post-secondary value commission and yesterday they released their 115 page report. So I’d like to start off by reading a small excerpt from the foreword of that report. And what we want to do with this podcast is really just think about what this, what this report is saying, what we can learn from it, what impact it could have, what alternatives might there be to the thinking that’s gone into this, but let me just start with this foreword. It goes like this. “As we continue to wrestle with the dual challenges of COVID-19 and longstanding systemic racism, we must embrace the fact that post-secondary value is about both earning a decent wage and building a stronger and fairer democracy. The following pages detail  the post-secondary value commissions work to capture and operationalize this sentiment as post-secondary education strives to meet the urgency of this incredible moment, we see great potential for this work to create a more equitable and just future.”

Wayne Bovier: 2:03

Wow. Wow. Yeah, I mean, that’s quite a statement and after doing a lot of research, just publishing and now, you know, big, bold ideas, a lot of complicated thoughts in there. How do you want to start? How do you want to dig in? Where do you want to go with this?

Joe Gottlieb: 2:27

As usual? We pick a big, big topic here. We’ve got to start somewhere, right? Okay. Well, let’s start with some of the data that they pulled together to set the context. And as I know you saw in the early part of the report, they map out by group. So, including, you know, their groups are black, Latin X, American, Indian, or Alaska native AAPI, which is , Asian American or Pacific Islander, white women, low-income/pell, and then they’ve got the totals, right? So those are the groups that they’re looking at. And they also looked at the data according to the different forms of post-secondary education. So public four-year, public two-year, public not-for-profit four-year, and for-profit right. So those are the different designations of the institution type, but what they looked at was enrollment completion and loan default, and what’s so interesting about loan default as they point out in the report is, and we talk about it a lot in higher ed, right? It’s like what’s happening is students are coming away from a post-secondary education with just too much debt. So it’s financially too challenging and too impactful to their financial lives, as they’re trying to build their future. And they signal out low loan default as a trigger for what oftentimes can be a lifetime of financial struggle. Meaning, you know, you’ve overextended yourself in a way that is material. You’re now defaulting on loan and you’re beginning of life where you’re living hand to mouth and trying to manage your debt just when you’re getting started. And so looking at these numbers, just to jump to that particular item they’re staggering. I mean, even amongst, let’s say what’s the, what’s the best loan default average here, well, Asian American Pacific Islander, 11% go into loan default across this entire dataset . And then the worst number are blacks at 49%. So think of it, 49% of blacks are going into loan default. Whites are 20% look, these are huge numbers across such a huge population, right? This is people getting settled ,

Wayne Bovier: 4:49

You’re looking at , okay. So now I just pulled up the chart. You’re looking at the total of public four year public two year non-profit four year and for profit. And when I look at that number, by the way, the 49% is actually, you know, the number that really stands out is 66% for blacks as for-profit and that…

Joe Gottlieb: 5:12

And for that matter, whites , the lowest in that particular score. Cause there is not on that. We don’t have the breakout for , it’s actually either American Indian or Alaska native or Asian-American Pacific Islander, white are at 45%. So whites that go to a for-profit school are going to find themselves in loan default 45% of the time. So the range there is, as you pointed out 45 to 66 massive numbers , how would we characterize it? A for-profit higher ed industry that it’s found has found itself in a total sellers market, being able to raise prices , despite because of cultural expectations and business and industry’s expectations, what without necessarily a requisite value being delivered or with, with any real skin in the game in terms of whether their customers can be financially solvent, exiting that experience. Yeah.

Wayne Bovier: 6:15

Yeah. I mean, I think when I look at, in particular, I mean, lots of different thoughts about this, right? I mean, I think you look at ultimately incentives, right? And the for-profits, I won’t go into necessarily the deep incentives aspect of it, but the completion rates , the correlating data around completion rates is pretty fascinating, right? Because the completion rates for those that don’t complete, they still have to pay back the loans. Right. And in many cases, you most likely still just have your high school degree, but you don’t have an official college degree. You’ve racked up a whole bunch of debt. Maybe even six figures. There’s definitely a lot of horror stories that have been out there. And now you find yourself trying to compete for a high school degree type of jobs. Yes. Some education will definitely be valued, but you’re kind of in this spiral, which, you know, I see what’s happening in the macro level what’s happening in the industry is there’s a really, and this is happening in the political sphere as well. We’ve kind of touched on this in previous podcasts. There’s a tectonic shift going on and in particular , when it comes to higher education, you know, you and I are old enough to remember the days where, you know, the presidents of our institutions would welcome the professional class and brag about look to your left, look to your right, that you know, that person’s not going to be there by the time you graduate. Ha ha right. That is all that all embodies the privilege aspect of higher education, right. So privileged versus, you know, what should we, you know , making it more accessible, right? And this is really kind of gets to the heart of this is, you know , the equity, the privilege aspect of this, because society, right, when we start to look at what is going on, right, there’s an enormous amount of displacement that’s happening due to automation, but what’s also happening in return is there’s an enormous amount of jobs being created that are going unfilled. And, you know, again, what does a higher education institution , uh , to do about that? How do they, how do they, you know, how do they address , uh, how do they address , uh , that? And, you know, not to pick on the for-profits because I do, you know, I do have some empathy and sympathy for the for-profits. I think competition is good. I think, you know, some of them are not , um, as well, financially run and are not properly incentivized to really focus on graduation rates. But you know, this is happening across the industry is that, you know, this, this transition from this privileged world where almost every single institution, regardless of classification historically, kind of comes from that mindset comes from now, it’s going into, well, you know, to the Gates report, right? It’s like, well, society needs, you know, more equitable access to education because the jobs that are being created are requiring more training, more , uh , more education, so on . And so

Joe Gottlieb: 9:52

There’s so many places we could go with this, but I want to come back to one of the things you said, which was, I would echo the sentiment. Um, we’re not here to pick on the for-profit sector. We’re not here to , um, call into question the free enterprise system for that matter because the for-profit higher ed sector is all about trying to make the most of the overlap between free enterprise and higher ed, which is cool. Right. That makes good sense. However, the, the, the , the , um, the old adage that you reminded me of, right, when we’re sitting there as , as new freshmen, and we’re hearing the speech and look to the left, look to the right, you know, at least one of you is not going to be here, you know, come next year or whatever. That’s a badge of honor, and that reflects grading on the curve. Right? Think about it. Like that says what that reflects the fact that the institution was measuring itself has traditionally measured itself on how hard it is to get through how selective it is about who it lets in. And, and when you’re measuring that way, you’re not optimized for maximizing the skilled population pool you’re developing and skilled is a funny term here, but the, the, the, the let’s just call it , um, uh, you’re if the w the goal could be, would be let’s maximize the, the capability we can create, which is in our free enterprise system is ultimately measured by wages, right? So let’s create livelihoods for people that fit their interest and skills. And that’s really maximize that because look, think of the financial model, particularly of a for-profit school. It’s just like a VC. They get the biggest chunks of money from the most successful people. So the most talented, so they create a really strong crucible to produce the most talent, right. They don’t care about the long tail. Well, th th th their , their financial motivation doesn’t care about the long tail per se, because, right. So then that just sets that up

Wayne Bovier: 12:00

Historically, the reason why, right. I mean, well , there’s a variety of reasons why, but the main reason today is, is a physical mindset. The physical constraints, right. Is that we can only service and I’m using air quotes. Right. You can only serve as you know, I don’t know, 2000 students, you know , uh, a year , uh, for, you know , maybe a small private, or maybe it’s 10,000, right. You’re, you’re limited to that. Obviously, you know, we’re in 21, we’re nearing the end, hopefully of COVID, you know, people have a different understanding and appreciation about reach, but we got, we’re just at the beginning of this, of, of really the transformation that really needs to happen in higher education to be able to service the longer tail. Like, like you said.

Joe Gottlieb: 12:49

Yeah. And so what you said was so true, right? So, so think about an institution of the law of successful for-profit institution in particular, over the last a hundred years, you know, what did it do? It , it, it, it continued to invest in top notch faculty in , through research, and it continued to invest in great buildings and it continued to advance it’s, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s , um, it’s, it’s stature right through those forms, but that costs money. And you’re quite right. How many people we can fit into a , uh, a facility to teach a lecture is our rate limiting step is our gating factor, right. In terms of our scalability. And if we want a really nice place with nice buildings, you know, the , the per square foot cost of that university is going to be higher than something with less nice buildings. Right. And so you’ve got that model when we start to embrace a mass opportunity to break away from those constraints. Right. And deliver better value to education, to more students for lower costs, which we always talk about kind of the mantra for industry evolution. Um, you had the opportunity to reimagine yourself if you can make that change. And so, okay. So we’ve talked quite a bit around the , the for-profit side on the not-for-profit side, particularly the public side, right here we run into what’s the motivation there. Right. And in there, I think we’re talking about community development. We’re talking about , um, trying to make we , we w uh , averting brain drain by, by, by, by educating our citizens in a state, let’s say, in a state system and hoping that they will contribute to our state’s livelihood and, and, and, and GDP, you know, the, the, the, the, the ability for the state to generate tax revenues right. Through, through economic mobility and all these things. Right. And still they’re , they’ve got similar challenges. How are they going to affect that? And, and , and th they’re flexing more so, right. To be, to figure out how to address the needs of a broader population, but still the methods to house of , of that get very challenging, right. To really reach these disadvantaged populations, we’re stilling language issues , uh , technology, accessibility issues , um, uh, economic stability issues, right. Like, you know, single, single family, single parent family issues and the like,

Wayne Bovier: 15:17

Yeah, yeah. That’s, yeah . It’s it , again, it’s a fascinating topic. Right. And, and, you know, you , you know, me well enough that, you know, my brain takes, tries to take something complicated and simplifies it. And, you know, there’s some interesting things that kind of came out in these , uh , in , in these articles, in the, in the, in the research, you know, and you get it, there’s a lot of psychology involved. Um, but the , the, the basic facts are, you know, when you look at, why do you go to college, right. You get, you go to college to get a job in, in particular. I mean, I, as a parent, I’m telling my kids go and go to college because your life will be easier. And what I mean by that, it’s not to say that it’s, Oh, you get to be, you know, you get a , you know, you get to kind of enjoy for years, and then, you know, your life is easy. No, you just have more opportunity. Right. You have, you have more opportunities to choose where you want to go. The less educational I E the less training. Right. So when I say education, I’m also calling a training, I’m thinking training , um, you know, I went to liberal arts, right. My training was that, you know, to be a critical thinker, to be a writer, right. That’s kind of that , that set a really good baseline for me. Um, but, but you know, the , um, you know, so going, going and getting it , you know, you get a job, right. And so it is in everybody’s best interest that we figure out a way society’s to figure out a way to make it more equitable. But, but here’s the thing, right? That, that is the one of the firewalls against this , uh, of moving more progressively forward. And that is this mindset. And this article, one of the articles that we we’ve been working on for this, this podcast mentions, this is about, you know, there’s a fear that if, if people at the bottom, right, so if you make things more equitable, right. That, that I lose my slice of the pie. Right. And the reality is no, the pie gets much bigger. Right. And that goes to the taxable base. And, you know, people coming out with Joe , you know, going out to find jobs so on and so forth. So, you know, all the tide rise, all boats rise is really the better , uh, kind of metaphor

Joe Gottlieb: 17:35

That’s in the inside higher ed. Right. We should, we should, we should , um, inside higher ed. Yeah. So they, they, they did some nice write-ups on this. They actually also declared that they’re , they, they, they maintain editorial control, but they actually receive some funding to help cover this. So that was , uh , that they made that declaration. But so we don’t hold that against them. Uh , they’ve been very transparent, but , um, I , I saw that and I was a little stunned, honestly, when I read that, and maybe, maybe I’m , I’m less cynical, but I mean, really think about let’s , let’s let that settle in for a moment. The people in control of higher ed, aren’t motivated to make higher ed more equitably accessible, because they fear that that will make, that will, that will produce threats to their slice of the pie. And I think of it, right.

Wayne Bovier: 18:29

So, so let me, let me, let me refine something, because w what I was saying really was more of a macro level, not as an, as an industry. I think what you have though, is you have, you have a business as much as higher education leaders , uh, really hate , uh, thinking of what they do as a business. But the reality is it is a business . It’s a big business , um, is, you know, it’s like, you know , it’s like the disruption of any, any major industry where, you know, you have all these costs and you really need to step back and really take a look through the value lens. And, but, but the other aspect of this is the investment is like, you know, where’s this investment coming from, you know, because a lot of these institutions, especially the community colleges, they don’t have big endowments. They’re really, self-reliant on the tuition , uh, as well as, you know , the state and federal level funding. And so, you know, there’s only so much, there’s only so much there and , and, you know, across the board, at least in the United States, you know, there’s been a pretty significant trend. And I would probably argue over the last 10, 15 years is that, you know, the state governments have been , uh, really , uh, challenging the budgets. Right. There’ve been cutting a lot of budgets , uh, for state level type of institutions. And so, you know, you have your , you know, yeah. So anyway, so, so what do you do, right? What , how do you, how do you, how do you provide more affordable access when you don’t really have a net? Right. And so what are, what are institutional leaders supposed to do

Joe Gottlieb: 20:15

Well that , uh, that was actually one of the questions this , um, this commission was seeking to answer. And so , um , notably the report found that it would take 3.9, 7 trillion to close racial and socioeconomic gaps in college degree completion in the country. So that’s a lot of money and it I’ll go back and I’ll reference now the completion statistics that the report shared again, across all groups completion is only at 37%. Uh,

Wayne Bovier: 20:55

That’s crazy. That’s terrible.

Joe Gottlieb: 20:57

I mean, totally crazy. Right. And so the highest, again, you see things in the, you know, white, 78% , uh, Asian American , Pacific Islander, 85%, but completion rates as low as , uh , Oh, sorry. That was for , uh, that was for private not-for-profit, but, but , um, you see highs of 53% of the highest completion rate amongst the most successful group here. Asian-American Pacific Islander, 53% white is next at 43. The total though is 37. So you got a 37% completion rate across this massive system. Okay. So the goal here is to fund higher completion rates , uh , 3.97 trillion across the entire system, but wait, there’s a return on this. So the report cites that after that initial investment, the United States would gain $956 billion per year in increased tax revenues and GDP and cost savings on social assistance programs, programs like everything from , uh , overall health, medical, mental health incarceration, the prison system and all this, because they could, they, they, they, they were able to correlate a lot of those costs with the sorts of scenarios that are produced by , uh , lower wage earning scenarios, lower education scenarios, et cetera. Okay. So you got this, the report would basically be stating you could make this massive bet plunk down 3.9, 7 trillion somehow, and you’ll pay it off at nine 56 billion per year, five years ish. Right. My math. Correct.

Wayne Bovier: 22:44

Yeah. So my , my reaction to that is, you know, putting the myriad of assumptions that are going into those, those calculations , um, the basic math sounds, right, right. Like if you invest X, you should be able to return Y and in this case, right, if you graduate, you know, ultimately the completion rate, you know, the grant , I don’t have the exact numbers off the top of my head, but if we increase the graduation rate and the graduate , you know, the graduate pool, right. More institutions, graduating, more students, so on, so forth, you know, they’re going to get higher paying jobs, which we know that the jobs in the marketplace today , um, you know , uh, are requiring higher skill. Um, and ultimately they get, they get higher wages and therefore paying higher taxes as a result. So, you know, the basic math, I think, ultimately works out and, you know, the , and the , and I’m going to bring this back to kind of us and digital transformation right now , I think, look as a , as a complete industry. And I would even argue probably globally from our perspective is that this is under an underfunded, right. And that the value and the, and all the value that you get, not just the tax rep , but all the socioeconomic stuff that you, you kind of quickly highlighted is going to, you know, going to significantly , uh , uh, benefit, right. Health benefits, right. I mean, there’s so many research that’s done about, you know, your quality of life, it , the type of job that you have, the education, all that is kind of , uh , a kind of a creative. And so, you know, the , the thing that I, I struggle with right, is you can’t just throw money at the problem, right? Because you have institutions and not all of them, right. A lot of them , um, you know, fully understand what they need to do, and they are prior to prioritizing correctly, but there’s a lot of inefficiencies that need to be squeezed out. There’s a lot of costs that need to be squeezed out. And in particular, as, you know, as wonderful as the industry is, it’s been a very, it’s a great, it’s a great job, right. If you get a job in higher ed, it’s generally a great job. The people are great to work with. Yes. There’s politics and bureaucracy, but for the most part, you’re doing good. Right. And, and, you know, it is difficult for higher education to, you know, treat it like a business, like I said before. And so, you know, you gotta be more service oriented, you gotta be more efficient. And , you know, like today the students today, they don’t really want to talk to anybody if they can actually get their answers by themselves , um, by a self-service app or a website or whatever, they’ll do it. Right. And so, you know, so there’s, I totally believe that, you know , uh, making , uh, especially like community college and stuff, more affordable, more accessible, you know, the , the investment in infrastructure, bringing high speed bandwidth, that is a must have now for every, every rural community out there, like we got to bring it to everyone. So we level that, that ultimately levels the playing field, at least from an access point of view. Right. But, but, you know, there is a lot of work that needs to be done in every institution to reimagine the, the efficiency and what w you know , what, what we need to do as an organization, right. To be able to provide better services, because that’s really what it comes down to is how do you, how do you graduate more students while you better be provide better support? Yes. It’s not everybody. Yes. There are bad students. There are lazy students. There are all those types, but there are a lot, and I’m looking at these numbers, right. That we just went through at the beginning of this, there are default rate . Well, they’re not all lazy, right. There’s something that happened where they were forced for whatever reason to drop out. And it may not have anything to do with grades. Most of them probably has nothing to do with grades. So what can an institution do and what should they do to better support them? And to me, right, this is where the technology, the reach of technology, the efficiency and the affordability of the technology is the only answer that institutions have to really, to , to really grow what their , what their mission is.

Joe Gottlieb: 27:27

Well, because we believe, and I think it’s well, well-documented well established that there’s an opportunity to lower the cost and increase the value through technology, but it is a departure from the way that the industry has scaled and staffed and evolved. Right. As a, as a gosh, I hope this isn’t a bad choice of words, but you know , what came to mind was as a bit of a benevolent employer, right? Like you said, it’s a great collegial atmosphere, and it’s not hard-edged business where it’s, you know, yes, there’s, there’s definitely competition at the research level and, you know , at the faculty level, right. Which, which is a partner to recognize, right. But as an operation, it’s not challenging itself , uh , uh, sort of at the , um, aggressive, competitive PNL and disruptive value level, however, that is changing. And so what, what, what we’re oftentimes in a front row seat experiencing, or even as a copilot or pilot role, right. There are amazing changes opening happening because there’s opportunity for, for institutions that are going to be leaders in delivering greater value at lower costs . Um, and so we talk a lot about that. And so I want to , I want to step into , uh , a model, but before we leave this, this big claim that the report , or the big sort of suggestion that the port’s made, I want , I’m gonna echo a few things you said, and maybe put a little bit different spin on them. One is that , um, you said you, you could tend to agree with the math. Well, I haven’t, I haven’t scrutinized the math. I imagine a bunch of smart people wrote this, and they’ve got a lot of great , um, backup for how they constructed the model. So let’s just assume that it’s accurate enough, but the thing is to focus in on the assumptions made, right? And I think you alluded a little bit to this, right? So can an institution act, you know, what would be the methods to gain , um, that, that improved access and improve completion rates , um, and you alluded to efficiencies and the, in some technology that could be in there. The other thing that one of the articles , uh, again , uh, inside higher ed singled out was, well, there’s a presumption here. That was a quite quote in there. Someone said, you know, there’s a big assumption here that the labor market will expand to produce, to produce, to absorb that more skilled workforce that is going to then go capture and benefit from , um , these higher wage positions thing to their higher education. And that’s what drives up the GDP and the tax revenues and all that. So there’s a big assumption there. And I think one of the things we want to come back to is, you know, is more higher ed in its current form, the answer, which is what this report says, or are there other forms of higher ed that actually might fill that gap and be more absorbable and support that kind of growth, right? Because it’s not going to be in our free enterprise system in the United States of America, that’s going to be a very choosy endeavor. Right. And it’s going to, it’s going to select out based upon the way that the markets work and where value’s created and right. And so I think what we’ll wind up talking about is the digital trades and how , what role they’ll play versus the classic liberal arts education or the well-rounded, you know, two and or four-year degrees. So that’ll be fun, but, but you left us on a great topic that I want to now come back to, which is, is okay, how do the , how did institutions move forward? How, how, how might this change occur? And so I think we both agree that the massive bet that could somehow be coordinated across the entire United States. There’s no Uber project. That’s gonna have a 3.9, $7 trillion price tag and mobilize the entire higher ed industry in the United States across all these institution types, and then deliver this 956 billion per year return. Right.

Wayne Bovier: 31:45

I’m just thinking, I’m just thinking herding cats. And I have this image of it . One of the old commercials a couple of years ago about, you know , Cowboys are trying to last some cats, we would love the job,

Joe Gottlieb: 31:57

That strategic change management project. It might be a little beyond everyone’s grasp. Right. Okay. So, so how’s it going to break down? And so I want to , I want to tackle this through a lens that we’ve been starting to use. You know , I’m calling it a , um, a business change motivation model, still, still refining a little bit, but I see kind of three layers of motivation in business. Typically you have compliance, you know, legal type stuff, stuff you have to do. And that’s oftentimes the most visible, and it’s hardest to elude without real painful penalties and things that you just can’t ignore, then there’s revenue, right. If you can figure out how to make fit into your revenue model, you’re going to be motivated to do it because it’s part of your growth opportunity, right? And then a third level of motivation is the least urgent and obvious, but perhaps most powerful. And that’s the lofty one, which I like to call mission actualization. And what that’s about is what really might happen with a transformed culture when a change is just so intrinsic to the way a business operates and distinguishes itself and, and, and, and, and, you know, is , is represented by its employees and the , and the way that it operates. Right? And so let’s look at this lens, this lens that we’re now using, we’re using this lens to look at the notion of why would an institution want disadvantaged people in these class categories that have been sort of not, not great benefactors of our current system per these numbers, right. Why would any given institution be motivated to make them successful?

Wayne Bovier: 33:51

Well, I mean, yeah. I mean, why would they make them, why would they want to, I mean, it’s, to me, again, it goes back to kind of a simple, simple, basic math, right? Um, you know, the more graduates they have bigger alumni network that you have the , you know, the more graduates that you have, the more jobs, right. And more that they can return back then Dauman , they can actually help recruit, you know, they broaden your kind of your, your brand. So, you know, going by kind of your, the business change, motivation formula, right. Or the, the, the model, you know, the, the revenue and mission actualization, it’s a no brainer. Like what , it’s a no brainer. What’s , you know, what’s interesting. What stands out to me is, you know, the, the role of compliance now compliance in this that’s one of the areas that I think is probably most challenging for institutions, right. Because, you know, accreditation is when you think about, when I think about compliance, that is one of, that’s literally one of the top things I think about as it pertains to higher education, right? You got to comply to whatever guidelines and rules you’re being judged on as an institution. And you don’t want to lose your accreditation because there goes your revenue there, there’s your mission right. Out the window. Right.

Joe Gottlieb: 35:12

So is it compliance visa , VI accreditation, sometimes a deterrent to being able to offer equitable access?

Wayne Bovier: 35:23

Yes. I think that’s part of it, right. Because, you know, we know, right. We know, we know that we know a lot of the creditors, right. And, you know, they have a very important role because what is important to stake here is, and we probably almost, should’ve said this at the beginning, that, you know, we believe in the rigor of higher education. We believe in meeting standards to be able to graduate and not everyone can actually do that. This is not a kumbaya situation. Right. But I believe that the majority of prospects are going to want to graduate, and they’re going to put a hard effort into it. Now, what can the institution do? Well, you know, when you look at accreditors , they’re not, they, I mean, if you think higher education is, you know , uh, not, not very forward thinking when it comes to transformation , um, uh, the creditors are even behind that as an industry. Like they are, they are a laggard when it comes to, you know , efficiency , uh, using technology to be able to provide this stuff. Now, you know, they’ve gotten a wake up call just as much as the institutions have about what, what they need to do. Um, but today to meet your accreditation requirements, which is really, you know, it really drives a lot of decisions where your investments go, where they don’t go. Um, you know, what is your, what is a priority for you on campus, off campus, all that stuff that drives you. And they’re not, they’re not, forward-thinking, they’re not looking at, Hey, if you do X, we’re going to reward you. We’re gonna , we’re going to support you. If you’re innovative, we’re going to reward you. We’re going to support you. Right. And I’m using a big, broad brush. Right? I know that the accreditors out there are , are, you know , uh, there are peer level evaluation. They’re doing their best. They’re working hard just like everybody else, but they need, you know, there needs to be something there needs to be a little giveaway because that is one of the, you know, that’s almost like the gasoline in the tank, right? [inaudible] if your creditors are , are , are much more aggressive in understanding the quality aspect and maintaining it within, you know, the technology and the opportunity, the innovation you’re going to be, you’re going to be incentivized to , to , to move forward and try different things.

Joe Gottlieb: 37:47

I think you’ve hit a really important aspect of this. The logic trap that I think has gotten in the way here. And so, but what you made me think about is how, okay, an accreditor is making sure you’re upholding your standard of academic integrity, right? And therefore, and if you have populations that are struggling , um, to get through that, you can’t relax them. Otherwise you risk your accreditation and you shouldn’t relax them. But what then what happens is that if you’re not motivated to figure out how to make those that are not succeeding successful because of budget constraints or you, it right. A laundry list of things that could get in the way of you being able to do that in this climate, then you’re going to leave them behind. Right. And so that’s, that’s, I think that is the deterrent scenario here that has risen. Now, if you turn this around and say, well , um, maybe a new revenue plan with my online expansion, that is, that is complimenting my traditional business, where I’ve dealt with some one set of constraints, but maybe I am able to go innovate. And I think we see this at SNU as an example, right, where I’m going to go build an online business with a different business model. It’s going to have different constraints, but certainly fewer constraints that might hold me back in this regard. Or maybe I’m going to have more latitude to go chase some segments of the population that are disadvantaged, and I can be more effective at keeping them in the game. And a bill . Basic one is people from this group that are trying to get their degree as well, running a family, or keeping a job or both.

Speaker 4: 39:41

Right. And so, so, okay. Suddenly remote education , online

Joe Gottlieb: 39:44

Education, that’s maybe asynchronous and very granular in terms of a degree program, not dimension a bootcamp , which might get you straight into a digital trade, right? These are things that suddenly now can have a greater success rate and are having a greater success rate with this population and they’re happening because there’s a revenue opportunity. At least I can think in the case of SNU , it is Michelle naturalization. I think they’ve come to understand that they can, they really can differentiate, but I want to provide another example of mission actualization in the form of use , right? So, so an HBCU is all about not just making revenue off of, in this case, one, largely one element of this population, but it’s their entire culture. Right? And in fact, they’re starting to attract , um, students that are not black because they want to be part of a population that has that depth of culture and resonance and mission actualization. It’s kinda like someone who’s not Catholic going to a Catholic school, like, okay, wow. I just crossed a big line, which historically has been a big deal, but I’m so intrigued and attracted by the quality of this education that’s happening. Um, and even increasingly the progressive packaging with which it’s, you know, it’s being delivered. Right. That’s another example of where we’ve got some deep resonance that attracts. And so that , that those have been historically , um , um, attractive to , uh, well, I , I won’t , I want to pine on that.

Speaker 4: 41:26

Yeah .

Joe Gottlieb: 41:26

But, but, okay. So we’ve, we’ve teased out this potential for the compliance , um, part of the motivation puzzle to potentially be a deterrent, but that revenue could unlock , uh, an opportunity that might yield investment because of something, a greater return that could be had.

Wayne Bovier: 41:46

And , and I, you know, the revenue side, I’m glad that you brought that up because you know, I’m a business guy, right. I think in, you know , I think in business terms and in value and, and stuff. And so when you think about the revenue, right, I keep coming back to, you know , the basic supply demand, right? Again, you , you simplify things. And when you look the , the, you know , as part of the , doing the research for this, right. I pulled up just kind of , I’m just curious, like, what’s the historical trend on job openings? Like how many job openings, right. We are at an all time high of job openings. Right. I think it’s, it’s close to 8.1 million, right. We’ve never been there. And when you look at, you know , the, at least the , the , the data that I was able to pull up, you’ll get a 20 year trend. Um, it, there, that trend has been going up and, you know, why is that? You know, if you know, why are there so many job openings that remain open, right? Why can’t we fill? Right. And then interestingly enough, it just happens to be over the last couple of weeks. A lot of headlines that I’ve been reading , um, that are talking about, well, people are lazy. We have all these job openings. We don’t want to watch to , no one wants to leave. COVID they , everyone wants to stay home and collect their benefits, check, you know, that’s, you know, there’s a little bit of obviously political spin around that kind of stuff. But the reality is we are, have been going year over year where there’s been an increasing number of job openings. But when you look at, you know, again, you think about graduation rates and stuff, you know, they’re really not good. Right. So w I think we touched on it earlier, right. Google right. Is forced. Microsoft is forced to create their own certificates, their own classes, because they can’t fill the jobs. Right. And so somebody has, somebody has to do it. So going, bringing this back to the revenue side, right. You got to think creatively about, you know , uh, well, there’s a need in the marketplace because we are educators, right. That’s what we’re doing. Uh, we’re here to train and, and empower people to go out into the world and be productive citizens to be productive workers, family members, so on and so forth. Right. And so , um, you know, you, I , I, you know, if I were in this, in a president’s shoes today, I would like, we got an obligation and not only an obligation from a mission perspective, we got a revenue opportunity ahead of us. And if we don’t do it, somebody will, somebody is already doing it. There are companies again, I mean, how long is it going to take Google to realize that we don’t need any higher education institutions? We got, we’re going to be able to get the workforce that we need through our own mechanisms, right. Versus this early stage where they’re forced into this.

Joe Gottlieb: 44:46

So I think that becomes, you know, one of the biggest forces at work here, right? Because that’s our need to satisfy jobs at companies that have power to hire, to grow to scale, frankly, to King make at a personal level, right. In this context, that’s what, that’s what that , the power they hold is a mix. And in our S our free enterprise system, it , it , it exists because of that. Right? So, so that’s where we talk about how, as much as we love the traditions of higher ed, what’s going to happen here are these digital trades and the best suppliers of digital trade training. That is real, right, because this will be, this will be a reputation based industry, just like higher ed became a reputation debased industry. And I think now we’re dealing with what happens after, you know, a long period of time where that reputation established on something very similar for a long period of time. This digital trade thing is going to shake things up and create new providers of this. And so you and I both are cheering for the , the, the, all the higher ed institution participants in the current higher ed industry to evolve, to embrace this. Right. Because we, we love the opp the concept, the opportunity of all those traditions to be preserved and, and elongated via some innovation to respond to this new market challenge. And we fear in the absence of that evolution, that we could lose some real precious assets .

Wayne Bovier: 46:24

That’s exactly right. And I , you know, I would say that, you know, from a , from a optimist perspective, right, for those that are listening, that may be feeling a little glum, right. That are in the industry, you know, every institution has an investments already in place to do what they need to do to meet the needs of , uh, of, you know, the, the marketplace, right. The employers, right. The prospects that are yearning for, you know , uh , a job , uh, or if they’ve been just displaced or left, laid off. Right. How can I, you know, there needs to be a little bit of a safety net to help them, you know, financially get in there, right. Because everybody, everyone benefits, but, you know , um, I don’t know , you know, like it’s, it’s, they have what they need, you know, they’ve invested in technology, the reach is there. They just need to think and, and, and think a little bit differently, organized a little bit differently. Um, and they will continue to be able to, to drive their mission. The mission doesn’t need to change at all. What they need to do is start to think about diversity, think about breaking up a degree, right. This concept about micro-credentials and, and, you know , badges and stuff. They got to think about breaking up. What was once a privileged asset to something that is more accessible, more attainable and , and , uh , by many more people , um, again, you don’t need to go in for a four year residence , uh , to get your bachelor’s . Why, why, right. You should be able to get it. You can break that up over the course of, you know, if I have to work, because I gotta take care of my family, I still should be able to get my bachelor’s degree from home, why I’m working. Right. And I know there are plenty of people that do that, but anyway, so that’s, you know, from an optimistic point of view, institutions have what they need.

Joe Gottlieb: 48:29

Well, I think that’s a great place to land Wayne. You know, I agree with you, there’s, there’s optimism to be had there’s existing capability that in many cases, merely needs to be , uh, evolved and redirected a little bit to capture this opportunity. We’ve talked a bit about some of the motivations and the grand problem at hand. Um, I know we’ll be talking about this more, but , um, I want to thank you for joining me today. That’s , uh , we’re going to close for now, and I want to thank our guests for joining us as well. So have a great day, and we’ll look forward to hosting you again on the next episode of transformed.


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About The Host


As president of Higher Digital, Joe supports customers with strategy development, change management, and strategic operations. He is energized by the complex challenges and profound opportunities facing higher education and is motivated to have and share discussions around these topics.

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