By Terri Albertson CPA and Tom Gorman, CPA
There have been many conversations lately revolved around the breakneck pace of change in the higher education industry. Each busy back-to-school season, as colleges and universities welcome new students, they also establish new value propositions and invest in innovations and updates across their campuses and programs.
With that in mind, here are a few key stories and issues capturing our attention as colleges and universities gear up for another academic year:
We’ve previously discussed the use of metrics to evaluate the value of college education, and it should come as no surprise that the discourse around metrics has escalated with recent funding proposals from the Obama administration, as well as private foundations focused on improving higher education. A new model for educational affordability released by the Lumina Foundation focuses on charging what students and families have the capacity to pay. It proposes that families should contribute to a child’s college education the amount they can reasonably save over 10 years by setting aside 10 percent of their disposable income. Meanwhile, students should contribute their earnings from working 10 hours per week.
A report was released in August 2015 from researchers at Georgetown University, marking a big first step toward upending the conventional wisdom of the under-employment or unemployment of the nation’s graduates. The study finds that of the 6 million jobs added to the U.S. economy last year, 2.9 million were “good” jobs, generally defined as paying at least $53,000 and offering benefits like health and retirement plans. Of those 2.9 million “good” jobs, 2.8 million went to college graduates, the report finds. The findings show most of these jobs were in managerial, STEM or healthcare professions. It is worth noting, however, that this report doesn’t specify when degrees were earned, so the question of how recent graduates are faring in the job market is still up in the air.
Online Learning and Retention
A new white paper released in August 2015 by researchers at the University of Ohio argues that the appeal behind the popular mobile game app Candy Crush could be used to improve higher education online course models through gamification. The authors recommend creating a game-like “flow” with clear goals, enticing challenges and immediate feedback to stimulate students’ engagement in learning and, as a result, their retention. At a time when retention rates are flagging, harnessing new approaches and technologies to generate competitive spirit could positively impact student success in massive open online courses and other online coursework.
Tidal Changes in Student Policy
The U.S. Department of Education issued a clarification in August on federal privacy laws concerning student medical records. The draft guidance proposed that institutions, which have limited authority to review records from an on-campus provider under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, should avoid reviewing students’ medical records in litigation cases unless the case directly relates to the medical treatment itself or the payment for that treatment. The department is seeking input until Oct. 2. Looking forward, organizations should be prepared to adjust budgets as needed and prepare financially to mitigate risk and cover the costs of compliance with these and other emerging student policies and procedures.
This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “Nonprofit Standard” newsletter (Fall 2015). Copyright © 2015 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com