Jeffrey J. Selingo and Cole Clark
October 8, 2021
Few will argue that the pandemic has laid bare the need for higher education to change. With overall enrollment falling by 3% from fall 2019 to fall 2020, and with future enrollment projections trending downward, many colleges will need to adjust the way they do business if they are going to survive financially. Even among institutions that have fared better than anticipated during the pandemic, a once-in-a-generation opportunity exists to leverage the emergency changes of the last 18 months for long-term good.
Toward that end, universities need to act now to break down barriers to access and reach a broader, more diverse population of students in the pipeline to college, to meet the needs of a changing workforce, and to provide life-long learning and career opportunities for working adults.
The pandemic undoubtedly inflicted real pain on higher education during the past year, but it also brought about clarity for what’s next. Much has already been written about how Covid-19 forced schools to accelerate their blending of in-person and online learning. While this abrupt shift created significant challenges, this hybrid model will in the long run greatly enhance the classroom experience. New digital tools, for instance, can help educators better assess student engagement, thus providing instructors with a clear road map for how to refine and improve their courses and teaching methods.
But there are other lessons to be gleaned from this tumultuous year that extend well beyond the classroom. During the summer of 2020, in the early months of the pandemic, Deloitte’s Center for Higher Education Excellence and the Strada Education Network gathered a group of leaders in higher education together to discuss how the staggering disruption to higher education’s traditional residential face-to-face delivery could provide clues to reimagining how institutions conduct business and serve students going forward.