Why Are So Many Colleges in Danger of Closing?

According to a study by Vanderbilt University, an average of five non-profit colleges and universities closed every year between 2003 and 2013.

This is a disturbing trend and it is likely to continue and even accelerate over the next few years. But how could so many universities be closing when it’s the students who are drowning in debt?

According to Moody’s, it’s because one-third of all American higher education institutions are on a path of financial instability – and that path is not projected to be sustainable over time.

There’s no one reason that American school’s finances have reached this state. Rather, it’s a whole list of reasons and each impacts individual colleges differently.

Declining Enrolment

College enrolment is declining and this is impacting colleges across the board – both big and small.

Part of this is caused by the fact that high school graduation rates have flat-lined. But the lackluster graduation rate isn’t the only cause of enrolment woes.

Enrolment began declining during and after the 2008 crash, but it also hasn’t recovered in part because tuition and student loan debt have both grown at rates that create for wary prospective students.

Students are looking for a return on such a large investment and many of them aren’t seeing it in the marketplace.

While all colleges are affected by declining enrolment, it’s the smallest colleges that struggle the most with these figures, particularly if they don’t have trusts to rely on and must navigate their financial woes.

Smaller Market Shares

Small private colleges have traditionally held a unique place in the higher education landscape of the United States.

But that landscape is changing dramatically, and those colleges have failed to keep up with what students now want and need from colleges, particularly for the price demanded by these institutions.

New, online institutions and traditional universities deploying online programs are tuning in to what students want, and smaller colleges struggle to gather the finances to compete. Combined with dwindling college enrolment, small private colleges are struggling to maintain a piece of a shrinking market.

Will Small Colleges Go Extinct?

Small colleges may suffer financially over the next few years, but the idea of extinction remains alarmist.

First, the Moody’s report considers closures and mergers of small colleges to be the same thing, but they derive from very different natures. In fact, mergers can be positive for both parties because they drive what is most important – providing students what they want in a small setting.

Indeed, if one considers that small colleges are changing – not closing completely – the landscape looks slightly more positive.

The higher education landscape will continue to be challenged by new trends and just as in any sector, those institutions that fail to adapt risk failure. Learning lessons from the schools failing now will only make them stronger in the future.


Colleges Seek New Revenue Streams, As Students Push Back Over Tuition Increases

It’s been said that death and taxes are the only two guarantees in life, but there may be a third one: rising college tuition costs.

The rising cost of tuition has not exceeded annual inflation costs, but rates continue to rise. Colleges are being forced to seek new revenue streams, as students push back over tuition increases.

Universities are finding new sources of income from surprising and creative sources.

Generate more green with gardening

Universities seek unusual ways to supplement their endowments to stabilize tuition costs and prevent them from skyrocketing. That may mean franchising merchandise and finding other creative ways to generate more income.

Unity College in Maine, for example, sells produce from its greenhouses. They also sell gardening implements, outdoor decorations, and offer community workshops – for a fee.

Provide professional development services

Who better to turn to for corporate training than universities known for their outstanding executive education programs? Schools like Harvard University are marketing their services exclusively to multimillionaires, and other universities are finding local training opportunities of their own.

By offering professional development services that enhance and accelerate careers, colleges can generate new income streams.

Capitalize on what matters most to your fans

Fans take football and other athletic games seriously at some universities, and missing a game means missing out one the best plays. University of Texas-Austin fans will never have to miss another moment of important games because they can purchase an annual subscription that allows them to see the game, highlights, and press conferences.

The school launched a partnership with a cable company to provide the subscriptions, and the university collects revenue for each subscription.

Receptive to new ideas

University leaders are welcoming diverse opportunities that will help them secure new funding sources. Alternative sources of revenue may include:

  • Seniors’ marketing programs (weekend retreats, destination travel led by faculty members, retire communities)
  • Banking services (campus banks, loyalty programs, insurance and retirement programs)
  • Consulting and outsourcing services (education, nursing, technology, business, and marketing)

Also, universities are seeking ways to increase their brand by offering décor, license plates and designer labels on everything from clothing to wine.

Discount rates

 Universities are also hoping to lure bargain shoppers to their schools.

By offering discounted rates for tuition, universities have hoped to increase their enrollments. The idea is that more students will mean more revenue, even if these students aren’t paying full price for their degrees. In 2016-2017, discounted tuition rates reached 49.1%, the highest it’s ever been.

Generous financial aid packages may attract students, but will likely not be sustainable long-term.

Applying resets

Some colleges and universities have tried tuition resets, which is another way to discount the cost of a college education. They reset the price of tuition to what it had been several years ago, in the hopes that students will feel as though they are getting a good deal on tuition costs.

A reset gives an arbitrary picture of tuition costs. In reality, some students may be paying more for tuition after a reset because other students at the same school are given deep discounts that exceed the benefits of a reset. The actual cost of a degree at the same university can vary widely between students enrolled in the same program, leaving students who pay the reset price to pay a higher price in tuition.

Graduate school

Encouraging students to continue their studies may be one of the best revenue-generating strategies universities have in their financial war-chests. Tuition paid for graduate studies is filling the sinking coffers of undergraduate tuition costs. Online graduate degree programs, with their greater flexibility, are helping to generate revenue quickly.

Simmons College, for example, has doubled its tuition revenue as a result of increasing their graduate school programs and attracting more students to them.

Diversified income sources are becoming more common as nontraditional ways to generate revenue. As students continue to push back over tuition increases, universities will explore more strategies to keep their schools open.

What it Takes to Get into the Ivy League

Getting accepted at an elite Ivy League school is harder than ever.

Not only have the numbers of candidates for these coveted seats increased, but so have the entrance requirements. Ivy League colleges and universities accept only the best students.

Even if you’ve earned top grades in high school and on your college entrance exams, you still might not be Ivy League material.

Let’s look at what it takes to get into the Ivy League.

Set your sights early

If you’re thinking about going to an Ivy League school, your work begins long before your senior year. You’ll need to take higher level courses such as advanced mathematics in high school, and to make room for these classes, you may find yourself learning algebra in middle school.

You’ll need to make good grades in these subjects, and although you don’t need a perfect SAT/ACT score, you must show outstanding performance on your college entrance exams. Your grades and exam scores are predictors of college success.

Discover everything you can about the university

A commitment to getting a college degree is not something to be taken casually, Ivy League schools are most likely to accept students they think will be a good fit for their program. As a hopeful candidate, you have to do due diligence. Research every school to which you are applying.

Show your passion

For years everyone thought being well-rounded was the way to get into an Ivy League school. That meant getting good grades, lettering in sports, volunteering in the community, holding down a job and saving the world in your spare time. Applicants  were well-rounded but stretched thin. They had no focus and less passion.

The best way to get into an Ivy League school today is to show that you are passionate about what you do. You might only do one thing, but these schools want to see your passion for it. They also want to know that you are focused and ethical about your work.

Be yourself

Ivy League schools are looking for students who are authentic. Successful candidates who secure admission to one of these eight elite schools must be comfortable with being themselves.

Honesty goes a long way and so does being yourself. One of the best places to demonstrate both is in your application essay. Keep the tone formal, but write as though you are speaking to the decision-making committee. Avoid writing an exaggerated novel. Instead, approach the composition with honest answers that reveal who you are as a person.

It takes academic strength, knowledge about the school to which you are applying, deep passion, and personal integrity to get into the Ivy League. Your acceptance letter will recognize those characteristics, and your future Ivy League school will help you nurture them during your studies.

How Public Universities Are Failing the Public

The path to success has always been a standard progression: Go to school, get good grades. Go to college, get a good career. Get a good career, help your community.

The linchpin in the progression is the college degree.

Your bachelor’s degree verifies your ability to learn a subject deeply. It provides you with a common foundation steeped in history, philosophy, and psychology. Your degree says you can commit to achieving your goals over a several year period, and that you understand the importance of delaying gratification.

College degrees make it possible for graduates to improve their socio-economic status and take better care of themselves, their families and their communities. And yet, public universities are failing their only customer: the public. How is this possible?

Fail #1: Biased benefits 

Many students can to attend a university only because of financial aid. When wealthy students have access to the same subsidies, grants and other tuition discounts as poorer students, they gain a competitive edge in several ways.

First, they are able to spend someone else’s money rather than their own. More importantly, these students are taking money from students who need the financial aid far worse than they do.

If a lower-income student does not have access to enough financial aid, he or she will not be able to attend college and earn a degree. 

Fail #2: Budget cuts and tuition increases 

Public universities are supposed to be public centers of learning. These institutions are usually far more cost effective and affordable than their private counterparts. In short, a public school can put a college degree well within reach of most Americans.

Over the past several years, however, budget cuts have forced universities to turn  elsewhere for revenue streams. Some of the schools have looked to creative revenue streams, but most have resorted to tuition hikes to stem the budget hemorrhage.

By increasing tuition, public schools are turning their backs on the public who most need a college degree.

Fail #3: Limited awareness

Low-income students tend to avoid ambitious goals when applying to colleges. They under-match their skills and goals, applying at smaller, less well-known colleges. These students simply don’t realize they are capable of getting into more prestigious universities. Better schools are more likely to help larger percentages of their matriculated students graduate.

Universities should target students with awareness campaigns that show how graduating from a four-year institution of higher learning is the key to lifetime success.

If they do anything less, public universities are perpetuating the cycle of failure among the population needing college degrees the most.

How Edtech Companies Can Sell To the International Market

Edtech is a growing market, expected to increase by 17% yearly. However, a significant part of that growth is projected outside the U.S. As international schools begin to accept edtech, the market is becoming friendly for companies. Recent changes in the U.S. market have led to a decline in funding and support for edtech, so embracing international sales will be increasingly important for long term sustainability in the industry. Though the sales trajectory admittedly still needs some work for most edtech companies. Targeting and acquiring international clients comes with different challenges than landing U.S. deals.

What research and considerations does your startup need to address for the international market? How can you successfully sell edtech products to schools outside the U.S.? Here is a quick breakdown for any company wanting to make a move to international edtech sales.

Consider Market Demands

Before attempting to make an international sale, think about the market needs of each country. China, for example, is projected to reach $15billion in STEM spending by 2020. While U.S. spending on STEM learning falls, China continues to invest heavily in youth STEM education.

A 2010 German initiative to improve educational performance had a slow start. However, companies looking to target a global market may do well to focus on the developing European market. Germany, as the largest economy in Europe, is a sensible target for edtech entrepreneurs. The region, as a whole, has committed to improving education by 2020. The potential within the EU is even more evident when you take a look at the success of edtech startups in Europe.

For those startups looking to branch into the African or South American markets, funding help by the World Bank may play a significant role. Additionally, edtech companies who target the Persian Gulf can get in on the ground floor of a promising market. Understanding the market potential for the countries you want investment from is imperative to international success.

Understand Educational Goals

Looking at the performance of students on the international market, it’s obvious which countries are currently excelling in science, mathematics, and reading, and which need work. While the U.S. didn’t rank in top 10 for any of the categories, educational policy is making edtech a hard sell in American schools.

Meanwhile, international schools are competing to produce the best workers of tomorrow, and those goals can be exploited by thoughtful edtech companies. The United Nations set education goals for the 2000-2015 period. Unfortunately, only three countries met the expectations. For edtech entrepreneurs, this can mean a chance to make a real contribution for the 2015-2030 period. New goals have been set out, and an increase of $22billion in funding is expected to achieve those goals globally.

The key to success will understand what is lacking in the education system of each country, and how your products can bridge the gaps.

Be wary of International Faux Pas

Even if you’ve done your research and investigated the international need for education products, that doesn’t equate to sales. Selling products internationally, requires an understanding of local culture, customs and business values. Each country is different. So, hiring an experienced liaison with an educational background in your target country can give you a head start to negotiations.

Regardless of your particular product or niche in the edtech sector, the international market is a growing opportunity waiting to be exploited. Have you sold products internationally? What have been your greatest challenges and successes with the global edtech market? We want to hear your experiences!



These Universities Present a Challenge to Ivy League Schools

The hallowed halls of Ivy League institutions are revered for their academic rigor, exclusivity, and the longevity of their reputations. After all, many Ivies are some of the United States’ oldest universities.

While Ivy League schools maintain stellar reputations and are considered to be the epitome of higher education both in the United States and around the world, they do not stand alone. There are many schools in the United States that have the same reputation but are not considered to Ivy League.

In other words, there is more to life than Harvard, Princeton, and Yale.

Here are a few of the challengers – each with a pristine reputation, exclusive admissions process, and incredible student opportunities:

1.   California Institute of Technology

Caltech is quickly becoming the premier destination for STEM subjects in the United States and around the world. The school isn’t Ivy League, but it was the top school in the world for five years from 2012 according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

Caltech is dedicated to teaching pure science (and engineering) in small classes. How small are these classes? The acceptance rate is only 8% and there are only 979 undergraduates studying there.

2.   Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT isn’t an Ivy League school, and at this point, it’s unclear why.

If you’re a STEM student, then there’s no better place in the United States or the world (with the exception of Cal Tech) to study. MIT is more than a name; it offers students the opportunity to not only be taught by the world’s best researchers but to participate in researcher programs even at the undergraduate level.

3.   University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is known not only for academic rigor in obscure disciplines but also for the general quirkiness that can only be afforded to high-level institutions. From the bizarre admissions questions to the infamous ScavHunt, it’s the place for those who don’t fit the cookie cutter mold of traditional Ivies to thrive.

UChicago is the place to study economics in the United States. It’s home to 5,500 students and has an acceptance of rate of 7.9%, so it’s exclusive as they come. It just hasn’t been awarded the title of Ivy League.

Ivy institutions aren’t the be all and end all of the universities. In fact, they’re not even the top universities in the world and there are many other universities outside of the three listed here that are coming for their top spots.

Are you considering an alternative Ivy? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

My Vision for the Future of Assessment in Education

Assessment is a big part of today’s education landscape. Most states use high-stakes assessments to measure student growth and proficiency at the end of each school year. But is this really the best way to use assessments? The future of assessment in education needs to change.

In order to really reimagine the future of assessment, we must ask ourselves what the purpose of assessments really are. In their current form, assessments are used to measure everything students have learned. High-stakes end-of-year assessments are used to determine whether students pass or fail a class. These same assessments are used to judge the performance of schools.

Rather than use assessments as the final test of what students have learned and how well teachers have taught them, we should be using assessments to measure student progress all year long. These formative assessments, as opposed to the traditional summative assessments, will change the way we think of assessments.

By using formative assessments throughout the year, teachers can measure what students have learned and where they’re struggling. This allows teachers to modify their instruction based on the results of their assessments, rather than waiting until the term is over to see what students know.

Of course, most teachers are already using assessments in just this way. Teachers adjust what they’re doing all year based on student performance. The problem is, these assessments aren’t used to make big decisions, like whether students should pass a course or how a school will be rated. By shifting our focus from what students know at the end of the year to how they’ve grown all year long, we can get a more accurate measure of student and teacher performance.

When schools are judged, the growth that students have made over the year should be weighted much more heavily than their overall achievement. This would create a more level playing field for all schools, regardless of location or students’ previous achievement.

To achieve my vision for the future of assessment in education, we need to create effective assessments that will help us measure student growth, not just achievement. This will require EdTech companies to get involved in the assessment process and create ways to track student growth. By incorporating technology into assessments, we can bring educational assessments into the 21st century.

How do you envision the future of assessments? How will EdTech be a part of that future?

5 Ways Colleges Are Trying to Lower the Cost of Higher Education

The rising cost of college tuition has become a highly controversial topic, even arousing the attention of politicians who debate the best ways of making higher education more affordable for all students.

Given this situation, it’s inevitable that institutions are scrambling to find ways to lower their costs.

Here are some ways in which colleges are working towards lowering costs, some with more success than others.

  1. Measuring productivity and quality. With so few objective measures available, students automatically use price as a gauge of a college’s quality. This is not always an accurate measure, and it presents an obstacle for schools that want to reduce the sticker price of tuition, as they fear potential students may view their institution as having poorer quality. In response, colleges are beginning to take a look at ways they can measure the quality of student learning and the productiveness of college staff.
  2. Making use of technology. Digital textbooks can dramatically reduce student cost, as can open education systems that provide students with opportunities to earn some of their course credit online. With more and better quality education apps appearing on the market every day, educators have many unique opportunities to provide life-changing learning experiences without the life-crippling cost.
  3. Providing more education to students and families about costs and options. Often, students begin their college experience with no real understanding of their indebtedness and how it will impact their futures. They are also kept in the dark about precisely what their tuition pays for. Colleges are beginning to provide better information about spending so students can make more informed decisions.
  4. Slashing the price of tuition, but decreasing discounts. A number of colleges have moved to a low-cost, low-discount model in which tuition is slashed almost in half, but tuition discounts are utilized far less. A potential benefit to this model is that students have a more realistic picture of exactly how much their tuition will cost. But the downside is that enrollment can decrease as potential students perceive the institution as less valuable.
  5. Reducing administrative costs. Perhaps the greatest cost afflicting colleges is in the sheer numbers of staff that they employ. While most agree that reducing the number of instructors negatively impacts the quality of instruction, administrators could be cut from college budgets with very little negative impact on the organizational structure.

There is no one right answer when it comes to reducing costs at our colleges and universities. But with costs rising every year, it is certainly an issue that can no longer be ignored.


Improve teacher evaluation systems with these ideas

If any disconnect exists between pedagogy and performance, it’s often found in teacher evaluation systems.

Ineffective and outdated teacher appraisal systems still exist despite research that points to best evaluation practices based on research. Even after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), which spurred school reform, some districts lag in adopting effective teacher evaluation systems.

These teacher evaluations systems often fail in guiding teachers to adopt reflective practices that will improve student achievement. The reasons include reliance on a single classroom visit to assess skill, a do-what-I-say approach to professional development, and a top-down approach to assessing quality teaching.

In some cases,  administrator-driven evaluations seem rushed, almost as though the evaluator is trying to beat a deadline rather than improve practice.

Teachers deserve appraisal systems designed to help them increase their capacity to improve student performance.

Rather than continue evaluative practices that are woefully out of sync with today’s teaching, we can improve our current teacher evaluation systems with ideas like these.

Keep the instruments simple but not simplistic

Teacher evaluation systems should be efficient to use, but not so oversimplified that teacher behavior can be assessed with a checklist. Simple rubrics and frameworks can prioritize instructional expectations and provide meaningful feedback in bite-sized chunks. This practice makes reflection and correction manageable and actionable.

Think formative, not summative

Making a single, end-of-year evaluation is like taking a single snapshot and hoping to catch something good in the photo.

When development is the key focus of an evaluation system, teachers respond more favorably to evaluative measures. Specifically, teachers who receive multiple evaluations throughout the year are more likely to pinpoint areas of need and work on improving them.

Think of formative evaluations as a way to set goals and check off milestones throughout the school year.

Create feedback loops

Reflective practice improves teaching, but only if it’s meaningful. Because they are the ones in the classroom, teachers must have a say in what their evaluation instruments look like. They need continuous feedback about their performance not only from administrators but also from their peers. Finally, they also need an opportunity to compare the data they collect and reflect on  their practice. Then they can determine their next steps in professional development.

Hire instructional coaches

An instructional coach can help teachers move forward in meeting their professional goals.

The coach serves as a non-partisan sounding board who encourages teachers and helps them break out of old behaviors that weren’t productive. As teachers reflect on their classroom practices, the instructional coach assists with finding best practices and encourages them to try new techniques in the classroom.

In summary

Improving teacher evaluation systems and making them more effective is a good idea.

Effective changes to teacher evaluation systems have produced positive feedback from teachers and teachers’ unions. They find that appraisal instruments focused on improving skill rather than serving as a “gotcha” provide valuable information that teachers can put to use right away.

There’s no better time to improve the quality of teacher evaluation systems. Let’s think of the appraisal process as one marked with stepping stones that help teachers select a path in their journey toward quality instruction.

Travel to these 10 international education conferences in 2019

When you’re ready to explore educational ideas, trends, and strategies at an international level, you’re ready to include these conferences in your professional development portfolio.

  1. Education World Forum 2019

Improving education worldwide is a collaborative process. The Education World Forum attracts delegates from more than 90 countries. Hosted by the British Council, the forum goal is to bring researchers and educational leaders and influencers from around the world to explore issues and discuss solutions. Even if you can’t attend, you should be aware that this is the forum that generates top-level ideas that inspire action.

January 20-23, 2019/London, UK (Registration: by invitation)

  1. Bett 2019

Bett seeks to transform education through innovative technology on a global level. The nearly 35,000 attendees from more than 130 countries will come together to discuss how education and technology can help learners achieve more. The top names in technology subsidize this event, and you’’ meet new edtech startups as well.

January 23-26, 2019/London, UK (Registration: free)

  1. LESE

This 5th Lisbon Research Workshop on Economics, Statistics, and Econometrics of Education attracts students, researchers, and analysts looking for a presentation and learning forum. Discuss research methods, application, and view quantitative results. You’ find the keynote speakers inspirational and motivational, and the sessions to be informative.

January 24-25, 2019/Lisbon, Portugal (Registration: TBD)

  1. INTCESS 2019

The 6th International Conference on Education and Social Sciences brings together experts, researchers, and academics from every country interested in discussing the latest developments in education, social sciences, and the humanities. The international forum allows participants to share ideas and trends that impact social sciences.

February 4-6, 2019/Dubai/UAE (Registration: TBD)

  1. ICHER 2019

The 3rd Int’l Conference on Higher Education Research will focus on educational reform, ethics, strategy planning, and measurement, to name just a few of the topics being explored. The focus is on higher education, and researchers and academics will share research and methodologies.

March 23-25, 2019/Xi’an, China (Registration: $400-$600 USD)

  1. CICE-2019

The Canada International Conference on Education is refereed, and it focused on improving all facets of education including research, foundations, issues, and pedagogy. Registration includes conference luncheons, refreshments, and a local tour.

June 24-27/ Mississauga, Canada (Registration: $600 CAD)

  1. ADVED 2019

When the 5th International Conference on Advances in Education and Social Sciences convenes in October, education, social sciences, and humanities take top priority. Attendees will learn about the latest trends and policies, learn about new research, and explore career and employment offers.

October, 2019/Istanbul, Turkey (Registration: $240-$450 USD)

  1. 6th Teaching & Education Conference 

Hosted by the International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences, this conference will focus on instruction, language, higher education and lifelong learning, educational policymaking, and distance education strategies. Registration includes two local tours.

October 1-4, 2019/Vienna, Austria (Registration TBD USD)

  1. OEB 2019

OEB Global and Learning Technologies Germany attract 2,000 attendees from 80 countries to learn about best practices in developing educational policy and leading educational organizations. This conference will center around the theme of the empowered learner. Topics will include instructional design, ownership in learning, and future implications of education.

November, 2019/London, UK (Registration: TBD)

  1. ICEAP 2019

The International Conference on Education and Psychology provides a venue for researchers and scholars to present new research and explore ideas related to education and psychology. The 2018 conference in November is in Bangkok, Thailand; check the website soon for 2019 information.

Dates and location TBA (Registration: TBD)

These international education conferences will have you thinking about education in new and transformative ways.