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Higher Education Leaders Less Confident About Future


Many higher education leaders are less optimistic about handling the challenges posed to their institutions by changing market trends.

According to a new report by the American Council on Education (ACE), Huron, and the Georgia Institute of Technology, fewer higher education leaders – including presidents and chancellors – from four-year public and private nonprofit institutions expressed confidence in school’s ability to respond to top market trends.

Declining federal and state financial support, dwindling public confidence in the value of higher education and geopolitical uncertainty affecting international students were of the utmost concerns for leaders.

More than half of the leaders are planning for the next three to five years, while only 16 percent of respondents are looking 10 years or beyond in terms of strategic planning.

“We know there is no one correct approach to preparing for change,” said co-author Louis Soares, chief learning and innovation officer at ACE.

“We do know strong leadership, careful but dynamic planning, and a resolute focus on students will better position institutions to educate the learners of today and tomorrow in new ways.”

When it comes to the expense trends that are most expected to impact institutions in the next five years, nearly 70 percent of higher education leaders cited workforce costs (salaries and benefits, recruiting talent), followed by financial aid and discounting, capital projects among others.

To align with changing the market landscape, the report notes that many respondents are overhauling their academic programs, investing in technological improvements, expanding online offerings and recruitment among nontraditional student segments.

The report recommended postsecondary institutions to create different plans for the immediate- and long-term, empower and promote a shared leadership model, pursue data-driven performance management and create a student-first engine to meet new demand.

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