Leaders of graduate, adult, professional, and online programs are contending with a host of changes this year, not the least of which are the potential impacts of the Biden administration on higher education and the economy. President Biden and Vice President Harris campaigned on higher ed policies such as federal stimulus funding, “free college,” and increased spending on research. At EAB, our researchers are closely monitoring the likelihood these policies will be enacted and analyzing how they will impact our partners.
In the meantime, enrollment leaders can begin to evaluate their programming in light of the potential labor market changes the Biden administration’s economic priorities may generate. For example, Biden has proposed adding jobs in fields including environmental science, community health, early childhood education, addiction studies, and nursing. If implemented, these changes may provide a new opportunity for schools to prepare graduates for these openings and take advantage of funding.
Biden’s proposed plans and the relevant program areas they may impact
However, none of these initiatives are guaranteed and implementation may be incremental, so focus on programs with less risk for your institution.
While Democratic control of the House and the Senate will give the Biden administration a better chance of delivering on their proposals, Biden’s economic plans may not be enacted as he has proposed, or at all. Past presidents have had varying success implementing their campaign promises, including those related to job creation in specific sectors.
What administrators should consider when analyzing their program portfolio
1. Do you already offer a program which may be positively impacted by the change in administration?
If so, are there ways to make your curriculum more relevant? Can program marketing capitalize on increased interest and investment?
For example, if your institution has an environmental engineering program, evaluate whether your curriculum confers the skills employers are increasingly requiring from candidates. Through the Biden administration’s Made in America plan, HBCUs, TCUs, and MSIs will, in particular, be eligible for funding to invest in their science and technology research programs.
Based on Biden’s plans, other in-demand skills to confer may include skills related to clean energy, sustainable materials, hybrid car technology, climate smart agriculture, resilience, water treatment, and conservation.
As you optimize your program curriculum to meet the evolving economic landscape, advertise the increasing importance of your degree in the labor market. Adult learners show increasing interest in the return on investment of their chosen academic program, so prominently advertising the projected growth in jobs available to your program graduates will appeal to prospective students.
Top skills desired of environmental engineers, environmental engineering technologists and technicians
February 2020 to January 2021
2. Is there existing employer and student demand for the type of programming?
When considering what programs to launch, examine which areas the Biden administration is prioritizing. And as always, prioritize program development in fields in which there is existing employer and student demand in your region. In workshops to help our Adult Learner Recruitment partner institutions identify which programs to prioritize, we also encourage enrollment leaders to reflect on their strengths among their faculty, history, and core brand along with their key differentiators and where word-of-mouth marketing helps them most.
If your institution has existing courses a new program could draw from, this may lower the startup costs and risks. For example, if your institution has a counseling program, you may wish to react to Biden’s call for the creation of addiction counseling jobs by creating an addiction studies program drawing on existing core psychology coursework and faculty. And consider whether launching a concentration or certificate within an existing program would serve as a lower-cost and lower-risk method to assess student demand for that programming at your institution.
Time will tell the full impact of the Biden-Harris administration’s plans, but enrollment leaders can begin evaluating these fields’ potential today. For more on how changes in Washington can impact our colleges and universities, check out our discussion of maximizing benefits of the new federal stimulus package.
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