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Highlights from EAB’s “State of the Sector” Research

Episode 185

February 27, 2024 74 minutes


This episode is a condensed version of a recent webinar in which EAB’s John Workman presented findings from EAB’s annual “State of the Sector” research. John summarizes EAB’s research findings, which focused on six key themes that ranged from questions about declining public confidence in the value of higher education to the risks and benefits of artificial intelligence. He then opens the discussion to a panel of experts including journalist and higher education author Jeff Selingo, California State University Chancellor Dr. Mildred García, and American Council on Education President Dr. Ted Mitchell.


0:00:01.5 John Workman: Hello and welcome to Office Hours with EAB. Today we present an abbreviated version of a recent webinar in which EAB shared our most recent state of the sector research. We’ve been going through this exercise for several years now where we assess the biggest challenges and opportunities shaping higher ed. This year’s research focused on six key themes, including declining public confidence in the value of a college degree, as well as the proper role of artificial intelligence in higher ed that are shaping the market. And we invited panelists from across higher ed to offer their insights, it’s a captivating discussion, so give these folks a listen and enjoy.


0:00:51.1 JW: I’m gonna dive right in on our six priorities here. Our first one is public perception of higher ed value. Now, normally we begin a state of the sector, presentation with an enrollment update, and we will go there next. But concerns about public perception are central to our question of relevance and clearly impact other priorities, including enrollment. On the right, the immediate challenge that we face is culture wars and diminishing ROI narratives and their influence on student decisions. But the long-term threat that we should be equally focused on is how these higher ed narratives are impacting faculty and staff, and we’ll address both, starting with the immediate challenge. Suffice to say it is an increasingly hostile environment for colleges and universities, there’s growing negative sentiment, at even policy aimed our way. We’ve all seen the headlines about college costs and ROI and obviously this narrative has wide ranging effects.

0:01:54.4 JW: But let me start with foundational facts. Do these statements hold up to scrutiny? This slide and the next go point by point, comparing the most common headlines to what the objective data tells us. Now, I’m gonna go through these quickly and then, we’ll move on to some of the implications. First, we hear the cost of colleges exploding, but on the right net prices actually declined 3 to 4% annually since 2019 after adjusting for inflation, and it’s basically been flat the previous decade. Next, lots of headlines about students increasingly basing decisions on cost. Well, if that were true, why did the lowest cost options like two year and regional publics have the largest enrollment declines? College leads to crushing lifelong debt. Actually, fewer students are taking out loans and they are borrowing less on average. The ROI of college is declining. Well, once you control for gender and work experience, the wage premium is actually near all time highs.

0:02:49.9 JW: You’ll hear liberal arts degrees are a waste of money, yet those students typically experience the fastest mid-career wage growth among all majors. We hear that only elite institutions provide value, actually half of the top ranked schools, sorry, half of the schools ranked by economic mobility have admission rates over 50%. OP-eds question whether degree holders are better off. Well, surveys show that college graduates report higher job satisfaction, better financial wellbeing and personal health. And there’s more. We read students and families only care about career outcomes, but we know that no one uses scorecard data and students are scheduling fewer career appointments today than they were in the past. Gen Z is said to be skeptical of higher ed value, in fact, Gen Z are less likely than Millennials and Baby Boomers to believe they can get well paying jobs with just a high school diploma.

0:03:45.5 JW: Opinions about higher ed are increasingly partisan, right? Actually Republican voters are more likely than Democrats to agree that you can get an affordable high quality education. We hear that nobody trusts universities. Higher ed has been consistently ranked the fourth most trusted institution for decades. There’s been no measurable change. Employers don’t care about degrees, just skills, and it is true that job postings with no degree requirements have gone up. Actual hiring patterns, though, whose getting those positions has not changed. And finally we heard that the move online has decreased quality, but most students say online is just as good and employers are increasingly saying the same. A lot of information here we went quickly. But note, each of these items has hyperlinked sources. If you want to dig deeper, the key takeaway is that these headlines, these narratives don’t stand up to scrutiny, so the challenge isn’t so much the problem stated in the headlines.

0:04:45.5 JW: It’s the repetition of the headlines, which creates an echo chamber of bad info that impacts student decisions. This is especially true for on the fence students and families, those genuinely undecided about attending college or not, who often come from lower resource backgrounds and have less access to information. The headlines are repeated so frequently that they’re absorbed as facts by this group, which dissuades some from higher education altogether. In the upper left, percentage of high school grads attending college has decreased year over year. COVID exacerbated this, but this has been trending down since 2010, even as high school graduation rates have increased, the echo chamber effect is definitely driving part of this. We did a survey of non-consumers this year, upper right is a quote from a 21-year-old who opted out of college, “I’ve always seen and heard things about how there’s no point in going to college.

0:05:35.1 JW: You usually end up with more depth than you can make and it rarely works out.” Now that’s just one quote, but that sentiment was repeated dozens of times by the vast majority of respondents, it was by far the dominant theme in our survey results, it costs too much, it’s not worth it, it won’t work out for me, not really based on any facts, and instead repeating what they hear from peers and on social media. At the bottom, I’ve got some demographic stats of this non-consumer group. It’s about 60/40 male to female compared to the population as a whole. Hispanics are overrepresented. About 60% still live with a parent or guardian and one in three don’t have a job. And interestingly, the gap in family income between consumers and non-consumers, it’s there, it’s maybe not as wide as you might have guessed, so how do we counteract this echo chamber effect?

0:06:26.3 JW: Clearly, the national headlines are not gonna change overnight, instead we need to adapt and target messaging for this group of students. Perhaps counterintuitively, the most successful strategies don’t spend much time correcting false narratives. Instead, they focus on positive aspirational messages that resonate with students. Our research teams are doing a lot of work on exactly what these messages look like, proven best practice strategies that can be repeated and we’ll be sharing those back with partners across the year. So that’s the impact the echo chamber has on students and families, and the immediate challenge is adapting messaging and potentially our product to better resonate. But the long-term threat that we should be equally focused on is what impact the echo chamber has on faculty and staff. On the left, think of this as a cumulative effect. Faculty and staff are already potentially frustrated with compensation, workloads from short staffing.

0:07:20.4 JW: Maybe they’re discontent about your hybrid work policies, then add to that reading nonstop attacks on higher ed, which is starting to add up to a crisis of meaning, they want to feel their work is doing good in the world, but based on national headlines, they might start to question that. Upper right, 57% of higher ed employees are likely to seek another job in the next 12 months according to one survey, that’s a big jump from just a year ago, which was during the height of the great resignation. Bottom right, vast majority of faculty report feeling burned out. So in the short term, institutions need to tailor messages and offerings to appeal to on-the-fence students who might be dissuaded by negative headlines and longer term, they need to build out compelling employee value propositions to keep faculty and staff engaged in spite of those negative narratives.

0:08:12.3 JW: Let’s move to our second priority, enrollment and demographics. The immediate challenge is understanding and responding to post-COVID changes. What were blips and what is new normal? And the long-term threat we should be equally focused on is continuing demographic decline from peak population, more on that in a minute, but let me start with the immediate post-COVID changes. So we’re tracking a number of enrollment trends here at EAB, a growing non-consumption that we mentioned earlier, the disparity in undergrad growth by age cohorts and the positive momentum in grad programs coming out of COVID. One key undergrad trend, is the continued flight to size and selectivity, that’s what you see here, this is not a new trend, but it is accelerating, each bubble is a different segment of higher ed, the size of the bubble represents the total enrollment in that segment. The X axis is annualized change in enrollment in the previous decade, 2010 to 2019, and the Y axis is annualized change from 2019 to 2021, which is the last data point, set of data we have access to.

0:09:21.5 JW: So the further right you are, the better you did before the pandemic, and the further up you are, the better you have done since the pandemic. So for example, the regionals, the two largest bubbles there in the middle, they experienced modest growth pre pandemic, but they are now shrinking. The only bubbles in the upper right are more selective national and elite institutions, and among those large institutions are faring better than the small ones. The enrollment market has turned out to be fairly efficient, the impact of demographic change hasn’t been seen, hasn’t been even across the board. Instead, students are navigating up the selectivity pyramid, that’s driven by actions of students and families taking advantage of better info, better technology, especially the Common App. It is also the recruitment strategies by the institutions in the upper right ensuring that they hit their numbers.

0:10:08.0 JW: Now, there’s always plenty to talk about with current enrollment trends, and we can have tailored conversations with leadership teams and enrollment teams bringing to you local and institution specific data. But I wanna move us forward to the long-term threat of continued evolving demographic decline. Many of you have likely heard the term peak population, in the relatively near future total global population will reach its absolute peak and then it will decline every year thereafter. If you’ve heard a specific number, it’s likely the UN’s 2100 estimate that will peak at the end of this century. But the UN has actually recently revised that number up to 2080 and many demographers project peak even earlier than that. The Gates Foundation backed IHME, that stands for the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, they’re estimating peak in 2060. We’ve got a few different estimates shown on the left, but the key point is, is that despite what you might have heard, peak will actually happen in most of our lifetimes.

0:11:12.3 JW: Now, that is total global population, it will obviously play out differently by country. Western countries will peak first, on the right, a handful of countries estimated peak year, along with the total population decline, that they will see at the end of the century 2100. So at the top, the US will peak in about 2060, Canada will be about a generation after that, below that, the two largest international student markets, China is essentially peaking now, India in about 20 years, and at the bottom two western regions furthest along in population decline. Germany will peak in about 2035 and Japan has actually already peaked way back in 2010. Their population will decline by 54% between today and 2100. In total, there are actually 23 countries that will see 50% or more declines.

0:12:06.7 JW: So what does this all mean? It’s hard to overstate the impact of declining populations, all of human history populations went up. Declines are somewhat uncharted territory and it’ll have specific impacts on higher ed, especially enrollment, fewer people means fewer students. The left graph shows the US youth population. This is ages 15 to 19 from 2010, through showing projections through 2100. The blue shading highlights the much discussed demographic cliff, but look what comes next, after a short reprieve, youth populations begin a steep long-term decline.

0:12:41.6 JW: Now to be clear, most of us probably won’t be at our institution in 2041 when that decline begins, but we have to begin making decisions now to position our colleges and universities for this change. Some summary stats on the right, the demographic cliff will end with a 6.3% or 1.4 million person drop in youth population, peak population will have more than three times that impact with a 21% drop in youth population. Now, that’s domestic enrollment, there will be similar disruptions to international enrollment, China and India youth populations will shrink much faster than newer student markets like Africa and the Middle East. So big changes in store for the population and specifically for us in higher ed. The good news is this won’t happen overnight, we have time, but institutions must begin preparing now for this threat.

0:13:35.7 JW: I’m gonna move us along to our third priority, sustainable business models. The immediate challenge here is most colleges and universities are facing mounting budget pressure and implementing strategies to curb cost. In the long term, many will need more than one time financial corrections to thrive in an increasingly challenging environment. So to start, the last few years have been tough financially for universities with a perfect storm of pressures, higher inflation, especially wage growth, but also rising costs of materials, rising utility costs. The deferred maintenance backlog accelerated during the pandemic, as on-campus work was paused and emergency needs absorbed resources and of course, the discount rate continues to grow for our private institutions. So no surprise that institutions with tight budgets or outright deficits are reopening that cost savings playbook. I have six examples on the left, there are obviously hundreds more.

0:14:34.3 JW: We all know the West Virginia story, several others here ranging from small to large cuts and playing out across people and programs. And it’s not just institutions in the red, some are choosing to get ahead of what they see as the coming storm, you can see that on the right. Shrinking state funding, rising real estate costs, changing in international market, competition for research funding, demographic declines and weakening adult and transfer markets. So for example, Bates College is pursuing 5% programmatic cuts despite currently having a $3 million surplus. EAB has a ton of work on cost savings and efficiency on both the academic and admin side, and we continue to provide a lot of support to institutions on their savings initiatives. Those ideas are all still right answer, but they’ve been implemented unevenly, so the renewed challenge for many is to determine where they still have opportunity, but in the long term, tightening the belt another notch won’t be enough for many.

0:15:37.4 JW: Student behavior demographics and funding trends will force us to rethink our business model. Let me start with some data, you might be familiar with EABs undergrad enrollment opportunity report, the UEO, it’s a signature service that we began offering to partners, a few years ago, it’s a customized analysis that we can run for any institution incorporating local and institution specific data. In particular, on the left, it combines region specific demographic projections, projected participation or college going rates and market share trends. Now the first two of those are probably, hopefully pretty self-explanatory market share. The third one is a number we’ve been closely tracking and it is exactly what it sounds like, of the first time full-time students you could enroll looking at it by region. What percent did you enroll? Market share at the state level, looking at it state by state explains a good bit of enrollment fluctuations.

0:16:31.4 JW: And we’ve created historical data from the last decade in order to be able to run linear regressions into the future. So in particular, the flight to size and selectivity trend that, I showed a moment ago that would be captured by an institution’s market share. We then take those three sets of data and roll them forward to project enrollment changes. I’ve got an example projection on the right, this is a real institution’s projection. I have not named them here, but this is one of the analysis that we can provide. Now, what we did this year for our state of the sector work is we ran that same analysis, but we did it for the entire sector all at once, each institution, and we went a little bit farther into the future than we normally do. For every five year period, we counted how many institutions had a 25% enrollment decline from today’s numbers and how many saw a 50% drop, a potential point of no return for many institutions.

0:17:21.7 JW: Those are the results you see at the bottom, by the end of this decade, 449 institutions will have experienced a 25% drop and 182 will drop 50%. Five years later, both of those numbers have grown by about 50 institutions and by 2040, nearly 250 institutions will have seen a 50% drop. Now to be clear, I’m not saying this is exactly what will happen or that it will happen specifically to your institution, this is a projection. Each campus has strategic levers that they can pull, but importantly, this is where the math takes us. And this is mostly a zero sum game, improvements made by one institution will likely come at the expense of others. Here’s a related data point, the US has three times as many higher ed institutions per capita as the UK, and it has more than six times as many as Canada. In fact, the US has 10% of the world’s developed institutions, but only 2% of the college going population.

0:18:19.3 JW: So we feel pretty confident in this aggregate picture. For some, this is not a storm to be weathered, this is a fundamental shift that calls for a different approach. And the window of time to begin making these changes is right now. In the 2000s, many institutions had a, more, with more mentality that included the amenities arms race, and an if you build it, they will come approach to program planning. The 2010s was the more with less decade fewer resources, yes, but we aim to maintain or even grow output. We tighten belts, we emphasize productivity. We looked for incremental improvements. Far right, the projections on the last slide tell us that many universities should probably be thinking about doing less with less. A future of fewer students and fewer resources calls for greater prioritization, not just productivity. Efficiency is usually framed as decreasing inputs while holding outputs steady. But some should be thinking about decreasing both inputs and outputs, actually scaling back on certain activities in order to invest in and sustain mission critical ones.

0:19:25.0 JW: Now some institutions are already moving in this direction. At the bottom, the Inside Higher Ed survey of chief business officers asked if their institutions were aiming to be smaller but better. That was the phrasing that Inside Higher Ed used, and they went from 4% last year to 18% this year. Now that is still a small number, but a sharp jump in only one year. And five years ago, if they had asked this question, it would’ve been effectively zero. Almost no one was thinking that way. But now one in five are, and we expect to see more adopt this mindset. Now, of course this will play out differently depending on location, size, selectivity. Some institutions will need to be more aggressive, others will be able to pick and choose. The key point here is intentionality and not deferring hard decisions for later when there’s likely fewer options. We think that nearly everyone will need to adopt pieces of this mindset, and even those continuing to grow will benefit from some less, as less thinking.

0:20:25.2 JW: Alright. Halfway point. Our fourth priority is student readiness and mental wellbeing. The immediate challenge is supporting current students through post-COVID academic and mental health struggles. Long term, we’ll continue to confront the ripple effects of COVID for the next decade with academic and wellness challenges getting worse before they get better. But let’s start with current students. Academic readiness and mental wellbeing are two sides of the same coin. Issues with one quickly lead to challenges on the other. A poor grade leads to stress, maybe feelings of inadequacy that could accelerate mental health issues. Conversely, a student with stress or anxiety is gonna struggle to focus and study. Perhaps they perform poorly on their next exam and down this spiral they go. So these challenges are interconnected and COVID meaningfully worsened both in a short period of time. Lockdown led to isolation, loneliness, genuine health fears, and COVID and emergency remote instruction also negatively impacted learning.

0:21:28.5 JW: And that combination impacts enrollment. On the left, prospective students in the last four years, high schoolers opting out of college because they don’t feel mentally ready, jumped from 14% to 22%. And a third of high school counselors say that academic readiness is the main reason their students didn’t enroll in secondary education, on the right current students where mental health challenges jeopardize retention. Last year, 75% of college students considered dropping. 75% of the college students who considered dropping out said that emotional stress was the main factor. And in fact, students with mental health concerns are twice as likely to stop out.

0:22:08.7 JW: Now, that’s the immediate challenge, supporting current students, but the long-term threat is how academic and mental readiness will continue to decline. In short, it will get worse before it gets better. The largest unfinished learning impact, the biggest drop in test scores that was caused by COVID is with even younger kids, those who will continue arriving on your campuses for the next decade. Let’s look at a few cohorts. The left shows the percent of high school graduates that met the four ACT college readiness benchmarks back in 2019. The last pre-COVID class. Here’s the percent that met those benchmarks in 2023, down in every category as a result of unfinished learning. As we discussed, these kids are now on your campus and academic issues that began in high school have persisted into university. But let’s move forward in time. Today’s ninth graders are four years away from university.

0:23:04.7 JW: The middle bar chart shows i-Ready math proficiency among eighth graders in 2019. Before COVID. Eighth grade is the year that students take the i-Ready Math exam. And here’s the after COVID picture, noticeable drops in math readiness. We see the same dynamic in the NAEP math test scores. A 9% drop across COVID wiped out two plus decades of improvement. We are now well below pre 2000 numbers. Now we do have several years to turn this around but there’s no reason to believe students will catch up before they arrive on campus. Test scores are showing that students are back to pre-COVID learning rates. That’s good news, but they’re about a year behind. And learning rates would need to increase above normal average levels in order to catch up on time. And at the moment, there is no evidence that that is happening.

0:23:53.5 JW: And finally, let’s look at current fifth graders. So in the far right, fourth grade math readiness scores in 2019, and here’s the 2023 results. Those took it who are now in fifth grade who took this test in fourth grade. So unfinished learning gaps across all age groups, and in fact they get consistently worse. The younger we look, the further right to this slide that we go, that’s true across racial groups, but gaps disproportionately affect underrepresented minorities. These charts show differences in school performance by the majority enrollment group. I-Ready doesn’t provide demographic data at the student level, but if you look at the schools as a proxy, that tends to be a pretty accurate. Now I’m showing math scores and not reading partially because they had the bigger drop. Where math scores are fairing worse post-COVID than reading test scores. But math scores are also better predictors of later life outcomes like college attainment, lifetime earnings, even things like incarceration rates. So these numbers are doubly concerning. So COVID caused academic struggles will continue for the next decade. And as those students arrive on campus, poor study habits and grades will likely lead to anxiety and stress, catching them in this vicious cycle of academic and emotional struggles, requiring us to scale up support in and out of a classroom to help students cope and graduate.

0:25:18.6 JW: Alright, the fifth priority is hybrid campus. And the immediate term flexible work decisions will impact operations, productivity and hiring in meaningful ways. And long-term, we’ll likely need to rethink the type, mix and even amount of space that we have. Now to start, you’ve seen headlines about larger companies reverting to 100% in-person work, Meta, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Twitter. And this has led many leaders to ask us about the future of hybrid work. Are we nearing the end? In fact, it’s clear Hybrid is now the corporate sector norm. Upper left, 74% of corporate employers offer hybrid work arrangements and 81% of workers are hybrid or fully remote. Bottom left, office leases assigned in 2023 were for 19% less square feet on average, companies acknowledging that they need less space because of hybrid work and being willing to lock themselves into that new footprint. Now that’s high level data.

0:26:16.4 JW: The data on the right is probably the most compelling. This shows the average weekly office occupancy measured by badge swipes. So this is actual human beings coming and going in and out of buildings. Occupancy has definitely ticked up since COVID, but if you ignore the spiky holiday drops, it’s been remarkably consistent around 50% for over a year now. We have hit steady state on the level of hybrid work, and yet higher ed remains something of an outlier, top left compared to the 81% that we see across sectors. The data point from the previous slide, only about half of higher ed staff are hybrid or fully remote. And 52% of universities have made only modest or even no changes to their flexible work policy since 2019. On the right, it’s mostly bottoms up. Who can access hybrid work is overwhelmingly determined by managers or unit heads.

0:27:09.6 JW: And the private sector is top down. It’s just, it’s a strategic company-wide decision made by the C-suite and senior HR leaders. At the bottom, a few examples showing the variety and where institutions have landed. Elon University expects folks on campus five days a week except during summers, Manitoba more in the middle with two days at home. William Patterson on the far end of universities, they allow four days a week at home. Now to be clear, none of this is to say what is right or wrong. We are reporting what we see and how it compares to other sectors, but it’s important to understand the trade-offs, your approach to hybrid impacts hiring, retention, even pay. That said, universities are different than corporate employers. Place and culture matter more. It’s a huge part of what we sell to students and families. But regardless of where you land, the exact number of days or the specific rules, chances are that your university doesn’t have the right campus anymore.

0:28:08.6 JW: The long-term threat is that hybrid work will require a different campus. Most obviously, more hybrid work and more hybrid study likely call for less total square feet. If there’s fewer people on campus each day, you might not need as much space, but many of us also have the wrong mix of space. On the left, spaces we have too little of sector-wide residence halls have shrunk as a share of space despite more students wanting to live on campus. This famously came to a head this year for many, several universities put students on hotels. Middlebury paid 30 juniors and seniors $10,000 each to take the semester off because they didn’t have room for them. Next collaboration spaces. Increasingly students join classes, especially large lectures virtually, but they want to study in person. So that calls for more space where students can gather but still be able to include others virtually.

0:29:01.9 JW: And bottom left, labs. As most of us know, program growth has been concentrated in STEM with degree and certificate conferrals up 42% in the last decade. That has strained lab space, particularly instructional lab space. Now contrast that with the space that we likely have too much of on the right, office space has grown more than any other type of space but hybrid work has left it underutilized. Next, fewer commuters, staff and students. That means we probably have too much parking. And finally, with students joining more classes remotely, we likely have more lecture halls than we need. So to summarize, still a lot of institutions wrestling with hybrid work questions, which impacts hiring, retention and operations. But our message is that no matter where you land, you likely have the wrong campus for this new way of work, which requires capital and planning decisions now to begin adapting.

0:29:57.3 JW: Now, we’ll close out today with AI. In the immediate term, we need the right policies and trainings to support faculty, staff, and students through this early transitionary period. And in the long term, AI will alter how work and even what work gets done. And we have to prepare students for this new world of work. Now, we started today talking about negative headlines and attacks on higher ed’s value proposition. Well, I might suggest to you all that AI could be a golden opportunity for us to reclaim our mantle as the source of innovation and big ideas, especially if we help prepare the next generation for this new way of work.

0:30:35.1 JW: Now this slide highlights five transformative opportunities. Not that these are the only five, there will surely be many others, but based on what we have seen so far, these are the five applications in higher ed that we’re most confident in. First, incorporating AI into pedagogy, both using AI as a teaching tool, but also helping students use AI in their discipline and career. Second, improving student success through 24/7 personalized support. Think the chatbots that many of us have that help students navigate admission or course registration. But the next wave of these might be AI tutors, which the Khan Academy has already launched. Third, using AI to boost faculty and staff productivity. There’s early successes in course planning, grant writing, grading. It’s particularly good at manual audits. Things like contract review and procurement or transfer credit reviews in the registrar’s office. Fourth, mass customization in marketing messages, that could be both to new, to prospective students as well as alumni and donors.

0:31:36.5 JW: Personalization is nothing new, but AI promises to help us scale it up in a way that we couldn’t before. And then last is AI applications and research. This is not just doing things faster, but actually being able to push the boundaries of human knowledge. As one example, researchers using DeepMind were able to predict the structure of millions of unknown proteins and that has opened the door to potential new treatments. So in our time today, I’m gonna focus in on this first area. It’s the most fundamental to our mission as educators, but know that our teams are actively exploring all five areas and we’ll update our guidance as we find new pilots, new applications, new promising ideas. Now the immediate challenge here is navigating this transition and we’ve been gathering best practice examples for supporting both faculty and students. And that includes policy statements, hands-on training, seed funding orientation sessions, even subsidizing the cost of industry micro-credentials.

0:32:32.8 JW: But in the long term, we have to prepare students for a different world of work, where AI is changing how work and even what work is done. I’ve got some examples here. The Writer’s Guild went on strike for months to protect against perceived AI threats. Several studies found that nearly half of legal work can be automated. AI bots can sift through documents, assist in due diligence, even draft contracts. Graphic design used to be a fairly labor intensive process. Now even complex designs are generated in an instant based on simple text descriptions, similar changes in software engineering. A McKinsey study found that coding can be done twice as fast with generative AI. In fact, the vast majority of knowledge sector jobs will be changed or enhanced by AI. But the degree of impact will vary as will the level of expertise. So what does that mean for us?

0:33:25.0 JW: How do we provide students the training and expertise they need and prepare them for a post AI world of work? The University of Florida is the furthest along on this. They’ve infused AI across the curriculum in every discipline with the goal to give students regardless of major foundational AI knowledge to help them secure a job and ultimately innovate in their fields. Now Florida was ahead of the curve. They launched their initiative in 2020 and they made AI central to their institutional identity. They hired a 100 new faculty across colleges with AI backgrounds. And the result is a portfolio of 230 new AI courses spanning undergrad, grad and professional programs. I’ve got some examples on the right, AI and agriculture, business applications of AI, AI and healthcare. And it’s already impacting new research applications as well.

0:34:16.2 JW: You can see those below in the lower right. So Florida went all in on AI and education and research were their main goal. They also want AI to be part of their brand. What differentiates them in the market. Everyone else may not need to or want to go that far. So we’re also collecting examples of more incremental steps departments or even individual courses that are effectively embedding AI and the guidance they’re giving to students. So as I said, we’re collecting a repository there and sharing it back with partners on where we see AI innovations popping up.

0:34:51.7 JW: So I will wrap us up here. This is a summary slide of the six priorities with the immediate and long-term threats called out. We’re excited to continue to roll this material out to our partner universities and other events like this one. But what I wanna do with the remaining time is turn to our panel discussion and get some live reactions to what we’ve just walked through. So I will stop sharing my screen as folks get their camera back on.

0:35:19.7 JW: Let me first introduce our distinguished panelists. So first we have Dr. Mildred Garcia. She is California State University’s 12th chancellor. She’s the first ever Latina to serve as the CSU Chancellor or of any four year university system. Prior to her appointment as chancellor, Dr. Garcia served as president of AASCU, working to influence federal policy and regulations on behalf of 350 member colleges and universities. Dr. Garcia previously served as the president of Cal State Fullerton, President of CSU Dominguez Hills and CEO of Berkeley College, and has held both academic and senior level positions at several institutions, including Arizona State, Montclair State, and Columbia University. Dr. Garcia was appointed by President Obama to serve on several advisory committees, including the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Welcome, Dr. Garcia.

0:36:13.9 Mildred Garcia: An honor being with you in the panel. Thank you.

0:36:17.1 JW: Next, Dr. Ted Mitchell is the President of the American Council on Education. Before coming to ACE in 2017, Ted served as the Undersecretary of the United States Department of Education. Prior to his federal service, Ted was the CEO of the New School’s Venture Fund, a national investor in education innovation. He’s also served as President of Occidental College, President of the California State Board of Education, and in a variety of leadership roles at UCLA, including Vice Chancellor. Ted was deputy to the president and to the provost at Stanford University and began his career as a professor at Dartmouth College where he also served as chair of the Department of Education. Thank you for joining us today, Ted.

0:37:00.1 Ted Mitchell: Thrilled to be here, John. Thanks.

0:37:02.0 JW: Last but certainly not least, Jeff Selingo is an author and journalist who has written about higher education for more than 25 years. He is a New York Times bestselling author of three books, his latest book, who Gets In, and Why, A Year College Admissions was published in 2020. It was named one of the 100 notable books of the year by The Times, a regular contributor to the Atlantic, the New York Times, and The Washington Post. Jeff is a special advisor to the president and professor of practice at Arizona State University. He also writes a biweekly newsletter on all things higher ed called Next, co-host the podcast Future You and is currently working on his new book about how we need to look at good colleges beyond the top of the rankings, which is due out in 2025. Welcome, Jeff.

0:37:46.6 Jeff Selingo: Thank you. It’s great to be here.

0:37:49.1 JW: All right, Ted, we will start with you. I started this presentation with a series of false or even misleading headlines about the value and cost of higher ed. Which headline do you and other industry leaders hear and combat the most? And then from your perspective, what’s the difference in what you hear from families, from community leaders and from policy makers?

0:38:11.2 TM: That’s right. It’s a great question. And boy, what a menu to choose from John. Thanks. I think the one that is the most confounding is the continued reluctance to understand that the economic value of higher education to students who attend and persist. And you know, there is a temptation and you wisely waved us off of it from just saying, no, you’re wrong.

0:38:37.0 TM: And I think that that is right, to not do that. But I want to take a step back. You said false. I don’t think they’re false. And I think that that’s the first thing we need to understand is that there is just enough truth in each one of these headlines, to arrest our attention and bring us to the core question of whether we are really doing all we can to meet the needs of today’s families of students, and communities. Policy makers, I’m not sure we will ever fulfill their needs, but I think that leads me to the second part of your question. What is it that people are really looking for? We’ve done a bunch of surveying ourselves and that quote from the young man or young woman that you put in the upper right hand corner of the screen is really what we are hearing.

0:39:25.4 TM: That’s the headline that I’m most worried about. It’s a headline that’s based on the true fact that just a bare majority of students who start college finish, the true fact that anyone who doesn’t finish is gonna face a serious problem repaying their debt. The true facts that people are not getting that first job that will set them off on a career. We’ve got a real dislocation between first jobs and careers, whether it’s liberal arts majors or computer programmers. And so all of that combined leads to this narrative that you, if you go to college, you’re gonna be saddled with debt for your lifetime and you’re gonna live in your parents’ basement. While we can all say, no, that’s really not right, averages don’t tell the stories in a way that today’s social media environment disperses knowledge.

0:40:23.5 TM: Knowledge is not based on averages. Knowledge is based on the outliers, because that’s where people get the hits. That’s where people get the information that it causes this distortion in the market. So what we need to do is we need to go back and we need to ask ourselves, if we really are achieving the goals that we’ve set out for ourselves? If I were to plan backwards, I would plan around jobs. We hear this over and over again, whether it’s community members, community leaders, business leaders, families, students themselves, they want good paying jobs that lead to a career. And I think we’ve underestimated that and we’ve overestimated the nice thought that any college degree will get you where you want to go. It may have been true once, it’s probably not true now.

0:41:12.4 JW: Thank you. Dr. Garcia, I know this is a topic that you’re also passionate about, from your personal experience as well as, to the extent you wanna speak to the national perspective, from your time at AASCU, what’s at stake in convincing the American public that a college degree is still valuable? And what have you found to be some of the most compelling arguments?

0:41:32.6 MG: So I wanna say yes, but Ted, for Ted, I don’t think this country has dealt with the changing demographics in this country and talking about the personal good and the private, the personal and the public good of higher education. This narrative, which thank you so much for sharing. It’s so destructive to our most vulnerable communities, the first generation, the low income, the students of color, the adults. I always hated people when they say college degree isn’t for everyone. And then, you kind of try to talk to them. And then I say, and where did your children or grandchildren go? Where are they going to college? Do they go to college? College for whom? And if we look at what’s happening in this country, the changing demographics is the reality that there’s a new majority of America.

0:42:27.5 MG: That if we don’t pay attention to the public as well as the private good, this country will be in problems. The vitality of our communities, our nation, our states. And for me is yes, that is right. We have to make sure that we’re doing everything we can, not only to graduate our students, but help them get that first leg into that first career, which is new for many of our campuses, as well as help them see where they’re going with that career or go to graduate school, but we graduate them and we go like this. And if we could be chief reminder officers of what are the benefits? I mean, we’re talking to the choir here. They make more money in their lifetime. They have lower rates of unemployment, they pay more taxes. We know it, they vote more, all of that. But where are we with our headlines?

0:43:23.4 MG: Why aren’t we going from the local to the global in our states? It’s one of the things I’m asking our presidents and how are we gonna do what we need to do better? And how are we going to tell our story and be chief reminder officers and have our headlines and work with the media, and work with businesses who understand they need those skills for those jobs that Ted is talking about. So that’s what’s really at stake with our vulnerable communities and the new majority of America and the vitality of our communities, our state and our nation.

0:44:00.5 JW: Good points. Jeff, you, as I said, literally wrote the book on the college admissions process. How prepared do you think universities are for the coming enrollment threats? And then a second question would be, we tend to always talk about that from the perspective of the universities, but you speak to students and families as much as universities. What does demographic decline mean for them?

0:44:22.5 JS: Yeah, I think that it go, kind of goes back to your bubble chart, right? Showing who has kind of done well in terms of universities, in terms of enrollment, the last a couple of years. I mean, we really have a have and have nots problem in the US when it comes to higher education. And most of the haves are tiny places. Even the large publics from a perspective of how many students they enroll from the total number of students who enroll across the country, and they don’t really have an enrollment problem, right? It’s the vast majority of institutions that right now serve the vast majority of students. And so I don’t think that most are prepared because many of the enrollment leaders, or the university leaders, or the trustees that I talked to, they’re kind of really focused on year by year, right?

0:45:12.3 JS: They’re so focused on the enrollment challenges, pre-COVID, during COVID, now post-COVID, now this year they’re worried about the FAFSA and the impact of that on enrollment. And then you kind of get to the end of an enrollment year, and then you look up and it’s next year already. So you don’t really have a chance to step back and develop a real strategy going forward. There’s just not enough looking up and out for most of these institutions. I mean, the thing that I still don’t quite get even after covering this industry for 25 years, is that we have thousands of institutions for the most part, still focused on a declining demographic when we have tens of millions of working learners who need more education.

0:46:08.5 JS: Like, if any sector of the economy were to look at a market analysis and say, we have all of these businesses focused on this small segment, couple million high school graduates a year. Meanwhile, over here we have tens of millions of people, some, by the way, 39 million of whom already have some college credit, and there’s very few people serving them. Where would I wanna put my business, right? If I were starting a business today, if I was starting a college, where would I want to focus? And it still makes no sense to me that everyone is chasing this one demographic of 18-year-olds when all of the people [chuckle] really are somewhere else. And that’s the part that I think that if colleges were able to kind of step back and think about this in a more strategic way, I think that you would see more colleges really doing a lot more on that front.

0:47:07.7 JS: And then I think the second question that you asked is what will demographic decline mean for prospective students and parents? I think it really comes back to the financial sustainability of these institutions. I’m not one of these people who will claim hundreds of colleges will go out of business in the next a couple of years. I don’t think that’s going to happen. But I do worry about the ability given declining net and flat tuition revenue at most of these tuition dependent institutions. What I do worry about is do they have the resources to invest in the student experience and student success? Do they have the ability to invest in, as Millie talks about, like the most vulnerable students who need wraparound, students today need a number of wraparound services, that take resources, right?

0:47:58.5 JS: That cost money. And the wealthier institutions have those resources, and they could do that. But as we said earlier, they’re tiny. They’re not accepting a lot of these students. So that’s where I worry that, and I get a lot of questions from counselors and parents and students all the time. How do I know my, the school that these kids are gonna go to are, is going to go, how do I know it’s not gonna go outta business? And I’m like, that’s the wrong question to ask. Do they have the resources to invest in the success of your child? I think is the better question to be asking.

0:48:34.3 JW: Yeah. Well said. Chancellor Garcia, let’s expand and talk about the dual challenges of the shrinking enrollment that we’re talking about and add on shrinking budgets that is happening to many colleges and universities across the country. What are some of the strategies that the CSU is employing to advance its mission despite the challenging landscape?

0:48:54.4 MG: It is challenging, that’s for sure. But let me begin by saying, Jeff just talked about being strategic, strategic models, and we’re already beginning to do that. My predecessor, who was the interim Chancellor, started a sustainable funding model task force to look at being predictable, have a multi-year approach to system operation budget, as well as capital budget, not year to year. We know what’s coming. Let’s get ready for that. We also are looking at adopting a tuition model that’s predictable for our students. And it’s crazy when you have systems, including the CSU that waited seven or eight years to raise tuitioning by 1%, knowing that that’s gonna cost. Well, how can we do a predictable tuition model? And then couple that, which we have a group working on right now, a financial aid work group that looks at total cost of attendance for our students because our tuitions are low.

0:49:56.5 MG: It’s not tuition, it’s cost of attendance. So how do we use the CSU scholarships, the state budgets Pell to package total cost of attendance for all our students. Because when you look at tuition, you think it’s about 75% of our students get some form of financial aid that’s gonna cover their tuition. It’s total cost of attention, or attendance especially for our most vulnerable. And then of course, supporting the, our campuses are now raising money now more than ever, and talking about who are our students. When you talk about how we are helping those that are most vulnerable get through college, there are people that are willing to support that through scholarship for our students. And when you look at enrollment, again, it’s strategy. How are you strategizing a strategic enrollment plan? What is that plan? How do we do it from a system understanding that some of our campuses are losing enrollment?

0:50:53.4 MG: And so how do you manage that as a system and support those campuses to right sides and help them to go get there along the way without hurting the academic viability and excellence of our students and the student support services that we need so much. And then of course, working alongside EAB, we’re looking at how do we strengthen that with not only looking at, and CSU doesn’t look at traditional numbers anymore of people, because our ages are higher than that. We’re looking at how do we work with our communities, how do we work with K-12? How do we work with community colleges? And having a plan that looks at all of those levers. And I’ll talk more about enrollment later because we have to really talk about how are we recruiting people as Jeff started to talk about.

0:51:43.3 JW: Ted, in the face of that growing budget pressure, what are some of the bold efficiency and organizational changes that you as an industry thought leader would like to see universities, some universities start to adopt?

0:51:57.6 TM: Who’d think after three years of this, I can agree. Thanks, John. And I wanna thank Jeff for raising the, what I do think is the biggest strategic opportunity facing the sector, which is the shift to upward in the demographic range. And we can talk some about that. But I think that the, a couple of the major efficiencies that we are starting to see in the University Innovation Alliance has clearly been a leader in this. And I don’t know if there are many University Innovation Alliance members on the call, but shared services, regional approaches to everything like buying toilet paper to actually sharing faculty. I think that there are many more opportunities for institutions to expand their scope while decreasing their scale by partnering with other organizations around new areas of curriculum without building an entire faculty to do it.

0:52:57.5 TM: We’re gonna talk about AI later. I do think that the power of AI in a lot of transactional work on the student services side and a lot of the tutoring work that you mentioned that Khan Academy is pioneering and others are following up on, I think that all of those stand to really put more responsibility for doing what only faculty and specifically talented staff can do, and separating that out and bringing more of that into the realm of AI or certainly into partnerships where a dollar spent goes farther.

0:53:41.5 JW: Let’s turn the page to the student part of the conversation. Chancellor Garcia, you all have had many notable student success victories, but you’ve also been clear that there’s more that can be done and should be done for underserved students. What can institutions do to continue to improve equity gaps and ensure support for all students?

0:54:03.4 MG: I’m gonna start out with understanding who you serve in your neighborhoods and in their space. Individuals, if you’re still going after the traditional age and you’re not paying attention to the communities you serve and what are their needs, all of these communities are very interested, and I’ve done a lot of work in this area, want their children to get a better life, a better career, and go on and be successful. They just need to know how, and they need to understand that your institution will welcome them and that they will thrive. That’s number one. We are doing lots of things at the CSU, but I think understanding who you serve and what’s your mission is so important. And speaking to them in their language and in their space, which means working within the community. Second of all, we had the GI 2025 Plan that really focused on academic preparation.

0:55:04.3 MG: Jeff talked about wraparound services. Our students need them desperately. Student engagement, even adults. How do you engage students with the curriculum that they’re involved? Hands on, of course, is wonderful. They love that. Talking about the financial support, which is so important for these students, and really thinking about all those administrative hurdles that we have on our campuses. The library fee, that’s $50 that you’re holding somebody’s registration, the parking ticket. I mean, all of those administrative hurdles we have to figure out, let’s get rid of those. And then we have an equity action plan that talks about re-engaging and re-enrolling underserved. We talk about really digital degree planners that they could look, they’re always on their phone. All of those things drilling down on those D and S and withdrawals Y, how do you redesign that course? How do you look at those courses? When I was at Fullerton, the very first time we found the data that said every new student failed one course.

0:56:09.4 MG: 30% of our students failed one course in that first semester. We immediately started calling them and say, it’s okay. It’s okay. We’re here for you. Come back. Because if you are first generation or low income, you feel like a failure. And so having someone really reach out to you, it’s that personal touch that is still necessary for people who find our colleges and universities foreign. And then where we looked at strengthening our academic programs, being strategic partners with faculty, and making sure seamless transition from community college to college from K-12. I mean, I have nieces and nephews that are coming from high school and saying, oh my God, college is so hard. Now they have me to talk to, their crazy aunt. But not everybody has a crazy aunt that’ll say, it’s okay. Let us work you through this. It’s how do you help a curriculum that students see themselves and see themselves getting to where they want to go?

0:57:08.6 MG: How do you help them get there? Setting those standards high and understanding that they need to belong to that campus. This is not new. It’s not rocket science. We just have to work with the kind of populations we have. And then think about, how do we serve those adults that we are serving now? Those student clubs may not be what they want. What is it that they need? How do we make sure that we’re attending to those adults? And then how do we recruit those adults to come to our campuses, to reskill, as Jeff said, or to really pay attention to what the careers are that’ll help them have a better social life and economic independence. I think that’s enough for now. I could keep going on this. [laughter] Also we have our Black Student Success group, we have started a program that Black Student Success from, that we have dedicated $10 million. This is a problem across the country, that Black students are not coming to our campuses. And we have a 13 point plan of how to really reengage with our communities and with students in showing that CSU is a place that they could succeed, thrive, and belong. And I’ll stop there.

0:58:17.3 JW: No, thank you. As I said, a lot of successes at CSU. Jeff, let’s think about prospective students. Let’s go back further upstream. As I showed survey after survey, showing that high schoolers saying, I’m less mentally ready, I’m less emotionally ready for college. What are you hearing, and then what can we do to turn that trend around?

0:58:42.5 JS: Well, definitely hearing it, I think anybody on a college campus right now is feeling it. There was this viral tweet, I guess, you still call it a tweet, on X last December by a faculty member at UW Madison that went viral. We’re basically saying, this was the toughest semester that she ever taught in terms of just students not feeling prepared, not handing in assignments and so forth. And then there were a number of replies, thousands of replies to that. Saying the same thing on college campuses, everywhere, as I said, on Future You, a couple weeks ago, when we addressed this issue around student success, I felt like we went into the pandemic and then suddenly, there was one day we just flipped a switch and we said, we’re back. And we never really, I think, addressed the needs of students of all ages, coming out of the learners of all ages, coming out of the pandemic. And we just expected everything to kind of go back to normal, and it isn’t. It just isn’t. We all needed to kind of ease back into it in some way, and I don’t think we really had a plan for that. Just like we didn’t really have a plan for the pandemic either. So what can we do? What can we turn around? How can we turn around these trends? There’s a million ideas, but let me just throw out three quickly.

1:00:06.6 JS: One is around admissions, and I’m probably gonna focus a little bit more just on this one point, on the traditional age and probably at the more selective institutions. Not the most selective, but the more selective, which unfortunately I think tend to drive the media narrative around admissions. If you look at the Common App numbers this year, for example, we had historical number of applications last year. We have even more applications this year, right? I don’t think application volume, when you basically have the same number of students just submitting more and more applications is necessarily good for higher ed, in my opinion, because it just feeds this narrative that getting into college is hard, getting into college is like winning a lottery. It just feeds this narrative even when most students are not necessarily going to selective colleges.

1:01:00.3 JS: And I think that higher education as a sector, as an industry really needs to get a handle on this, because I think it really is up to them to try to fix this system. And then you add in the FAFSA issues this year, which obviously are a federal government issue, but I think that higher education is gonna get blamed for it. And I think it’s just gonna feed this narrative that higher ed is broken and that it doesn’t care about students.

1:01:25.0 JS: Second, I think is coming up with more predictable tuition models as Millie said, right? I think that institutions need to get a handle on the perception of cost among parents and students and counselors. And I think that people at every income level now think this is a problem that needs to be fixed. And I think that the more that colleges can do to try to be more transparent around costs, around… More transparent around financial aid packages, and more transparent and more predictable about where tuition is going, the better off we’re gonna be. Because I think that too many parents and counselors just think it’s not worth it. And that’s why we’re seeing the value conversation decline.

1:02:14.5 JS: And then third is again, something similar to what Millie just said around engaging students. At the end of the day, I think most students, no matter what age they are, and no matter where they go, they want to have a sense of belonging and purpose to their education. They want to feel they’re at a place where they can find their people, and they wanna have a sense of purpose for why they’re there. And I think, to be honest with you, that’s why we saw so many people drop out of higher education during the pandemic, ’cause there wasn’t that sense of belonging, and they couldn’t figure out why they were there, and why they were spending this money, and that’s why they left.

1:02:51.6 JS: And so we need to do a lot more at trying to figure out how do we create that sense of belonging and purpose for students. And then if we can’t, at our institution, there are other institutions where they might find that sense of belonging, purpose and help them, right? This is not a zero-sum game. I get it, when you’re in enrollment and you’re the CFO, every student is a dollar. I get that, right? But like, why can’t we help students transfer more? Why can’t we do a lot more work between community colleges and four-year colleges around transfer, right? We just keep seeing these reports. Again, just another one last week about the huge number of credits that are being lost, the huge number of students that aren’t transferring successfully, who are ending up in that 39 million number that I cited earlier that keeps growing in about the number of students.

1:03:44.7 JS: This is on higher ed to figure out. It really is. I think it’s on… I think we need to stop blaming others and I think that institutions really need to see themselves as part of a larger ecosystem, because yes, you might survive as a single institution, and others might go down and you might say, well, that’s good for us. It isn’t. At the end of the day, we are a sector that has to… We kind of… We live or die by that sword, and I think that we need to solve this. This is a sector problem, and I think we need to solve it as a sector.

1:04:25.7 JW: Great thoughts on that. Sort of related in the sense of purpose and how do we keep that going? Ted, I wanted to ask you about hybrid work. It’s obviously here to stay. What do you see as the necessary changes to making it work, whether that’s policy changes or even changes to the physical campus, and then what might get in the way of some of those changes?

1:04:44.7 TM: Yeah, I think I’m sitting here clapping at Jeff’s remarks. I think he’s exactly right, and harkens back to what I was saying at the very beginning, is that there is enough in these negative narratives to cause us to pause and ask what we’re doing about them. Transfer is clearly a sore spot. And I think that this idea of belonging is another sore spot. Once again, in our surveys, we heard from parents, as well as from students and parents very tellingly that they felt that there was no one watching out for their student. And so I think that that really is a place we need to focus. We need to connect students with faculty and with staff in new ways. I think faculty themselves need to understand that their work goes beyond teaching a subject. They are teaching a student, and they need to understand those students.

1:05:46.0 TM: To Millie’s point, they need to understand where they’re coming from. They need to understand the challenges that they face day to day and we just need to build that into the overall work of our campuses. I guess the short version for me is if they are not communities in which those with the least power are helped by those with the most, we will fail and we deserve to. So that’s a long preamble to say, I think that hybrid work is a challenge to that, because hybrid work at its essence says, no, no, no, everybody is going to be drawn from the center to the periphery for some period of time, and we’ll connect from the periphery to the center in imperfect…

1:06:31.9 TM: We’re using imperfect tools, the tools we’re using today. It is the research that’s coming out, and goodness knows it’s coming out every day as different sectors and different companies, as you suggested earlier, John, are trying different things. So we’re learning more than we can assimilate. We’re seeing more than we can assimilate, but it seems to be a consensus that people, while people can be equally productive at a distance, they can’t be equally creative or supportive at a distance. And I think we, as institutions, need to face that and we need to push hard to say, this is a place as well as an idea, and we need to make it work by being around.

1:07:19.3 TM: Now, on the other end of that, for places that are in either in rural areas or in densely populated urban areas, that doesn’t suggest you have to simply have one campus. It means that you need to have places where people can congregate around common interest, in this case, interest in their own, oh, no, and others education. So thinking about in the very old days, the land-grant colleges learned a new pedagogy. They called it extension. And we need to get back to bringing education to communities, and bringing the whole of education, the personal side as well as the intellectual side to the communities that we seek to serve.

1:08:07.5 TM: If we do that, there will then be a legion of people in unlikely places who can stand up and say, what are you talking about? Higher education doesn’t work. It serves me just fine, because A, B and C, which may not be a PhD in history, it may be a place to go on a Saturday afternoon with my kids to enjoy safe space, so that they can meet up with others. That’s the kind of the work that we need to do that can mitigate the damage of a purely hybrid environment without having to lock down again, around a central campus facility.

1:08:45.5 JW: Alright. We’ll close out with AI. Jeff, you’ve written a lot about AI’s potential in higher ed. What are some of the opportunities that you think universities are actually primed to run at, and then if you had to pick one, maybe two, that they might struggle with more?

1:09:02.1 JS: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think primed on the administrative side, and I think Ted mentioned that earlier. I think that there’s a lot of room for, we talked about admissions, for example, and I know there’s a number of institutions experimenting with this right now. Admissions to me has always been a human centered pursuit, and with the volume of applications in recent years, most of those people are now in offices, focused on files rather than out recruiting students. And so I think that there’s elements there and on administrative functions across the board in finance, and the registrar, and in advising and career services where it could be used.

1:09:47.5 JS: The one though that concerns me is in the classroom, because I just wrote about this in my newsletter last week, based on some research and a webinar that I did on AR. First of all, I think that a lot of colleges and universities give lip service to quality teaching. And it’s, I think AI is gonna really require institutional leaders to be much more intentional about improving teaching. Because with AI, I think you need professors and faculty who are both… Have a good understanding of what generative AI is, and how it works. And of course, they’re also going to need expertise in the subject area to understand the limitations of the outputs, right? So you’re gonna kind of need to have the expertise in both.

1:10:45.7 JS: And I think the other issue that I’m hearing from faculty right now is just finding the time to do this. So even if you have the expertise to use this, because students are coming to campus having used AI already, do you have the classroom time, given all the other issues that we are talking about today, to even spend time on this? I think this is going to become just like online education, and teaching with technology was kind of the topic, du jour for the last 20 years in higher ed. I think that this is going to be the next big thing when we talk about teaching in higher ed. And again, I think it’s gonna require much more emphasis by institutional leaders, more time and money spent on teaching and learning centers, I think all of this is going to be required in the coming years.

1:11:36.9 JW: All right. We’re coming up short on time. So last question. This is sort of a lightning round question I’d like all three of you to weigh in on. Five years from now, what will we look back on and say that was AI’s biggest impact on higher ed? Chancellor Garcia, we’ll start with you and then Jeff, and then we’ll close out with Ted.

1:11:58.7 MG: I’m gonna ditto what Jeff said, but I’m gonna say something we haven’t talked about that I think higher ed will play a pivotal role in the ethical issues of AI.

1:12:09.7 JW: Jeff.

1:12:09.8 JS: AI will help us find the unmute button on Zoom. I agree with Millie. I think that this is… Higher education is really known for knowledge creation, and helping to be at the center of so many things, right? Whether it was the internet 30, 40 years ago, and now, I think it really has the opportunity, if it takes it, to shape AI, and not give it away to the private sector, or not let the private sector shape it. But this is gonna require a lot of institutional fortitude that, to be honest, I am not seeing from a lot of presidents right now, who tend to, and I don’t blame them given what’s happening in the news with presidents the last couple of months, tend to be kind of going down into the bunker and having a bunker mentality, ’cause they don’t want to be out there on a number of different issues. This is one, I think they need to be out in front of.

1:13:14.5 JW: Ted.

1:13:15.8 TM: Okay. Look, this is gonna be very complicated and it’s gonna be very messy. And I do hope that Millie’s view is right. I worry that like any other technology, this one will further divide haves and have nots. And the problem here is that it is going to be very tempting to apply AI throughout the institution in a way that is not ethical, that is not supportive of learning, but is the cheapest way to do it. So this is a bad problem in the theory of markets, where the deployment of a product, in this case, a technology can cause harm if not done well, and well means expensive.

1:13:58.8 JW: Thank you all for your thoughts and comments. I’m gonna turn it back over to Carla to close us out, but as Carla comes back on, I just wanna, again, thank all three of you, Ted, Jeff and Chancellor Garcia for taking the time to join us. This was a great conversation.

1:14:14.1 TM: Thank you, John.

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Madeleine Rhyneer joins Carla Hickman to discuss challenges colleges face in meeting fall enrollment targets and offer strategies…

WVU President Gordon Gee on the Future of Universities

As a land grant university and economic center of the state, West Virginia University has taken a leading…

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Universities Worldwide

EAB’s John Workman and Michael Fischer examine similarities and important differences in how the pandemic is impacting U.S.…