Photo by Guillermo Arroyo from Pexels

How To Handle An Uncertain Future

I was reading 10 Predictions for Higher Education's Future, and like so many articles trying to leverage COVID-19 and the reopening of the economy, it just seemed that the article covers a lot of old news with the new COVID-19 twist.

Revenues, for many IHEs, have been going down for years.  COVID-19 just pushed many off the cliff.

The nation has been debating the value of higher education for years.  Might the focus shift to the value of in-person education?  Maybe.  From what some students are saying, the value of online education is in question – specifically, the cost as it compares to classroom-based tuition.

And because we have spent the past decade or so failing to manage an inaccurate narrative that online is less expensive to offer and delivers the profits needed to pay for the campus-based operations, we have ourselves to blame.

What Are Your Plans For The Future?

There seems to be a focus on the fall supported by the assumption that things will remain constant from that point forward.

That strikes me as a very risky assumption – one that teeters on the brink of failing to perform one's fiduciary responsibilities.

The painful truth is that we don't know what we don't know, and we certainly don't know what the future holds.

Not to be the voice of doom and gloom, but what's your plan for dealing with a second wave rolling across the U.S. this fall?  And how many of you have a plan for that second wave impacting spring 2021?

And with more than 30 million unemployed, predictions are that the nation will still have double-digit unemployment in Q4 2020.  The conventional wisdom is that when unemployment goes up, people go back to school to retool. Are we sure that’s going to happen this time? How is continued unemployment  going to impact your students’ ability to pay for college?

If you rely on revenue from room and board, do you have a scenario in place for operating without that revenue for the next 12 months?  Or longer?

How many of you are investing in online education because you feel that is something you can no longer let slide?  Technology? Training? Curriculum development?

If you plan to open in the fall and get back to attempt to resume what used to be “normal,” I do fear you might be falling far short of your fiduciary responsibilities.

Time For Partnerships?

In the article, John Kroger brings up the possibility of more corporations entering the market.

Expect things like "The University of Texas, powered by Google."

That's something I have been suggesting for some time – the need to develop partnerships that help IHEs and corporations better serve the community.

First, access to expertise and financial resources can be beneficial to any IHE.

Second, this is one way to differentiate your institution from others.

Third, if you design your partnerships correctly, students will move from education to their career more seamlessly, and those that are in the midst of their career can more easily invest and access the education they need to move forward in their careers.

So, What's Next?

The people your institution serves are changing – and this article offers a great view of how successful organizations are responding.

Companies are speaking with their audiences.  They are observing their audience's behavior.  And they are identifying changes in their reasoning, actions, spending – these are what leading corporations are doing right now.  And you should be as well because you need to understand your options, and what opportunities and threats are out there in the market you serve.

"We're assessing market by market whether we need to make changes to our core products, prices, and pack sizes," said Hanneke Faber, president of foods and refreshment at Unilever (UL), which makes Lipton tea, Dove soap, Hellmann's mayonnaise, and Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

Are you assessing the market regarding your programs, services, tuition rates, and fees? Are you rethinking the start and end dates, as well as the length of your terms?

The point here is that heightened uncertainty is here, and that requires constant monitoring of behavior and attitudes so you can identify changes in time to prepare rather than be caught unaware.

So, what is next?

Written by

Strategic turnaround consultant and writer.

Leave a Reply