New Year, New Hope: Solving the Equation of Higher Education

As last year mercifully came to a close, I heard several people refer to the year 2020 as a “dumpster fire.” And, well, I guess that description isn’t too far off. The year was unlike anything we have EVER experienced … and not many saw it coming.

But, if we’re honest, there are some moments that are worth hanging onto — even amidst the turmoil. Obviously, there is plenty of new perspective on life, community, and basic (or not-so-basic) provisions. Even within higher education, there are a number of little wins that are worth celebrating.

Here are just a few:

  • Some schools FINALLY decided that online teaching was possible.
  • Many admission offices were determined and brought in decent classes in Fall 2020.
  • We all saw (or learned) the value of digital … uh … everything.

With the new year comes a new reason for hope. The return to “normal process” is one part of that. The vaccine is being deployed to the public; several months from now, there will be a critical mass that will no longer fear the virus. While this hope is significant, I am latching onto a few different hopes as I think of higher ed in the new year.

My hope is that we will retain many of the digital innovations that have become (in the past 6-9 months) part of the new normal. From a new reliance on virtual campus tours to embracing web-hosted admitted student days, higher ed has found critical value — and much needed savings — in the new ways of doing digital business. Because I think travel is largely ineffective, I also hope higher ed’s new reliance on automated digital tools will upend this old-school paradigm.

Greater Personalization

Hope for greater levels of personalization and attribution are next on my list. Going hand-in-hand with the new dependence on digital tools, so many enrollment officers were forced in 2020 to see the greater ability and the tremendous value in measuring activity. We have moved from theoretical to actual … and it’s marvelous. My hope is that we can maintain the “need to measure” and continue to realize the “value of attribution” in 2021.

My final hope for 2021 is that higher ed, in general, will continue to place a high value on access. The runaway freight train that was 2020 has rolled through, leaving in its path a resounding cry for equal access and less dependency on the traditional mechanisms of higher education.

Our world needs us to NOT FORGET what we have seen, what we have heard, and what the true value of access to education can give to those who seek it.  We owe it to our children to continue to make significant moves in improving this through technology, personal and policy change and more.

The year 2020 will go down in the history books as a low point for many — filled with fear, change, death and uncertainty. But the resilience of humankind and higher ed has always been demonstrated in the next chapter. Let’s keep hope alive in 2021 and continue to pivot as we work to solve this equation we call higher education.

By Jamie Gleason, Director of Undergraduate Initiatives, Capture