Addressing college affordability is increasingly an imperative among higher education institutions, particularly with economists raising concerns that $1.5 trillion in student loan debt pile could have economic impacts. At the same time, more employers are putting a premium on advanced degrees and lifelong learning through workforce development.
Two panels at the ASU GSV conference, featuring experts from the private, nonprofit National University System – which is based in San Diego, and is comprised of a national network of universities and pre-college programs - addressed these dual, yet related issues. Solutions discussed included personalized technological platforms and closer integration between higher education and workforce development.
Radical Affordability: Strategies and Considerations for Delivering Low Cost Degrees
Bringing down the cost of a degree - while maintaining quality – means radically rethinking how education is being offered, according to panelists speaking on Radical Affordability: Strategies and Considerations for Delivering Low Cost Degrees. The panelists included Andrew Shean, Chief Academic Officer of National Education Partners; Jay Goin, President of National Education Partners; Susan Morrow, Vice Chancellor of Innovation, National University System; and Thomas Stewart, President of JFKU Online (JFKU refers to John F. Kennedy University).
Over the past few years, the National University System has been investing in technological platforms and infrastructure supported by scalable research-based approaches designed to offer a truly personalized learning environment. Panelists spoke about moving toward offerings that include variable pace, integrated learning materials, and transparent and flexible pricing.
The National University System, for example, is developing a variety of initiatives aimed at bringing down the cost of a degree, including through FlexCourse?, a teaching and learning platform that offers faculty-supported, variably-paced online degree programs at an affordable price point of $8,500 annual tuition. The platform is initially being offered in conjunction with John F. Kennedy University, through JFKU Online -- both part of the National University System.
Credentialing Workforce Training Programs
A second panel at ASU GSV focused on how college affordability can extend throughout the education cycle, with an emphasis on workforce development.
With more employers expecting ongoing training, an estimated $22 billion dollars is spent annually by US employers for tuition reimbursement. However, not all higher education institutions have a deep understanding of the of the needs of working adults and employers.
The private, nonprofit National University System was created with the working adult - and learners of diverse backgrounds - at the center of the student experience. Education experts participating in the panel titled Credentialing Workforce Training Programs – Degrees for as Low as $5,000 a Year included Andrew Shean, Chief Academic Officer, National Education Partners; Chris Graham, President, Workforce Education Solutions; and Susan Morrow, Vice Chancellor of Innovation, National University System.
Panelists spoke about a current effort to pilot one such initiative aimed at bringing the price point down for a degree to as low as about $5,000 a year through workforce-industry collaborations. These workforce-focused efforts are being led by Workforce Education Solutions (WES), an initiative of the National University System.
WES is radically scaling efforts already underway – and identifying new areas of focus - in partnership with NUS universities and corporate partners to create customized, high-value, online programs specific to industry requirements that easily stack into degrees, offering variable pace, and industry-aligned learning outcomes to achieve employment readiness while maintaining quality and cost.
“Workforce Education Solutions is addressing a critical need in addressing the nationwide need for highly-skilled workers through collaborations with organizations, companies and the public sector to develop educational and market-driven opportunities for our students,” said Chris Graham, President of Workforce Education Solutions at the National University System
Other recent examples of workforce-focused efforts, shared by the panelists, that are being designed to radically reduce degree costs, included partnerships with public safety/law enforcement groups, being advanced through National University, and others with the banking industry, being advanced through City University of Seattle.
About the National University System
Established in 2001 to meet the demands of education in the 21st century, the National University System is a progressive model in higher education – a network of four accredited nonprofit universities dedicated to offering innovative and relevant educational programs to a diverse population of students. The System also includes Workforce Education Solutions, which is advancing partnerships between the universities and industry groups to align degree programs with employer-defined professional competencies, offering students more affordable degree pathways to advance their careers. The System also administers the nationwide expansion of the three Sanford Programs, inspired by philanthropist T. Denny Sanford: Sanford Harmony, Sanford Inspire and Sanford Institute of Philanthropy. To learn more at National University System.