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Report Advocates 5 Models for the Future of Public Higher Education

A new report from Deloitte Insights and Georgia Tech examines a variety of ways public university systems can become more economically efficient.

Since the high point of the Great Recession in 2008, net tuition revenue per full-time student has increased almost 38 percent. This shift in who pays for college has resulted in an increased need for colleges to show a demonstrated return on investment, according to a report from Deloitte Insights and the Georgia Tech Center for 21st Century Universities.

While two of the biggest "fixes" for higher education have focused on online delivery of learning content and vocational skills training, the report advocates for "futures" or models of higher education that will make colleges and universities more than just places to learn specific skills or a trade.

"A lot of higher education institutions are already following these models already in some form today," said Cole Clark, head of client and community outreach and relationships for Deloitte's Higher Education practice and one of the report's authors. "Our intent here is to push the envelope beyond what we see across these models and impart that they are not mutually exclusive."

The first model is the sharing university, where campuses link student and administrative services to realize efficiencies of scale and capitalize on the expertise of institutions. This model utilizes technology by moving repetitive activities to become automated or outsourced to a single institution. Examples of shared services include career services, international recruitment, academic advising, legal affairs and information security.

The second model is the entrepreneurial university, where state university systems differentiate their offerings at the institution level to align educational investments with student and state economic needs. Individual institutions would specialize in different areas such as undergraduate education, vocational training or research.

The experiential university is the third model, where work experience is deeply integrated into the curriculum. Students would spend long stretches of time in the classroom and the work world related to academic areas of study at separate intervals.

The fourth model is the subscription university, where college becomes a platform for continual learning that provides students with multiple opportunities to develop both soft and critical technical skills at any age. Under this model, students would start taking higher education classes earlier via dual enrollment programs and they would have the ability to take college courses as they see fit through their careers.

The partnership university is the last model, where state legislatures extend the annual budgeting cycle for state university systems across a window of several years. This makes it easier for institutions to plan and make strategic investments.

In order to make these changes happen, the report recommends the following:

  • Effective leadership from state legislators, university system leadership, boards and institutional leaders to drive change;
  • A new focus for the university system office, moving from reporting and compliance to helping to define and measure success by establishing common data structures across the system;
  • An institutional culture that puts the needs of students at the center;
  • New financial models and incentives with analysis needed to rethink how to allocate revenues and costs across the system; and
  • Clear and frequent communication with stakeholders and leadership.

"Adopting elements of one or more of these models would require input and collaboration across a diverse set of stakeholders as well as strong leadership," said Jeffrey Selingo, a visiting scholar at Georgia Tech's Center for 21st Century Universities and one of the authors of the report. "Developing a master plan that is forward-looking and self-aware of a system's challenges is a big lift, but can be done — and is needed to position our public higher education institutions for the future.

The full report can be found here.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe covering education policy and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

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