The Changing Environment of Higher Education

The Changing Environment of Higher Education

October 2, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


These are highly uncertain times and in some
ways they are volatile. I mean, there are major changes, particularly with regard to
funding at both the state and federal levels. Just last fall for example we witnessed a
lot of angst with regard to federal financial aid policy, the Pell Grants and Parent Plus
loans, for example. That is something that we expect will continue just given the challenges
in crafting a budget in Washington and more and more people demanding resources, both
at the state and federal level. So when I entered this profession, the role of a president
was primarily that of an academic leader. That’s all changed. I mean, at least half
of a president’s time is spent raising funds. So fiscal issues, number one. Two, I think
very few people anticipated the very strong competition that for profits are making right
now with traditional institutions. Two year institutions, both community colleges and
technical schools, are also I think posing challenges that were not anticipated. The
rising cost of tuition, for example, that presidents spend more time out raising money.
There was a time when private institutions were primarily involved in fundraising. That
is no longer the case; it’s not uncommon to find major research universities and multi-billion
dollar budgets. And so that forces even more and more attention on the need to insure that
the day to day operations of the institution are running smoothly. Because why? The president
isn’t there to keep his or her hand on the till. So these are all, I think, new changes
that make it very, very difficult for presidents. I’ve been struck by the fact that at several
major research universities where new presidents have been selected the person chosen in several
instances were former provosts. Fewer and fewer sitting presidents seem to be applying
for presidencies because I think many recognize that there are huge, huge challenges. And
one has to decide whether this is the way one wants to spend his or her life or time
in that job. It’s a different ballgame and a different set of expectations all together.