Top Issues Facing Higher Education in 2014

Dear Colleagues,

Since we are still in the first month of the New Year, I trust you will agree with me that sharing predictions for higher education in 2014 is still acceptable. I want to share with you an excellent article written by John Ebersole for Forbes. On January 13th, Mr. Ebersole wrote the following:


The author attributes the increase in public institutions’ tuition and fees over the past five years to decreased tax support. It is important to note that 75% of all students in the United States study in public colleges and universities. Cost continues to top the list of concerns for President Obama, Congress and the public.


The author believes that accreditation reform will pick up steam in 2014. Both political and policy communities believe that the current system of accreditation is one of the biggest problems facing higher education in the United States today.

Competency-Based Education

After all the hype dies down about MOOCs, the big elephant in the room will be competency-based education. (I agree with the author that MOOCs are yesterday’s news.)

CBE assesses a student’s ability to apply learning already acquired rather than the attainment of new learning. Some schools in the U.S. have already initiated CBE, like Southern New Hampshire University. The Department of Education is supportive of CBD as is President Obama. Stay tuned. This could be the real game changer for higher education this year.


Both regulators and accreditors are moving away from input statistics and focusing on outcomes. Simply put: what did students learn in college and what was the return on the financial investment of federal and state governments? Add to this chorus employers who cannot find an adequate number of college graduates to fill employment vacancies.

Leadership Crisis

According to an American Council on Education report two decades ago the average age of college and university presidents was 52. Today it is 61. The need to prepare new leaders in higher education clearly has arrived.

Certainly there are many other issues facing higher education today both in the United States and around the world. Many schools in the United States continue to face enrollment declines and are either unable or unwilling to pivot to new administrative structures that could help to reverse the decline. The traditional higher education silos are alive and well but this may be the year to put rigid systems to rest. One example: enrollment managers and career counselors writing strategic recruitment plans together. The time has come to anticipate new enrollment patterns and study the trends that will determine the schools that will thrive in the future and those that will not.


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About Marguerite Dennis

Marguerite Dennis has been recruiting internationally for over 25 years, first at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and then at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. During that time she was responsible for establishing a branch campus for Suffolk University in Dakar, Senegal and Madrid, Spain. Marguerite increased the international student population at Suffolk University by 193% from 1993 to 2011 and increased the number of study abroad programs by 135%, from 20 to 47. She monitored the recruitment programs for Suffolk University in 20 countries and hired a network of 10 international educational consultants. She signed agreements in Viet Nam, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Germany, Mexico, France and Argentina.

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