[Video] The Future of Higher Education Credentials


By: Christopher Tashjian Feb 02, 2017

Scott Jeffe: Hello, my name is Scott Jeffe, and I’m senior director of Aslanian Market Research here at EducationDynamics. I’d like to thank you for joining me for another Spotlight Session, where I introduce you to speakers from our Conference on Adult Learner Enrollment Management. Joining me today from Boston, Massachusetts, I have Sean Gallagher, who is executive director for the Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy and executive professor of educational policy at Northeastern University. Sean’s CALEM session is based on his recently published book entitled The Future of University Credentials: New Developments at the Intersection of Higher Education and Hiring. And the session offers an overview of the current world of university degrees and credentials and how institutions can better position themselves for the future of higher education. Thanks so much for taking the time to join me today, Sean.

Sean Gallagher: Hi, Scott. It’s a pleasure to join you. Excited about the event as well.

Scott Jeffe: Very good. We’re looking forward to the session. Let’s jump right in, Sean. So, my first question, the big question: Why did you decide to write the book on this topic?

Sean Gallagher: Yeah, so the book is really about the intersection of higher education and hiring. And, I think for a number of years, given the trends that we’ve had in the higher ed marketplace and just in the economy, this has been the crucial issue, the crucial question, especially since the Great Recession, but even before is, how can higher education be more relevant? How is the world of jobs, what’s changing, what’s demanded of higher ed and how degrees work in the marketplace, and there’s been a lot of skepticism about the role and value of higher education as well, a lot of pronouncements that colleges and universities are going to fail, and into that… I sort of jumped into that, and this is an effort—especially in an evidence-based way—to take a look at how do university credentials, things like degrees and certificates, actually work as job qualifications, and to do it through interviews and looking at hard data, rather than just speculate and come down to one side or the other of the spectrum, where you have a lot of people that embrace the status quo and say, “Higher education is fine, it doesn’t need to change,” and then, over here at the other end, we have folks that think our institutions are just going to vanish, so… A long answer, but basically I wanted to study how does this actually work and what is actually happening, particularly through the perspectives of employers, speaking with hiring managers and seeing how they view college education.

Scott Jeffe: Absolutely. The surveys that Carol and I do, it’s never been more important to have a career focus, and their motivations are more career-driven than ever. My second question: What do you feel are the most pressing issues in higher education today? And I know you’ve mentioned some already, but draw them out a bit.

Sean Gallagher: Yep, well, doing this interview on February 6th, 2017, I guess I would say that policy moves to the forefront. We have a very dynamic situation in Washington, D.C., nationwide, and worldwide. And certainly there’s always policy issues, regulatory architecture when we’re talking about educational institutions and students, but I think in a major way there could be significant changes afoot, and it’s going to be important to monitor and shape how the whole ecosystem and infrastructure from what we do as educational institutions develops. In addition, I call out new business models. There’s been a lot of attention paid to MOOCs and alternative to higher eds like boot camps, and certainly online programs and new startup institutions, so the competitive environment out there where there’s more experimentation compared to ever before, and it will be interesting to see which models actually succeed in enrolling students.

Scott Jeffe: Very much. How do you suggest institutions address the questions being asked about the nexus in quality and cost of higher education?

Sean Gallagher: Yeah, I wish I had a special answer that all institutions could adopt and end up with higher quality at a lower cost. Back to the point I made briefly a moment ago about business models, I think there really is a need for new approaches and studying what approaches are working. It doesn’t appear that we’re going to have a revolution in moderating the cost or escalating the quality of higher ed with the same old, traditional business models that we’ve had, the same roles for faculty and technology, and all those inputs. So, there’s a lot of variables there, but as we sit here today, I think with advancements in learning science and the use of data and what we can capture in online platforms, some of those things can be tools that we can analyze how students are learning, and we could end up with some interesting new models in the future.

Scott Jeffe: Very good. My last question for you: Besides your own session, which topics or sessions are you hoping to see while you’re at the CALEM conference this year?

Sean Gallagher: I’m excited about the presentation of data and original insights. I know there’s a number of sessions on consumer trends, and in particular, the session from Google, given the role of mobile and digital in recruiting. I think it’s Shannon Snow from Google, so I’m really looking forward to that one in particular, because obviously Google plays a major role in mediating how students and professionals find institutions, and it’d be nice to hear what their insights are.

Scott Jeffe: Definitely. And, in fact, just to say something about that session, they’re just in the process right now of—and the data will be ready just before the conference—again, primary market data on mobile in higher education. So she will be presenting some brand new data on mobile learning, so that is excellent. Well, Sean, back to your session though. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions today. I really am looking forward to hearing the whole presentation at CALEM, which for everybody that’s listening out there will be in Denver on April 5th through 7th, and we look forward to seeing people there. For everyone that is watching that would like to see more about our speakers, please visit our website at www.calemconference.org, and see the full list of our 28 speakers and information on all their sessions. Again, Sean, thank you for taking the time to do this, and we’ll see you in Denver.

Sean Gallagher: Thank you. It’s a pleasure. I’ll see you there.

The Conference on Adult Learner Enrollment Management (CALEM 2017)