I have a couple of brothers who are physicians. One is an OBGYN and the other is a plastic surgeon. Neither can do much for me in terms of critical health care 😉 However, their focus on health made me draw some parallels to things going on in higher education.
For example, 50 years ago the primary focus of healthcare was on heart disease and the effects of cholesterol. Don’t eat fatty food and balance your diet with more reliance on carbohydrates! The result was that we replaced heart disease with diabetes as the most rapidly growing health threat in the nation.
The parallel to higher education is that for the past 40 years the focus has been in inclusion and access. The result, according to new WICHE President Joseph Garcia is that, “we were getting a lot more people into college, but we weren’t graduating many more from college.” Now there is an increasing focus on outcomes, but financing models are still rooted in enrollment. According to Garcia, “I think that instead of spending so much time talking to CFOs and donors, presidents and governing boards need to spend more time talking to students.”
Garcia goes on to prescribe greater collaboration with secondary schools to avoid enrolling high school students “with a 3.5 GPA who then test into remedial courses.” He also recommends more focus on career and technical education programs. “We need to get students training in advanced manufacturing and computer programming.” Clearly implying more collaboration with employers!
So to me, the analogy is that the shift in focus from heart disease to diabetes is comparable to the shift from access to outcomes. The lesson, however, is that like humans, schools can’t just focus on one thing, they have to do it all! They must provide access and outcomes if they are to be successful in the future. Just like people must be aware of both heart disease and diabetes! According to my brothers, all it takes is a balanced diet.