Earlier this year, Inside Higher Ed hosted a webinar on lifelong learning. They opened with a topic that has become more relevant to institutions in NYS since this then. In higher education, the projected growth is much greater for Master’s degrees than for Bachelor’s or Doctorate’s (graph below).

Some of this growth is occurring in large institutions that have many Master’s degrees and professional program offerings. But, this growth is also occurring in institutions that are primarily undergraduate institutions and that are just starting to enter the Master’s degree space. This information is now even more relevant to small, private institutions in NY, such as the one I work for. The NYS Excelsior Scholarship (announced in Spring 2017) will cover Associates and Bachelor’s degrees for eligible students, but it will not cover Master’s degrees. It is possible that the NYS rhetoric about a college degree being the new HS diploma will only push more students to Master’s degrees in order to set themselves apart. Many small, private institutions focus heavily on their undergraduate programs. Should these colleges have a more serious conversation about focusing some talent on their graduate and professional programs?

I’ve been thinking more about what it would take for these colleges to shift focus to their graduate programs. Existing and traditional recruitment, enrollment, and student support methods are heavily undergraduate-focused. Rethinking this approach will not come without crippling resistance. Perhaps these colleges should consider a School of Graduate and Professional Studies that would be all-encompassing, covering the full net of graduate services- dedicated marketing personnel, dedicated admissions personnel, coordinated and consistent enrollment workflows, dedicated student and tech support, dedicated career services, dedicated librarian, a more celebratory graduation, and dedicated alumni personnel. The talent needed to make this work may already be on campuses. It is away around the kind of resistance that stands in the way of saving an institution from its doom.

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