Lubbers: Schools Must Adapt to Changing Needs
Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers says the state is working with Harrison College to the extent it can to "smooth the transition" for students displaced by the more than century-old for-profit school's closing late last week. Currently, Lubbers says fewer than 30 for-profit institutions operate in the state and she says it's important to keep tabs on their enrollment and financial figures to make sure they're staying viable. "Some of those schools have seen enrollment declines, but that's not true across the board," she added.
Lubbers tells Inside INdiana Business it's up to schools to adapt to the needs of students. "We're still going to have an increasing number of people -- we're at about 65 percent of students -- who leave high school, who go to some sort of college or have online (learning)," Lubbers said. "I think it's really about the right fit at a particular time at an individual's life." One adjustment on the horizon, she anticipates, is an expected leveling-off or decrease in college enrollment around 2025. Some steps she says institutions can take include:
- being productive and efficient to keep the costs for students stable and minimize debt
- aligning higher education credentials with the ever-changing economic needs
- bringing adults back into education: instead of being "one-and-done," helping adults continue as life-long learners
Lubbers says six institutions of higher learning have so far come forward offering assistance to Harrison College students stuck by the closing: Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, WGU Indiana, Ivy Tech Community College, Indiana Wesleyan University, National American University and International Business College in Fort Wayne. "The message to students at Harrison, while I'm sure this is a discouraging time for them, is that we're going to work with them to make sure there's another good fit for them in higher ed," Lubbers said.
Overall, Lubbers says she is confident higher learning institutions throughout the state will make the necessary adjustments -- including adapting to technology like online learning -- to continue to successfully serve students. "People come to Indiana to go to college. Building on that strong legacy, I think, will be important and adapting to changing needs of students and technologies will be important as well, but I believe higher ed is prepared to do that," she said.