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Building a Playbook for Next Generation Philanthropy in Higher Education

At a time when we are all navigating uncertainty during the pandemic, generosity lifts our hearts.

Disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the recent wildfires in the Western U.S. are what brings people of all races, faiths, and diverse opinions together across the globe. When challenges create such unity, the power to effect change is also created. Generosity gives everyone the power to make a positive change in the lives of others and is a fundamental value anyone can act on. 

GivingTuesday, December 1st, 2020 is a recognized global day to give back and impact your communities. This year, WebStudy Foundation’s GivingTuesday campaign –  #GivingTuesday4CollegeReform – is a call to action for parents, grandparents, and everyone who is concerned about the value of educational choices after high school.

Today we’re discussing alternative ways of funding organizational change in higher education, how to help the organizations most in need of this funding to access it, and the role we all play in supporting initiatives like equity and inclusion for all learners.

Overnight Mandate or Years-Long Experiment?

In March 2020, 1.5M university and college instructors proved their resiliency, along with instructional design staff to retool classroom course experiences to deliver coursework remotely for approximately 26M adult learners. The shift toward quality online course delivery has been a work in progress for two decades.  This is not a small undertaking.  

Prior to March 2020, faculty, instructional designers and distance learning directors collaborated in this evolutionary process over many, many years. 

A percentage of the higher education workforce has been reticent to engage in online course delivery.  Each institution is unique.  Even the best leaders in the industry struggled to meet the mandate to reach all quarantined learners in all courses in two weeks time. In this global pandemic educators are the forgotten front-line workers.

In a 2014 report, “Untapped Leaders: Faculty and the Challenge of Student Completion,” the League for Innovation reported: 

Faculty find it challenging to manage student completion initiatives within the constraints of current college budgets and staffing models. The feedback from faculty indicates that they think it is time for college leaders and policymakers to revise their approach from primarily focusing on budget management to reinventing the organizational culture.

Stated simply, they wanted more resources allocated toward organizational collaboration and communication so they could partner with administration in re-inventing the future. What may be surprising to some is that the need for organizational restructuring has been identified PRIOR to the pandemic. 

Now, higher education is under the microscope to re-invent the future, faster.

Similar to the transformation of the music industry, the internet/technology has caused a shift in music delivery from vinyls, tapes and cds to streaming services.  The internet is having the same disruptive impact on the delivery of education.  Approximately 6000 institutions need to accomplish retooling curriculum planning with 1.5M instructors before effective hybrid and online digital delivery can scale across the campus. Faculty demonstrated their creativity and commitment under pressure during the pandemic.  Now, new collaborative processes are needed to improve organizational efficiency by closing the communication gap between front line workers (faculty) and leadership (administration and funding sources).

Looking Beyond the Obvious to Take on Resource Shortages

Learners cannot wait for the typical committee-meeting process to unfold over months and months to restructure the future. Action is needed now. Inside Higher Education reported funds were successfully raised this summer to help students facing emergency situations. In addition to students, campuses now need financial support. Financial backing is needed for institutional reform.  Many colleges are poised for faculty, staff and administration to collaborate on how to adapt to meet local and regional learner’s needs.

As we approach GivingTuesday, December 1st, 2020, the WebStudy Foundation is poised to bring to bear a proven method to facilitate collaboration so faculty and administration can adapt to BIG change expeditiously. Colleges are bound by time and tradition when it comes to navigating change.  As the industry enters its third decade of adapting to the internet of things (ioT), additional challenges now include:

  • The need to reskill adult learners 
  • Reaching disenfranchised learners 

Investing in an Educated Workforce

“Experts predict that by 2030, 825 million children will reach adulthood without secondary-level skills” says Rebecca Winthrop in Leapfrogging Inequality: Remaking Education to Help Young People Thrive. “It may take a century for the most marginalized youth to achieve the educational levels that the wealthiest enjoy today.”   

While previous generations were told that going to college implied that they would be successful in life, many students have discovered that career and technical education (CTE) offers an affordable, hands-on alternative that’s grounded in skills, as opposed to theory.   For example, repairing transmissions and installing drywall is skill-focused and seen in career-oriented education whereas degree-oriented education is focused on a broad range of careers in health care, business or information technology, possibly leaving some students behind.

According to Pew Research Center, poverty rates for young people with only a high school diploma are three times higher today than they were in 1979 when baby boomers were young. Median earnings for bachelor’s degree holders is 65% greater than for those with just a high school degree, over a 40 year working career. Those with associate’s degrees, typically earned at community and technical colleges, make 27% more. (College Board)  

Employer perceptions of recent college graduates’ workplace skills is not favorable and employers report many graduates are not qualified for positions or lack the ability to communicate, solve complex problems or adapt. (American Public Media Marketplace)

The National Center on Educational Statistics has predicted a 13 percent increase in enrollment of students aged younger than twenty-five years and a rise of 14 percent in the enrollment of students aged twenty-five and older. In the fall of 2020, we saw a big decrease in enrollment due to the pandemic, especially for first year students. By 2021, NCES predicts that students older than twenty-five will compose about 42 percent of the college population. 

The new Perkins V law makes important improvements in the nation’s career and technical education ecosystem requiring stakeholder engagement. The WebStudy Foundation has recruited organizational development experts  from the business sector to apply twenty-five years of facilitation expertise to achieve this much-needed engagement. 

Your Role in the Future of Higher Education

Giving more money to individual institutions may seem oxymoronic to parents, grandparents, business leaders and elected officials.  Yet endowment money and alumni fundraising directed to “specific projects with measurable outcomes” is central to a new playbook for fundraising. 

As a steward of higher education, and as founder of WebStudy Foundation, we contributed our wisdom and commitment to make a difference.   We’ve leveraged our understanding of people and process.  Those closest to the adult learners’ needs – the untapped leaders – faculty, staff and administration (People) have the desire.  We turned to other business sectors and found unbiased facilitation and designed communication methods (Process) that has been effective for twenty-five years in corporate settings.   

We’re engaging a coalition of organizations to proactively create college reform. Our institutions of higher education are not agile enough to navigate the changes required for this demand, alone.  Most institutions are actively engaged in addressing resource shortages using past-based methods of cost-cutting.  To achieve the engagement and alignment needed to bring about the necessary changes, the inter-relationships and communication between people and process needs to occur faster.

To re-imagine a future for our grandchildren and others – where equity and inclusion are the underpinnings to support that future, our society needs both impact investing and small scale donations.  

Impact investing refers to investments “made in funds with a defined intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social impact alongside a financial return.”   Impact investors recognize how vitally important 21st century education is to the future of our economy.  Additionally, we’re mobilizing a grass root fundraising movement that will leverage smaller scale donations to offset the cost of the facilitation and communication methods for those colleges poised to tackle this audacious challenge of the times.  Inside a model of shared accountability, we’ll leverage human performance capacity and ingenuity. 

A New Path Forward

Society can proactively develop efficiencies in improving access and equity, with a ‘change mindset’ shared across multiple stakeholders.  A new path forward is achievable using proven facilitation and innovative communication methods. 

Silos on campuses—created by too many departments, divisions and different roles and opinions — have led to isolation, misunderstandings, misinformation, duplication of effort, and inefficient use of resources. 

Your contributions will serve as windfalls for colleges and institutions who don’t have external facilitation services adequately budgeted. In most cases, those are the institutions who desperately need to create campus alignment to modernize their educational approaches, and to better serve adult learners and disenfranchised populations

Individual gifts come in a variety of sizes. Collectively, these gifts add up to create a significant impact for thoughtful change towards 21st century learning and equity in higher education.   With your generosity and investment, we can make sure that every learner has equal access to the bright future they deserve.   Your contribution ensures that the educational opportunities you enjoyed as students will be available for generations to come.

Gisele Larose

gisele@webstudyfoundation.org

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