Friday, June 26, 2015

Big decisions ahead for the State System

It’s June. For college students, that means the summer break is half over. For those of us who work in higher education, we are spending these days closing out the fiscal and academic year and preparing for the next. And for the State System’s Board of Governors, that means a very full agenda for its July meeting. Amid all of the important initiatives underway, I want to point out a few that will be key to shaping the future of our System.

For the first time in the State System’s history, all universities have developed multi-year Action Plans that outline their goals and aspirations, strategic priorities, challenges, and opportunities. The plans will be discussed in the coming weeks and will be updated annually to provide our stakeholders with a transparent opportunity to understand the future path of each university.

Obviously, a big part of that effort will be ensuring the proper mix of academic programs. As the Commonwealth’s economy continues to evolve, the State System is changing right along with it. Next month, the Board will consider 16 new academic programs—bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees—that have been designed to meet the needs of the 21st century. In fact, many of the new programs were developed with direct input from business and industry partners; several will be offered online and be available to students virtually anywhere, anytime.

Even during these challenging fiscal times, we must invest in the future. That means not only developing and offering new academic programs that better align with changing times, but also making strategic decisions involving existing programs. (And on the operational side of the house, we must continue to maximize shared services and System collaboration.)

Over the last five years, the universities have introduced more than 60 new degree and certificate programs and minors. During the same time, more than 150 programs that no longer meet student demand or needs of the Commonwealth have been placed into moratorium or discontinued, and more than 60 have been reorganized or reinstated to meet new market demands. It is that kind of flexibility that will foster the long-term viability of all of our universities.

Summer will soon have come and gone, but the important decisions we make in the coming weeks will help our state universities ensure they are ready and able to serve the students of the Commonwealth for years to come.