Higher education institutions are facing unprecedented challenges. With rising tuition costs, changing educational environments and a rapidly changing professional landscape, it is harder than ever for colleges and universities to keep up with trends and provide a high-quality experience to their students and faculty. As we are now finding out, the institutions that will thrive in the coming years will be the ones that focus on innovation while committing to becoming leaner and flexible in their staffing and technology.
To add pressure to this situation, higher education institutions are all experiencing shared pain points that are hindering their ability to successfully teach students due to budget cuts and dated technology infrastructures that are not capable of meeting modern demands. Ultimately, this sub-par experience has also led to a steady decline in college enrollment rates and, since 2016, more than 60 colleges have been forced to close their doors or merge. Unless educational institutions prepare for and overcome common challenges, this number will only continue to grow.
Common Challenges for Higher Education
Following the spread of COVID-19, many higher education institutions were forced to seek the appropriate technology infrastructure and staffing needed to facilitate effective distance learning. At the same time, these demands are being placed on colleges and universities, other issues are also arising that are impacting the ways students and faculty interact. Some of the common problems that affect higher education on a national scale include:
- Reduced Operating or Staffing Budgets
- Expectations to Deliver High-Level Technologies and Services
- Complications with Remote Staff and Students
- Increased Training Needs and Support Issues
As we have learned throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, online learning will likely be key to the future of higher education and it is more important than ever for institutions to not only improve their technology infrastructures to meet demand but also engage in strategic staffing to fill any gaps that may be present while obtaining instructors that can provide real-world expertise to students. But what steps can universities take now to improve their future outlook?
Strategic Staffing for Higher Education
Aside from technology improvements, one of the most complex challenges that affect higher education both immediately and in the future is strategic staffing that not only obtains high-quality talent but also works to move education forward. However, higher education institutions need to review their current staffing levels to see what gaps exist and eliminate any non-essential functions that could be redesignated. Some of the steps that should be kept in mind throughout the staffing review and expansion process include:
- Re-organization to ensure essential functions are being addressed.
- Identification of duplicate skillsets and reshuffled work to eliminate them.
- Hiring strategic consultants for short-term work to reduce overall staff costs.
- Using student employees to cut costs and fill minor positions.
Investing in the right talent is critical for ensuring that higher education institutions are providing a great service to students while also creating value for the future. Although staffing is only one piece of the overall puzzle, it is a great starting point to determine what investments must be made to prepare for the changing educational landscape. Once strategic staffing has been accounted for, new resources can be diverted to changing technological requirements to create a well-rounded plan that promotes continued growth.