Colleges and Universities Must Revise Traditional Model, Ensure Technological Resources, Focus on Partnerships

Dr. Isaac Brundage

The continuing economic, social and mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are only now starting to be fully understood, but the impacts on public colleges and universities are still quite unknown. Yet, these institutions play a critical role in recovery from this global crisis.

Leaders in higher education have been forced to examine decades or even century-old ways of doing business, and the spotlight on these practices and approaches has bared the rigidity of many public colleges and universities. As the COVID-19 virus spread began to increase at the end of March 2020 and governors around the nation began to implement the shuttering of businesses and schools, higher education found itself underdeveloped and unprepared for a virtual world.

To shore up enrollment and ease the transition, universities attempted to offset the effects of restricted travel, closed offices and unpredictable health orders by going back to basics and working the phones as one of the few viable strategies left to recruit, advise and otherwise engage students.

Despite these efforts, enrollment in public colleges and universities around the nation declined by 4%, and New Mexico was hit particularly hard with a decline in headcount of 9.5%. Across the board, this decline has been attributed to the pandemic’s varied effects, again underscoring the need for higher education to be more agile in how we respond and adapt to the environment.

The fundamental question colleges and universities must address revolve around defining what post-pandemic education and training will look like. Traditional institutions that are slow to change may be forced to face the grim reality of not just declining enrollment, but that of the loss of faculty and the inability to keep their door open. Institutions must be willing to think big and let loose of traditional business models — from the way we admit new students to the modes of delivery for both degree-seeking students and those in training programs.

Investing in on-campus technology infrastructure will be critical to ensuring students and instructors have the ability to communicate and deliver information using online tools, however, for states like New Mexic

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