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AEIRS Board busy at the Midyear meeting

Embracing Change

“The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most of us have been, into every corner of our minds" – John Maynard Keynese

The landscape of higher education, our profession, and the student body has changed significantly in the last decade, let alone the last five years. Educators today must evolve to meet the new standards for our students to succeed.

Higher education has grown more valuable economically as the earning power of a high school degree has rapidly declined, however the cost of a college degree has also risen sharply. Undergraduate tuition and fees have increased an average of 2.5 to 3.5 percent above the inflation rate forcing many students to work to afford tuition, thus increasing time to completion. Additionally, financial aid has failed to keep in line with rising costs resulting in additional loans. This has put a large burden on lower income families that cannot afford large loan burdens to finance their education. This, in turn, leads to an increased reliance on public education and community colleges. Community colleges now educate more than half the nation’s undergraduates. Four out of ten community college students will then transfer to another institution, half of them to a four-year institution. The rise in cost forces many to find work while attaining their degree, take longer to complete their degree to finance the cost.

The student body has also significantly changed. Only 16 percent of the student population can be described as the traditional college student that entered immediately after completion of high school, attend college full-time, and live on campus. There is a glaring disparity in college attendance among higher and lower income students, and a deepening divide in college attendance among female and male students. Currently, women comprise 57 percent of college students. A third of students are of color and a fifth are immigrants or children of immigrants where English is not their primary language. Remediation has also become more common as 28% of entering freshmen are enrolled in one or more developmental courses in postsecondary institutions while 40% at community colleges.

In addition to the shifting demographics, there has been a shift in outlook. Many students are seeking a degree as an occupational credential in a profession. These students come from a technology-rich environment which has shaped their educational expectations. Students are natural multitaskers, who grew up completing homework while watching television, listening to music while text messaging and require constant stimulation. As a result they tend to scan large quantities of text, prefer visual modes of communication over speech or text alone. These students are used to instant gratification and expect to quickly find answers to any question; typically using an online search engine, often without evaluating the credibility or accuracy of the source. Students now place a high value on interactivity and active learning. Successful teaching methods used 10 years ago no longer meet the needs of the current students.

Educators that evolve and those who meet these needs will mold and graduate successful students. Educators have become more than the sage on stage in classrooms and lecture halls. Often times the instructor serves multiple roles through interactions with students that include teacher, mentor, and advisor. Changing student demographics and outlook put a greater need on engagement, building of efficacy, and co-curricular activities in addition to evolving teaching methods.

The upcoming 50th anniversary marks a good time to embrace change. AEIRS is vested in assisting all educators in developing their teaching, research, and service skills to be effective leaders and educators. Start by submitting an application for poster presentation, apply to present at the 2018 annual meeting, or submit a column or manuscript for publication. We are working on providing additional resources for both novice and seasoned educators to network, share ideas and grow, as well as to assist educators in enhancing their teaching, research and service. If you have suggestions or ideas on how we can help, please let us know by emailing me at jchiu@aeirs.org

Jennifer G. Chiu, EdD, MBA, RT(R)
AEIRS President