Higher Ed Leaders Talk Costs, Benefits
Three higher education leaders discussed the costs and benefits of providing a quality education Oct. 25 during the third President’s Forum presented by Guilford’s Board of Visitors.
Presidents Kent Chabotar of Guilford and Leo Lambert of Elon University and Chancellor Linda Brady of UNCG responded to questions from moderator Justin Catanoso and an audience of 120 business leaders, college administrators and students at the O. Henry Hotel.
The panelists addressed ways in which their institutions are preparing students for career success in the 21st century as well as institutional responses to rising college costs.
“Students today will have 14 to 18 jobs before they retire,” said Linda, who has led UNCG since 2008. “They must have lifelong-learning skills to enable them to adapt over time.”
As a member of a strategic planning group for the UNC system, she met Oct. 24 with business leaders who want college administrators to know the importance of educating students to be equipped to “get something done” regardless of their academic track.
Leo, who has been Elon’s president since 1999, said, “We have to provide students a pathway to meaningful employment and graduate school. The key word is ‘internships.’”
He said students need to be in the career services office on their campus by the time they are sophomores. “No longer can a student show up there as a senior to brush up their resume.”
“The most popular person at our admission events, certainly for parents, is not the president or the academic dean. It’s the representative from career services,” said Kent, who has been Guilford’s president since 2002 and has hosted the President’s Forum for three years.
Kent talked about the “Guilford Connects” program, established in the first of the College’s two five-year strategic plans in the past decade. The program includes digital portfolios students create to track their academic and extracurricular experiences to share with potential employers.
During the first part of the forum the presidents and chancellor addressed the challenges of containing college costs in order to provide access to education.
Leo said the “sticker price” for Elon’s tuition, room and board this year is about $38,000 and has increased less than 4 percent per year in recent years. Kent said Guilford’s costs are $39,000 this year, up only 3 percent from last year, representing the lowest increase in 15 years. Linda said UNCG charges about $17,000 for residential out-of-state students and $10,000 for in-state students.
“The squeeze is really on the middle class,” Leo said. “In some cases those families will not qualify for certain types of aid, including subsidized loans. It’s very challenging for them.”
Kent said Guilford is structuring financial aid packages for the middle class to make it more affordable. Colleges are doing their part in containing costs and providing access to a broad range of students, he said.
“A lot is said about sticker prices but not as much about financial aid,” he said. “On average, college tuition increased 3.9 percent in the past year and financial aid increased over 6 percent.”
Each of the panelists talked about how their institution’s strategic plan drives decision making. “Any college, business, other organization or country, even, must have a vision for 10 years and aim resources at the highest priorities,” Leo said. “Otherwise, there will be problems.”
Kent added, “Within our strategic plan, our prioritization of academic programs and an administrative assessment due for completion in December, there are lots of opportunities to make things easier and lower cost.”