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Higher Education Brand in Jeopardy, According to Inside Higher Ed Founder

Colleges and universities may be "foolish" to focus on their own brand and not on the brand of higher education in today's environment, according to one leading higher education journalist.

At a recent CASE conference, Inside Higher Ed Editor and Founder Scott Jaschik said higher education is "being threatened more now than it has been for a long time." He said institutions need to think more broadly about higher education's brand and reputation and less about their individual branding in the marketplace.

During his remarks, Jaschik identified 20 issues facing higher education: 10 that are relatively new and 10 that existed before the administration change in the United States. Below are a few that Jaschik shared during a joint session for attendees of the Institute for Senior Communications and Marketing Professionals and the Institute for Senior Alumni Relations Professionals:

President Trumps proposed budget — Jaschik said the budget, if passed as proposed, would be "disastrous" for some U.S. institutions as it includes eliminating the supplemental educational opportunity grant and AmeriCorps while proposing a 20 percent cut to the National Institutes of Health.

Shift in economic message — When discussing how to improve the economy, the administration talks more about bringing back factory jobs than the importance of getting a college degree which differs from the previous administration, Jaschik says.

Decrease in international applications — Jaschik says nearly 40 percent of American colleges are reporting a decline in applications from international students due to reports about the travel ban and climate in the U.S.

Perception of intolerance — Higher education is seen by many as "intolerant" instead of promoting the exchange of ideas following recent incidents on campuses involving free speech.

Debt-free college — Jaschik said many thought this issue was gone but noted moves by New York and other states to implement free tuition for some students.

Shift away from degrees — Jaschik noted a growing movement toward acquiring certificates and badges-"everything besides degrees."

Jaschik closed the session by noting that although he believes institutions face serious challenges, he also believes that the work being done by colleges and universities "do change lives and the world for the better." He added that for the sake of the world, he wants institutions to "get it all right" even if it means he will have less to write about in Inside Higher Ed.

This article is from the April 2017 BriefCASE issue of BriefCASE.