The First 1-Million Student University

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Brandon Busteed, President of University Partners and Global Head of Learn-Work Innovation at Kaplan, joined the podcast to postulate how higher ed gets to its first 1-million student university, and the perceived brand roadblocks in the way.

The elite universities are actually at more risk than anybody thinks. They're at risk, one for ultimately being considered country clubs more than institutions of higher education, and that's because they disproportionally serve students and families from the highest income levels in the United States. They do a very poor job enrolling from the bottom quintile. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud number of the connect e Tou podcast network. I'm Eric Olsen with Helix Education and we're here today with Brandon bustied, president of university partners and Global Head of learned work innovation at Kaplan. Brandon, welcome to the show. Please to be with you. AM looking forward to our conversation. Thank you. Are Looking forward as well talking you today about how higher it gets to its first one million student university. But before we dig in, can you give the listeners a little bit of background on both Kaplan and your rule. They're sure. Most people, of course, know the Kaplan name and many situations that's because they went through some sort of a test prep or industry recognize credential exam prep program that we've done. But we are a global and highly diversified education organization that does substantial work with universities here in the US and around the globe and large employers, and in fact about half of all of our operations are dedicated to supporting university partners that we work with and across as things as diverse as international student recruitment and other revenue and mission driven strategies such as online degree and nondegree programs and various work readiness...

...initiatives that were supporting these universities with as well awesome branded to kick us off, I'm following up on a wonderful editorial you wrote for Forbes recently that I really, really wanted to have you in the show to talk more about maybe start off this conversation with this foundation. Why don't we already have a one million student university in high read yet? Well, I would argue that we're on our way to that, or at least some institutions are, and those with the right ambition and drive and and, you know, kind of goal towards that could get there right. We also know that, although we're not exactly talking about universities, there are examples out there of massively scaled educational entities. Moops are one of those examples. The massive open online courses course era, for example, which is getting ready to go public, has announced they have some seventy six million learners registered on their platform. So I understand. Course, their is not a university, but there's, you know, an entity that's gotten the scale of some seventy six million learners. We've had to universities that have gotten, you know, substantially towards this kind of size. At its peak in two thousand and ten, University of Phoenix, for example, boasted about four hundred and Sixtyzero students. And then, of course there's the public colleges and university systems that are out there, some of which have well over a million students if you aggregate that across the system. So there's certainly example that are, you know, barking up the tree of a quote Unquote University of a million students. But in the context of the article I wrote about, if you take one of our elite brand institutions, which are some of the most recognized and valuable brands in the world, even more valuable than brands like coca cola or Google, they are institutions that have an opportunity to enroll in various forms, a million students, for sure. Yeah, so you help paint a picture for us of what this looks like. Brandon...

...is someone who got their undergrad degree and Grad degree from different subtenzerou student institutions. What does a one million student university look like? I mean, how big of a campus are we talking about here, Brandon? Yeah, so one of the obvious points. We're not we're not talking about just a physical go campus. So take my Alma Modern Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. There's about six thousand undergraduate students who actually live in Durham. Now I'm not talking about a Duke University of a million students where all million of them are living in some physical capacity and Durham. Some percentage may continue too, obviously, and it might be a small number like the six thousand that are there now. But, as you know, a university of a million students in the future, especially coming out of covid in this pandemic disruption, is going to be a virtual university. So there may certainly be satellite and ground facilities and different locations either in the country or around the world, but primarily a million student university is going to look like one that has a substantial virtual campus, meaning fully online programs, asynchronous, synchronous, hybrid options. So it'll be substantially filled out by students who are either entirely online learners or hybrid online learners in some form. That's that's how we get to a university of a million students in this day and age. Yeah, let's talk beyond modality. So with non traditional students in particular, wishing this growing, growing trend for, you know, not degree centric programs in this one million student directically university. How many of these students do you believe would be earning traditional degrees at this university versus other kinds of credentials? Yeah, if we take a step back and look at the trends the last ten con session gutive years, degree seeking enrollment in US colleges and universities has been on the decline. We've now lost more than two point five million students enrolled in degree seeking program since its peaks. That's the that's the raw number, right, but it's ten...

...consecutive years of decline and there are forecasts, because of population, age demographics and other factors, that suggest it could be another ten years of decline. So, from a degree seeking perspective, US higher education is in decline and could be in decline for another decade. What is growing in US higher education are enrollments in nondegree shorter term educational opportunities, many of which are aligned to reskilling and upskilling initiatives for people who want to improve their economic outcomes of life get a better job. Right. So, certainly, as we think about a university of a million students, there are a lot of ways to break that down. Sure, a certain percentage of that million, let's just make it up, a third might be degree seeking students that either an associate, bachelor, master's level or even more. And and certainly there's going to be a substantial percentage who are coming in and out of shorter form educational opportunities, some of which could be for just the general purpose of lifelong learning. They just want the intellectual fulfillment and stimulation, but most of them are going to be about real accountability outcomes. Are Looking for. I want to make more money, I want to give this promotion, I want to change careers, right. So those are all things that could come in many different forms. Certificate program sure, industry recognize credentials. Definitely what I call new collar apprenticeship type programs where universities can play a significant role there. So there's a lot of different ways to kind of pieces together and include some of the other trends that we're seeing right now, large growth in boot camp type offering. So all of that right still qualifies in my book as a student. Now some are degree seeking, some are, you know, students that you would qualify in different ways, but the fundamental point here is how many learners are we serving right through our brand and and what is the value of that learning that we're providing? We could easily see institutions get to a million student enrollments if...

...you take that broad view of it. For sure, let's talk about the brand fear of going open access enough to be able to get to a million students. Let's take your Alma Mater, for example, Brandon so would your degree from Duke mean the same thing if some of Duke's students are getting their degree or other credential online through the Corsera platform for five thousand dollars? Well, so let's take a couple examples and I'll I'll answer your question about you know, my view of a Duke ors you know my own view of the value of my degree. Start with an Arizona State University. Right, Arizona State University has become, I would argue, one of the elite institutions of higher education, not because of their selectivity, but many people have heard President Michael Crowadays who talk about this, that they define themselves not by how many students they turn away but by how many students they serve, and that strategy, along with all of the various ways that they've driven innovation within the assue system, has made them an elite university. Elite by way of how recognize their brand, or is you know, they've been named the most innovative university in the country for I don't know how many years running. So that strategy of growing the institution has made it a more prominent institution. There's no doubt in my mind that it's also made the degree of somebody who holds an Arizona State University degree more valuable, not just the ones who are getting them now but those who got it thirty years ago before a issue became such a prominent brand, not just in the national landscape but internationally as well. You look at institutions like Western governors and southern New Hampshire University. These are institutions that either didn't exist or were unheard of twenty years ago and now they're among the most prominently known institutions in the country. Again, they're not thought of as elite from kind of a selectivity perspective, but they are among the most recognized brands and higher it because they have grown, because they have tried to enroll...

...in serve or students and do so in different ways. So let's go back to a Duke University, Right. You know, I've made this distinction that I don't think the duke is ever going to become a million students in Durham. Right. There is still going to be a Duke University of a residential experience for traditionally aged eighteen to twenty two year olds to value deeply beyond campus residential experience and all the things that come with it. Right. But you think about it, already there's Duke courses on Corsara, just like there are Harvard courses and mit courses on both the Corsara and ed x platforms, and some of those courses have been taken by tens of thousands and in some cases even millions of students. So we're already at a place where, at least at a course level, there are millions of students taking courses from these elite institutions. I'll ask a simple question. Does anybody think that the brand of a duke or a Harvard has been hurt because they put some of their courses on an edex or a corse? Are Definitely not. If anything, it's improved and grown the brand visibility. Then, when it comes to getting a degree, think about it in a simple way. There's two ways I could get a bachelor's degree from Duke University. One is the traditional way that exists now on campus, and there's only six thousand seats for those students. Okay, that's very selective, it's very elite, but I could also choose because of various reasons, I don't want to leave my country travel to go abroad to study. I don't have the money to live physically on campus and Duke University. But if I could do a bachelor's degree in certain programs from Duke coniversity entirely online, if two were to make those degrees much more affordable in terms of the price points, now you've got just an entirely different market of students. Right. These are not going to be the same students that overlap with the ones who desperately want the on campus residential experience. Oh but, by the way, you could still have the same exact criteria for admissions.

You know, people think, oh Geez, you know, you know, how could you serve a million students? The only way you do that is by lowering the academic standards of these institutions. Let me take a step back and just give everybody the global number here. There's about seven billion people on the planet, give or take, and I looked this up. The average IQ of a Harvard student, for example, people have actually done studies on that, is about one hundred and forty five. Right, one hundred and forty five about the average IQ of a Harvard stude, which is considered genius level. Right in these ratings. Now there's only about one out of seven hundred and fifty people who have an Iq of one hundred forty five. But if you multiply that across the seven billion global planet population, it means that about ten million people have an Iq to qualify at a Harvard level. IQ Ten million and people around the globe. That is a huge number, right. So. So do I think we'd actually have to lower academic standards to reach a Harvard or Duke of a million? I do not. Beautiful Defense, friend, and I really, really like it, but because of this brand fear that you can so beautifully rebell against and other reasons, do you think this is why, or we're one of the reasons why Google, Amazon may likely be quicker to get to a million students, faster than Harvard does, faster than Duke or others to? Yeah, no, there's a real potential that you're starting to see it already. You know the Google certific text certificates that are being offered, and it's interesting. One of the other articles I wrote on forbs maybe a year and a half ago now, was from some research that I there that was was fascinating and that parents, when asked what they would prefer as a path to a good job for their child, either, you know, a Harvard degree or an internship at Google. The majority would take an internship at Google over the Harvard degree. Now that tells you a couple fascinating things. Google's brand is as strong, or maybe slightly...

...stronger than Harvard, because you ask yourself the question back this up. Why do I want my kid to go to Harvard? Why do I want them to go to an elite University Precedes University? Well, there's a few reasons, but one is to get a job at an elite employer. Right. So I wanted to go to Harvard so that they can get a great job at Google or or we kinsy or whatever, inserve your name of, you know, a top brand employer. So that the fashioning point about that data was that, yes, if Google started to offer internships where parents had to pay to get their kid in internship, I bet it would be an incredible business for Google because there would be a lot of people who would pay for that. So took to your point Google brands and Amazon brands, if they really become a pathway to get people educated or prepared for really well paying jobs, they are going to become the equivalent of prestigious universities. They may circumnavigate the prestidious universities or start to do partnerships with them, and I'm pretty sure, Scott Galloway, that the nyu professor who's very provocative on these points, has talked about this, that you know that you're going to see a Google University and it made partner with Google Harvard or google mit or Google dude. Right, we could see those kinds of things. But to answer your question, I think it's a very good one. You know, the elite universities are actually at more risk than anybody thinks. They're at risk, one for ultimately being considered country clubs more than institutions of higher education, and that's because they disproportionately serve students and families from the highest income levels in the United States. They do a very poor job in rolling from the bottom quintile, for example, which across the Ivy League, only three point eight percent of the students in the entire Ivy League come from the bottom quintile socio economically right. So that's a real challenge. They run the risk of being considered more of a country club than an elite institution of Higher Ed. And then, you...

...know, you have the the idea here that top employer brands right may start to create very effective pathways where, you know, eager beaber students who aren't interested in racking up debt, just want to get into workplace faster, etc. They literally may take a different route than the the traditional college route. So there's some interesting things out there, for sure. Some interesting things out there for sure, and you are one of them, Brandon. Love your thoughts on this. Any final next steps? Advice for institutions who are trying to figure out how do I scale? Who Do I partner with? How do I, you know, embrace technologies of scale, but I'm scared about losing my brand. How do I navigate that next step? Well, there's a couple things. Obviously, brand matters and you want to protect a brand, you want to defend a brand. I mean those things I appreciate very much, but I think there's a big difference between thinking about, okay, is our brand simply about selectivity? And if it's selectivity, why can't we scale? What that selectivity? Go to my global data right there's ten million people who have an it to get into a Harvard right now. They might not all be academically prepared, but so why should that be an issue? Why wouldn't even elite institutions start to offer preparatory programs for those people who have the intellectual capability and horsepower to do it? That's not a down brand move. That is a mission expansion opportunity that the world would be thrill to see. Right. So I think it's more about thinking about mission impact and worrying about brand erosion. And I'll go back to an interesting personal story. You know, we used to live in the Boston area and we had a no pair one year who was from Ukraine. We lived in Sherban Massachusetts, which was quite a whole from Cambridge right he had to take a couple different you know, a train to the metro, switch Metros, etc. The tea is what it's called of Boston. But anyway, she instead of going to Framingham State, which had English language courses right down the street from us,...

...she chose to go to Harvard Extension School to take English language courses and she literally took an hour and twenty minutes to get to Harvard to do this. And Harvard Extension School. That's been around for ages, but like that's an example. Harvard Extension School hasn't denigrated to Harvard brand in any way, but this, you know, this young person from Ukraine would take an hour and fifteen minutes to get to in another hour fifteen minutes to get back just to take English language courses at a plate called Harvard right even though she could have done it right down the street at Framingham State. That's ultimately what we're talking about here. Brandon. Thanks so much your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? Yeah, I mean happy to, you know, connect with folks. Spend a lot of time, you know, having dialog live, dialog on Linkedin, so certainly, you know, connect with me on Linkedin and those who want to reach me directly, it's Brandon Dot busteed busteed at Kaplancom and I'm happy to have folks reach out to me directly. Awesome. Thanks so much for joining us today, Brandon. Thanks are good plays to talk with the great questions. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies, helix educations, data driven enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Slash playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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