Writer: Joshua Andino
2 min read March 2022— Affordability, balancing online and in-person learning and supporting underserved communities are just a few of the daunting challenges being juggled by the higher education sector today. However, these challenges have also created opportunities for institutions to rethink their strategies. Invest: spoke to leading higher education leaders across New Jersey to ask their thoughts on what the future holds in this fluid landscape for their institutions and the sector overall.
Jonathan Koppell, President, Montclair State University
Our overall trajectory is very positive. There is pent-up demand for education. People have been nervous and that has impacted enrollment numbers, but the return on investment with education is extremely high. Education remains one of the best investments people can make but it is incumbent on Montclair State University to make sure what we offer has value. That is our moral obligation.
We are ready to take off. Some stability in the operating environment will create the context for that. Students have a lot of optimism and self-confidence and that helps us stay focused on the core objective of meeting their needs.
Lamont Repollet, President, Kean University
The pandemic has forced houses of academia to become flexible, humanistic and a better partner to the community they serve. There will be a transformation that focuses on adult learners, creative thinking and research that examines how to create sustainable and efficient environments. The community and quality of life they experience is key, providing the necessary sources for underserved communities. The paradigm of higher education shifts as the surrounding environment changes, such as the social, emotional, political and economic issues that impact students stepping onto their campus.
With Kean University, we have to bridge the gap and create partnerships to better serve our students and community. We’re establishing several partnerships that resulted from the EDA grant we received, including the New Jersey Manufacturing Exchange Program, the African American and Hispanic chambers of commerce, the Institute for Life Sciences and Entrepreneurship, and a few others. We’ll be able to collaborate, to take steps toward an action plan that serves the regional economies of the state – South Jersey, Central Jersey and North Jersey. We’re looking to clearly define who we are as an institution, especially as a research institution.
Richard Helldobler, President, William Paterson University
The kinds of lasting impact that the pandemic is having on everything from office work to retail sales will be seen at colleges and universities, too, though expressed in a way unique to teaching and learning. Our ability to keep delivering on our mission throughout the pandemic is due in large part to the dedication and innovation of our faculty, and we’ll continue to see the evolution of faculty who are equally adept at teaching in the classroom and online—both bricks and clicks. Behind that frontline transformation will be the growth of purely online offerings, like our WP Online, as well as the IT and other systems that we’ll need to expand use of such as mobile apps and other cloud-based services. Overall, to succeed in the future, colleges and universities will need to provide students with the kinds of flexible, on-demand, 24/7 options that they’ve come to expect elsewhere in their lives.
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