The Competitive Environment
A number of trends at other institutions with which BGSU competes for students and other resources may affect the University’s future. These competitors include traditional four-year residential universities as well as community colleges, proprietary institutions, virtual universities, and corporate education and training initiatives.
As institutions in some regions, including the Midwest, compete for market share of students among a stable or declining pool, institutionally-funded financial aid has increased considerably in the last few years as a recruitment tool. Another trend related to pricing and reported on in the May 20, 2005 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education is that institutions are beginning to adopt tuition certainty plans where entering students are apprised of tuition increases that are already set several years in advance. Another approach involves offering scholarships to students (who meet certain criteria) so that their fees effectively do not increase after their first year. Providing scholarships to enable low income students to attend without needing to repay any loans is also becoming an increasingly popular strategy. Miami University announced its Miami Access Initiative in August 2006, wherein students with family incomes of less than $35,000 will receive a financial aid package that will cover all fees.
The February 13, 1998 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education notes that many residential universities are investing millions of dollars in improvements to keep students in campus housing. They are adding more personal space, privacy, and amenities to meet the competition from off-campus apartments. Increasing numbers of institutions, public as well as private, are beginning to form partnerships with commercial developers in order to meet the need for student housing. Off-campus partners may be more well positioned to provide and maintain amenities such as apartment-style facilities, more privacy, and greater capacity for computer technology, as reported in the November/December 1998 edition of University Business and in the June 11, 1999 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education.
According to the July 2005 edition of Trends in Higher Education published by the Society for College and University Planning, four-year institutions are experiencing increased competition from community colleges, which can offer instruction at substantial lower price, often have smaller classes, may offer classes at more convenient times (including via distance learning), are perceived as more career-oriented, and are viewed by many students and parents as providing similar quality as four-year colleges and universities.
Another trend is seen in the development of the Community College Distance Learning Network, as noted in the July 10, 1998 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education. A group of eight community colleges from across the United States is banding together to have as many as 500 courses and some number of associate degree programs available for Fall 1998. Courses will be delivered by the Internet, video, and a combination of the two. The network will have a World Wide Web page where each college’s listings can be offered. While not part of the initial offerings, the group may have aspirations to move into baccalaureate degree courses.
The October 2005 edition of NACUBO Business Officer reports that for the 8th year in a row, enrollment grew at a higher rate at for-profit institutions that for public or private not-for-profit colleges and universities. Ove the course of the last decade, fall enrollment at for-profit institutions more than doubled while enrollment rose 13% at public and 17% at private not-for-profit colleges and universities. For-profit higher education has been transformed into a multi-billion dollar per year industry, as companies can raise millions from investors to finance ambitious expansions. Owners of these businesses attribute their success to convenient campuses, flexible class times, and reasonable tuition. An article in the January 16, 2004 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education notes that for-profit institutions have been able to expand their curricula in high demand areas such as nursing because they are not burdened with traditional structures and can move with more agility than non-for-profit institutions.
An article in the November 25, 2005 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education notes that as the regulatory environment becomes increasingly favorable for proprietary institutions, their enrollment continues to increase. Several for-profit institutions, such as the University of Phoenix, which have traditionally catered to working adults, have recently expanded their marketing efforts to traditional aged students.
An article in the July 16, 1999 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education highlights the trend of more and more businesses creating in-house forms of higher education or asking for-profit institutions like the University of Phoenix to train their employees because public colleges are too slow to respond to their needs. Business leaders, governors, and state legislators warned higher education representatives at the annual conference of the Education Commission of the States that for-profit institutions are succeeding where traditional universities are failing: creating cutting-edge programs and moving students through in a timely manner. One governor noted that "We have a higher-education culture that says ‘we'll think about it' when asked to change."
A concise description of the emerging roles of for-profit universities, new distance education universities, mega-universities, and corporate universities, and the implications for traditional universities is provided by Thomas Athey in the September/October 1998 issue of On the Horizon.
James Morrison, in the May-June 1996 issue of On the Horizon discusses the implications for higher education of computer software, entertainment, and telecommunications industries joining together to develop and provide educational materials. The indicators of such a possibility include:
- Educational courses and programs are already being produced by corporations.
- Cable and phone companies are consolidating to provide interactive multimedia programming. Some cable companies are experimenting with offering high speed access to the Internet via cable.
- Distance education is becoming accepted practice. There is increasing evidence that much instruction can be provided effectively by interactive instructional software.
- Telecommunications, software, and the Internet eliminate walls and boundaries.
- Investors recognize that the younger generation is quickly adapting to telecommunications.
- An increasing number of students want and need nontraditional, flexible schedules.
- The prices of computers and modems are decreasing.
- A third of Americans have a computer in the home; 40 percent of these computers have modems.
- The use of the Internet is expanding exponentially, and more in the business sector than in the education sector.
James Morrison, in the May-June 1997 issue of On the Horizon, speculates upon the potential breakup of the "certification monopoly" and the "competency guarantee," both of which imply increased competition for traditional institutions such as BGSU:
- The certification monopoly currently enjoyed by accredited educational organizations is at risk because (1) employers in an increasingly competitive global marketplace are concerned about the competency of high school and college graduates applying for employment; (2) employers are publicly expressing doubts about the validity of transcripts in making hiring decisions; and (3) employers are relying more on past employment experience, portfolios, and other means of competency certification and less on diplomas in deciding who to hire.
- A second, and related, signal of change concerns competency. Commercial businesses are beginning to produce educational courses and programs and certifying the competency of graduates of those programs. In some cases, such as the International Community College, these courses and programs of study are produced and distributed in partnership with for-profit businesses and educational organizations.
- In response to the concern about graduates’ competency, public schools in Milwaukee and New York have introduced competency-based testing for high school graduation. Several community colleges have offered employers and graduates no-cost retraining if the graduates do not exhibit the competencies implied by the degree. The Western Governors University assists students to develop programs of study using a variety of educational courses and programs (on-line and traditional), but will not grant a degree until applicants pass a competency-based examination. The newest campus in the California State University system, CSU–Monterey Bay, is developing a competency-based degree. These avant-garde institutions have decoupled courses of study from competency-based assessment and thereby will offer a degree that may well be more attractive to prospective employers. (p. 2)
An article in the August 23, 2006 edition of Inside Higher Education notes that increasing numbers of institutions are finding ways to promote residential and commercial development near their campuses. Strategies include leasing out institutionally-owned space to private developers in an effort to reap economic benefits without having to bear construction costs.