Disruption in Higher Ed

Tuesday, October 25, 2022 - It's not often a university president talks about how degrees are being devalued and how higher education must align with workforce needs, but that's exactly what new Temple University president, Jason Wingard, does when he joins Jeff and Michael to discuss his book, “The College Devaluation Crisis," and what's next for Temple. This episode made possible with sponsorship from Ascendium Education Group, Course Hero, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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Jeff Selingo:

It's not every day, Michael, that we get to talk to someone who has gone from a college conference championship team to Goldman Sachs and then to the presidency of Temple University. But in Jason Wingard, we get to do that today.

Michael Horn:

That's right, Jeff. Jason's taken perhaps one of the roads less traveled to a university presidency, and perhaps that's given him a certain freedom to speak his mind about both the value of and the existential crisis facing higher education, which he explores in his new book, The College Devaluation Crisis. We in turn explore all of that with our guest, Temple University's newly inaugurated president, on this episode of Future U.


This episode of Future U. is sponsored by Ascendium Education Group, a non-profit organization committed to helping learners from low income backgrounds reach their education and career goals. For more information, visit ascendiumphilanthropy.org. Subscribe to Future U wherever you get your podcasts, and follow us on Twitter at the handle Future U. Podcast.

And if you enjoy the show, please give us a five star rating so others can discover the conversations we're having about higher education.

Jeff Selingo:

I'm Jeff Selingo.

Michael Horn:

And I'm Michael Horn. On September 16th, Jason Wingard was inaugurated as Temple University's 12th president. He's Temple's first Black president in its 138 year history. And that's far from the only noteworthy thing about his new role. It's not often in this day and age that a new president of a university is introduced by a sitting US senator from another state as New Jersey Senator Cory Booker did for President Wingard.

Cory Booker:

I don't know if I have seen any moment in American history where you have this kind of alignment. You have the right university having the right president at the right time.

Jeff Selingo:

Nor is it at the case, Michael, that it's every day that a new president comes in proclaiming a crisis in American education and the concept of disruptive innovation and then boldly speaks about his university's place in that context.

President Wingard:

Despite the college devaluation crisis, Temple will persevere and prevail. Fueled by an unparalleled aptitude and grit, Temple will lead the education revolution. The future of work is disruption. The future of learning is change.

Jeff Selingo:

So that might have been probably music to your ears, Michael, but the conversation with Jason is one that I know we're both excited about because of how fresh his voice feels to so many of us in this space. So with all of that as a prelude, Jason, it's good to have you here on Future U.

President Wingard:

Thank you very much Jeff and Michael. It's great to be here.

Michael Horn:

Yeah, I appreciate it so much. And let's start off because it's not often that we have a member of a championship college team on our podcast, but you're a member of the '92 Stanford football team that won a share of what was then the PAC 10 title with Washington. If this were a football podcast, we'd ask you all about your coach, Bill Walsh. And I'm sure there's a bunch of leadership lessons from him you're bringing into the job. But I'm sure you have thoughts on what just happened in the PAC 12 with UCLA and USC, so we'd love your hot take on that.

President Wingard:

Oh, well certainly. I will look forward to the next podcast where we talk about leadership lessons from the head coach, the infamous Bill Walsh. But yeah, UCLA and USC leaving the PAC 12 to go to the Big 10, there's a lot of movement in universities and academic and athletic conferences right now. So the conference realignment is certainly a topic that we are discussing at Temple and all of our peers are discussing nationwide. It's all about money at this point. So there's revenue share considerations. There are TV markets, you want to be on TV for your games as much as possible in every time zone. So the large market of Southern California for USC and UCLA was certainly attractive and they went to the highest bidder as of now. And that highest bidder continues to shift. And we're all thinking about what that means for our universities, for our student athletes.

So I'm concerned about this movement because travel for student athletes becomes a consideration. When you have to go from California to Indiana or from Pennsylvania to Florida or up to the state of Washington, that's lost classroom time, that's lost networking time for our students. And in a time when we have a lot of mental health crises with students on campus and the pressure to perform academically and perform athletically, having to travel on top of that and being away from class, missing class, not being able to study in comfortable settings, that's really not satisfying the ultimate value that we have for our students, which is to get a good education.

So it's an advantage in some cases for revenue, particularly for football and for basketball, but for all the other, what we call the Olympic sports, it's a disadvantage. You don't have those natural rivalries that you used to have. You get on the bus and you go up and down the road 1, 2, 3 hours and compete against those schools. Now you have plane rivalries that are far away. And the student community and the general city community doesn't get into it as much. It's much more of a TV game now.

Michael Horn:

Yeah, it's so interesting to watch that transition. I want to shift gears a little bit because of course your background, you've done a lot both in executive education as well as professional studies in your higher ed career. But you also took a detour to become the Chief Learning Officer at Goldman Sachs, and I bet our listeners would love to know what that was like.

President Wingard:

Yeah, you're right. I've had experiences on both sides of the fence. I've done higher ed work at places like Columbia and Stanford and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. And then I've done the industry work at places like Silicon Graphics, where I led marketing, and Vanguard where I helped to build the corporate university. And we built and sold a technology company called ePals.

But then there was Goldman Sachs, and people always want to hear about what was it like working there. I think for the higher education listeners, what was most important to me is that this was an opportunity where I had both scale and budget. So 35,000 employees worldwide, and a very large learning and development budget that I controlled. And so it gave me the opportunity to really approach learning and development from an innovative landscape without regard for money.

And of course we were careful and we were prudent, but we were looking for best in class. And so whether we were building a gamification program or we were building an internal MOOC, it didn't really matter what the cost was and the scalability was into the thousands. And so I got a chance to learn how to be highly efficient one-on-one with executive coaching or with reverse mentoring in small groups. But I also got a chance to build programming for hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of people. And when you're working in a university environment, you don't have the same resources, of course, and you don't have the same speed to market that you do when you're working in a company like Goldman Sachs, which is operating quarter-by-quarter. But it did give me the exposure to high risk, high reward, very urgent learning demands that we had to solve for, build quickly and leverage the best experts around the globe to make it happen.

This was very consequential, whether it's legal or compliance, or whether it is the launch of a new product. These things were really critical to the bottom line of the business. So I reported to the president, I worked with the CEO and with the business line leaders. Learning development at a company like Goldman Sachs was all of a sudden much more integrated into the mission and into the deliverables and the bottom line that it ever had been. And when that becomes the case, once again, the scalability and the budget are not barriers. They are actually resources that I got a chance to learn how to do it. So I would argue that I learned how to manage, learning and development curriculum, modalities in a method that nobody else of any organization had the opportunity to do, public sector or private.

Michael Horn:

That transition into the private sector leading the learning teams and so forth to stand that up. And you're talking about how integrated it is with the core business, how strategic it is. This isn't a nice to have. This is, of course, a shift occurring across higher ed and upskilling more broadly in the market right now. It flips to your other time as you've led exec ed programs at a variety of universities, but also leading a professional studies school in higher ed. These are places, that relative to the rest of universities, often have more aggressive timelines. I suppose it's relative to what you experienced at Goldman Sachs, but at the highly selective schools that you've worked at, these programs also tend to be revenue generating programs, they call them cash cows.

And I'm just curious, because the flip side often of that is that they don't have the respect of the elite academic faculty and things of that nature. So I'm just curious how these roles have prepared you for the presidency. Is it because of the entrepreneurial nature of these programs? Is it other pieces of it? These schools of experience you've gotten to have, how has it set you up to be the right president at this time for Temple?

President Wingard:

Yeah, it's a great question, Mike, and it's one that I'm often asked, and it segues from my experience at Goldman Sachs. I just mentioned that it was critically important while leading the learning and development enterprise at a Fortune 100 company where objects, solutions, deliverables were measured quarter-by-quarter and what we were doing was fully integrated in that regard. Well, when I worked at the Wharton School and led executive education, when I ran the School of Professional studies at Columbia University, it was very similar. We were the outsource provider to companies like Goldman Sachs and Nike and Google. And what they were asking for was a solution just in time. We have a new product that is launching. We have a new legal case that has been levied against us. We have a force majeure that we are dealing with somewhere in the world where we have to really rally and respond to and pivot. We are coming to you at Columbia, to you at Wharton in executive education to help us and our executives solve this problem right now, just in time.

So the first part of the answer to your question, Michael, is it taught me, both of those experiences, that learning needs to be long term, but it also needs to be short term, just in time. There are opportunities where you need to learn something that will affect your product, your service, your deliverable in some way right now. And so that's what these opportunities really taught me. That's the first part of the answer. Now you're right. The second piece is when you're in the university environment in particular, what I found was, yes, you can generate a lot of revenue because these companies will pay. If they believe that learning is going to drop to the bottom line, then they'll pay you whatever they need to pay you to make that happen.

So it does become a "cash cow" for the provider in that regard because you're delivering a service then nobody else can, so you're charging a premium. On the other hand, when they're in the university, faculty who are tenured, who are the prima donnas within the university. This is the real value proposition is our faculty and their academic integrity. If they're not being used to do the teaching for those short-term engagements with industry, then they say that the academic integrity of your offering is lessened. But in fact, those companies, Goldman Sachs, Nike, Google, they don't really care who's tenured. They don't really care what you studied five years, 10 years ago. Or if you're the leading expert in actuarial science, they want to know who has the applied experience that's going to help them gain competitive advantage this quarter. And so they're relying on us, the administrators within executive education or the dean of the school to tell them who that is. And so that may be an adjunct faculty member, that may be an executive who works for Amazon right now, that may not be one of our senior faculty members who is tenured. So yes, there are learnings that I glean from that, which says we have to be responsive to the market and to give them the learning and the skills that they need right now to be able to be competitive in the global marketplace. That may or may not include our traditional faculty members, often it did not. So then it begs the question, well then, should we be retooling our faculty members to be more relevant for what these industries are looking for? Now, that's an age-old argument. And just like with college sports, we can talk about that another time. But those are the things that I learned.

I think it prepares you, those experience prepared me, I'll say more specifically for being a president. Because it taught me how to drive revenue, and you certainly have to manage budgets and control costs and figure out revenue sources and adjust to barriers in revenue on a timely basis. You also have to manage faculty stakeholders, and I learned how to do that, particularly when you're the bad guy because you're not using them to generate some of this revenue. So you have to manage them and help them to understand that overall the value you're bringing to the institution is going to benefit them on the other side.

And then thirdly, you have to be able to sell the value proposition of your product. And I learned how to sell executive education and professional education in China, in India, in all of the BRIC countries, to Fortune 100, 500 organizations. Why should we come to you and spend this premium money when we could go to Harvard, when we could go to Ohio State, when we could go to any other company? And so I learned how to parcel out what is our unique offering? What is the gap and what you have and what we can offer? Why are we charging what we're charging? How can I engage the right faculty members or instructors to be able to deliver that education? That's not easy to do with all of those different constituents. And so those lessons taught me how to be a college president because the constituency base is just as large.

Jeff Selingo:

So Jason, we first met last summer in Madrid when we got to sit next to each other at the Bankinter Foundation Future Trends Forum. And you hadn't even started at Temple right at that point, but you had this book that was about to come out, The College Devaluation Crisis, Market Disruption, Diminishing ROI and an Alternative Future of Learning. And in the book you argue something we've talked a lot about on this show that is what I call the new learning economy that's growing up outside of higher ed, that employers and other learning and development entities, as you are well familiar with, are taking over a huge piece of what traditional higher ed used to do and has done up till this point.

Now, as you well know, and as we all well know, higher ed doesn't like to be told it's threatened or that it's in trouble, especially by someone who's going to lead one of its institutions. So how has that argument landed at Temple and how has it landed in higher ed in general, because presidents used to be, are really accustomed to being cheerleaders for the industry no matter what. And here you're basically saying change is coming, we need to prepare for it.

President Wingard:

Yeah. That's a great question. What I would start off by saying is nationwide, worldwide, that is a mixed argument. Many institutions, the faculty feel like they should not need to be responsive to the market. That we as university thought leaders, we know what we should be teaching our students. It is our responsibility to teach them the classics, to teach them about certain readings and literature, critical thinking, analytical thinking, how to learn. This is our responsibility, this is what we do. We know how to do it better than anybody else. We do not need to respond to what the market is saying they are not getting. If they're not what they need, then that's their responsibility to train people, to help them be more competitive. But we, in higher education, we know what we're doing, so stay out of our kitchen. But there are some schools that recognize that industry employers across sectors are actually the client for higher education.

And that if you want to remain in business, if you want to continue to drive revenue, then you have to have a product that is responsive to what they're looking for. So in the case of Temple University, and one of the reasons why I was so attracted to come to this institution is that most of the faculty members and most of the academic community at Temple recognizes that we have a client base that consists of employers who now have a larger gap than ever before in history between the skills and the competencies and the abilities that they need and what we are offering from via our graduating classes. And that's just not us, we Temple, but we as higher education sector are not giving them what they need.

I have a book that came out before The College Devaluation Crisis called The Great Skills Gap. And that book highlights this gap between what employers need and what we are producing in higher education and whose responsibility it is to close that gap. So at Temple, we are raising our hands for the most part and saying it is our responsibility, but it's our responsibility to do both. We are supposed to continue to offer liberal arts education, to focus on critical thinking skills and analytics and literature and the classics and all the soft skills, but we are also supposed to pay attention to what the market is needing. And we are supposed to adapt our curriculum and pivot to those needs so that we can be more applied in what we are offering.

So most of our academic community is supportive of that. Of course, there are some who say that we should not do that and that we should draw a wall between what we are offering and what the market is looking for because that's changing on a rapid basis. Both cases have merit. But at Temple, I believe we can do both and most of our faculty believe the same.

Jeff Selingo:

So you wrote around the book coming out in an op-ed in Inside Higher Ed about higher ed's burning platform. And you wrote in that op-ed, also on LinkedIn that the college ROI is failing. Again, this is not how college presidents tend to talk about their own business. It's a breath of fresh air, to be honest with you, in many ways. But what's the blueprint to reverse these trends, whether it's at Temple or at most institutions? You just said about, well, part of it is about closing the skills gap. But what are the two or three other things that colleges must do coming out of the pandemic to improve their ROI and make sure that employers and other learning and development entities don't eat their lunch when it comes to higher ed?

President Wingard:

Yeah. First of all, Jeff, you are exactly right. There aren't many college presidents or any who are actually shining a light on this burning platform in the way that I am that says we are not cutting it. We are failing with respect to our return on investment, our ROI. We are not meeting the needs of industry. And so we are failing our students. Our students are relying on us when they come to our colleges and universities that we know what the employers are looking for. We have built that into our curriculum, and when they graduate, they are going to be gainfully employed in the short term and in the long term based on what they have invested their time and money into. And I don't believe that we are doing that as a higher education sector. And so I'm speaking out about that and I'm highlighting this burning platform that we are on.

The two or three things that I think we should do, number one, institutions need to decide strategically whether their mission going forward is going to be tied to the market valuation of the degree. What I mean is, do we believe that it is valuable for us, our degree is going to be tethered to someone graduating and being able to get a job and being able to keep that job based on what they learned at our school? If you believe that, if that is your responsibility, then proceed to step two. If you don't believe that that's your responsibility, then you're not in this discussion. So number one is, is your degree tied to, is the value tied to marketability within the global marketplace?

Second thing is to collect data on what employers need across sectors in terms of skills and competencies. You can't build a curriculum, you can't build an academic program that is going to be valuable if you don't know what the market is looking for. And unfortunately, those needs are changing on a quarter-by-quarter basis by now. So we all know from a higher education standpoint, those of us who know, curriculum at a business school, at a law school, it can go unchanged for 10 to 15 years. And a company like Amazon is saying, "Well, our business needs and the skills and abilities that we need from our employees is changing on a quarter-by-quarter basis." So how valuable is it to go and hire somebody from Temple who's had a curriculum that is 15 years old that's not going to cut it? And I don't believe that's worth it.

So we have to be collecting data on what all these companies need in the for-profit sector, in the nonprofit sector, the government, NGOs. We need to know what skills they're looking for and competencies. We need to then, as I said earlier, do both. Combine our liberal arts education with the applied learning and skill development for upskilling and reskilling that those companies are looking for. So that's number two.

And then in a number three, it's really taking that gap to the next level in designing the curriculum in appropriate ways. So you can decide that it's strategically necessary for you to have a greater value proposition. You can collect data on what the employer and the job markets are looking for. And then number three, you can say, okay, for that gap, how can we design programmatic experiences with respect to the curriculum, extracurricular activities, alumni engagement, internships and practicum? That whole portfolio needs to be redesigned in a way that is faster and more relevant for the job market. If you do those three things, and we are doing those three things at Temple, and it's not easy and it's not cheap, and it comes with resistance from faculty and it's upending the status quo, I get all of that. But we have to do that if we believe we are standing on the burning platform that I've written about and we want to get off safely.

Michael Horn:

Jason, that's a perfect transition into the role of employers in higher ed. You've said, and for much of higher ed's history, some people would also have said that employers are one of the customers of higher ed. They hire the students who graduate. But I think it's fair to say that unlike the students themselves who were also customers or clients, you could argue that employers didn't always get much of a say historically in what they got from the purchase, except to decide where to recruit students or send their own employees for professional development and the like. Partnerships just weren't always as big of a deal for higher ed institutions and the like. Many employers, frankly, actively got out of training and some of the upskilling of their employees over recent decades.

But we're seeing that switch over the last few years. Many employers, especially large employers that you've referenced, are seeming to take way more of an active role, not only in what they want out of traditional college graduates, but also the upskilling and reskilling of their current employee base. So you've referenced the importance of knowing what the market wants. I would love to, from your experience, from your research, let's start with traditional college grads. What are employers demanding and how can colleges better meet those needs right now?

President Wingard:

Yeah, I think that can be broken down, Michael, into two categories. So the tangibles and the intangibles. The tangibles to me are hard skills and soft skills. So the hard skills that we hear so much about now. We talk about the future of work. I write a lot about the future of work. So many companies and faculty members, the whole industry is talking about this future of work, future of learning. Well, what does that mean? Mostly what people are talking about, I think it's broader, but mostly what people are talking about are those hard skills, coding and analytics and robotic and cobotic manipulation and logistics management. Those are the kinds of things where you need to know how to do something that's very specific. Usually it's quantitative hard skills that can help you to do some of the work that is becoming more competitive and more in demand in industry. So those hard skills was one of those tangibles.

The other are the soft skills. So on the flip side, can you negotiate? Can you lead people virtually now? Can you communicate effectively up and down? Can you engage in innovative collaboration discussions and facilitations? So those soft skills are basically, there's a gap in employees having those skills because there's been so much focus on the hard skills of late. So to put it succinctly, these employers are really looking for these tangible skills of hard and soft, but they're also looking for, and I've been talking with a lot of CEOs lately, and boards of directors, are looking for these intangibles. And so these intangibles include things like work ethic. So are you intrinsically motivated to work hard and to get the job done and to execute no matter what? I have learned that at a school like Temple University, we have a motto, perseverance and grit.

People love to hire Temple University students because they have come to Temple. In many cases, they are working part-time while going to school full-time. They are paying their own way. They have proven by finishing that they have what it takes to see something all the way through. And so when an employer hires them, they come to work, they come to work early, they come to work ready to execute, they stay late, they stay committed to the mission and to the deliverables, they get it done. So that first intangible work ethic is really important. And then the extrinsic intangible is values. Do you believe in the work that we are doing? Do you believe in how we are engaging with society? Do you believe in how you should manage people, how you should work collaboratively? Increasingly, work culture is important to productivity. And if you don't have people that have aligned values, then you are not going to be successful as a team.

These values can be uncovered, but they can also be learned. They can also be positioned in a way that you as an employee, learn which values are going to be most productive in the organization and which are going to make you a better person. So I think I would answer that question by saying for the tangibles, employers are really looking for those hard skills. We've talked a lot about that. They're now increasingly looking for the soft skills. We haven't talked as much about it, but it's starting to become more relevant now, particularly because we're working remotely. And they're looking for those intangibles of work ethic, come to work, get stuff done, execute, no excuses, and the values of being able to contribute to a work culture in the way that's additive as opposed to drawing it down.

Michael Horn:

It's super true. Super helpful to frame that. And then I want to flip to the other side of this, the upskilling and reskilling conversation of current employees. You've referenced how at Wharton and Columbia, you were able to sell large companies on the value proposition that you offered in helping upskill and reskill their employees presently for current demands of the market. Seems like this should be a huge opportunity for higher ed, but I think it's also true that increasingly a lot of those relationships are being navigated by intermediaries like Guild Education, where in the interest of disclosure, I used to work and I remain as an advisor, that partner with specific companies and help to match make, if you will, with different institutions and specific programs. So I'm just curious how you see this unfolding. Is the future one where only a handful of institutions will have the programs and infrastructures to directly work with many employers? Or is there going to be some other alternative as we work through this moment in higher ed and upskilling?

President Wingard:

So in my book that just came out a couple weeks ago, The College Devaluation Crisis, I have a series of case studies where I profile these companies, these new platforms, the learning economy as Jeff likes to say, that are competing with higher education. So I profile Guild in my book as a case, I profiled General Assembly and Noodle and so many other companies that are in that space, in addition to some of the large companies like Ernst & Young and Google that are also generating their own platforms. So there's a race to who can satisfy this problem the best. What I like to tell my colleagues at Temple, and when I speak to other higher education presidents and administrators is there's a race right now. Higher education is being threatened by these disruptors. There's a reason why the education technology sector of venture capital is growing at such a rapid pace.

Those VCs know that they can invest money in these platforms because one of them is going to get it right, or several of them are going to get it right. So I don't know, Michael, if the answer is that there's going to be only a few. What I do know is that there is going to potentially be a new credential whereby employers measure the qualifications of their employees. Right now, the four-year degree has been the de facto metric. If you go to college and you get a four-year degree, that's what most companies still use as the metric for at least first level of evaluation of who's qualified to come to work in their institution. But as we start to look at some of these digital badges and microdegrees and all alternative medals, and there are all kinds of alternative credentials that are popping up. One of them is likely to hit, and then these companies that are getting investments from venture capital are all going to race towards that new credential.

And that's where higher education should be scared and where we are most at risk. Because if that alternative credential does become a new norm or the new norm, then have we prepared ourselves as higher education to be part of that movement? Or are we standing on the outside of that bubble, missing the target, the way Kodak missed the target? We've all gone to school and had case studies and you know what happened to Kodak, and we don't want to be the industry, the sector that saw what was coming and we didn't adapt ourselves.

And so I go back to an earlier question you asked me about whether our faculty at Temple are on board with the transition. They may not like it, but they certainly understand the context we're in right now. And there are competitors in the education space that are seeking to disrupt how, where, when people learn and are developed to be able to be prepared for work. And they are growing by way of having more investment, they are growing by way of actually delivering on the competency matrices that individuals need. They are building the gig economy. And higher education, for the most part has remained stagnant. So I am offering a call to action to all higher education administrators and to faculty that we need to heed this changing movement. We need to adapt and pivot the way in which we offer our learning. There still is time, and if we do it, then we can remain the victors and we can prevail as the leaders. But if we don't, then these alternative platforms, this new learning economy is going to win.

Jeff Selingo:

And if you don't, you become the next Kodak. I'm smiling at that, Jason, because I just explained the other day what Kodak was to my 10 and 12-year-old. They had no idea. We used to have these, remember the old 110 cameras, we'd have to go get the film developed. None of that. They're totally lost on them. But it's a great analogy, I think. And so as we wrap up here, I want to ask you a little bit more about your town there, your city in Philadelphia, because right at the beginning of the pandemic, the urbanist, Richard Florida, and I wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal about the role of urban institutions and particularly how hot they had become over the last couple of decades. There's tons of college students now who go to institutions in cities unlike they did 30 or 40 years ago.

And I want to ask about Philadelphia in particular, because when you think of college towns in cities, you always first think of Boston, Michael's hometown up there. But Philly also has a huge concentration of meds and eds, much like Boston. Maybe you'll disagree with me, but why isn't it seen as this hub of higher education, at least nationally like a Boston is?

President Wingard:

Yeah, and I would argue, Jeff, I think it depends on how you measure it, but Philadelphia has more institutions of higher education and medicine than Boston. It's one and two, no matter how you shake it. But there's a high concentration of institutions here in Philadelphia. It's a really good question. I think I'll answer the first part of what you said first, which is the reason why so many people want to come to urban centers like Philadelphia is because of the richness of academic exposure and cultural exposure that they get. We have so many schools in Philadelphia, starting with Temple and University of Pennsylvania and Drexel and Villanova and St. Joseph's and LaSalle and Swarthmore and Haverford. You can go on and on and on. In a very short radius, we have a ton of schools and a ton of hospitals and healthcare centers.

And so what that means is that the talent of people who are attending those schools, who are teaching in those schools, administrating those schools is really large. And so the thought leadership that is in this region is tremendous. And so whether you're on campus or in the coffee shop or at your child's soccer game, it's a rich environment of learning and thought leadership, unlike other places in the country. So that's why people are attracted to come to a place like this. Not to mention the cultural amenities of the museums and the other attractions, cultural activities that are brought to this city. I can't answer why it may not be thought of as highly as some other places in the country, namely Boston, other than we have a challenge in Philadelphia of what's called the brain drain. So we train lots of people here in Philadelphia at these distinguish institutions, and they're trained really well, better than most places in the world. And then they go to other places-

Jeff Selingo:

And then they get on Amtrak and they go to New York, Boston.

President Wingard:

That's right. So we're also right next to the I-95 corridor. So they'll go to New York and they'll go to Washington, DC or Baltimore or other urban centers and they'll get jobs around the world now, increasingly. So part of the economic development plan for our region, and I sit on the executive committee of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. So it's important for us to bring public and private institutions together, the higher education institutions, the corporations, the nonprofits, the government agencies. What is it that we can do to not only attract people from all over the world to come and learn here and to come and teach here, but to have them want to stay and reinvest in the economy and make this urban center, which is already so strong, even better? So that's a question that we have to answer for ourselves. What is it about our region that makes some people want to leave? And it's no different in Boston, the people come there and they want to leave as well. So we're looking at that. That's a good challenge for us.

Jeff Selingo:


Well Jason, we really appreciate your time today on The Future U. podcast. Congrats on completing your first year, now going into your second year at Temple. And we'll be right back on Future U.

Michael Horn:

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Michael Horn:

Welcome back to Future U. And Jeff, obviously a bold and direct vision from Jason that I'm personally drawn to. No surprise there I suppose. But of course there's a famous older saying from politics where someone would ask in essence, "Well, yeah, that's great, but will it play in Peoria?" And my dad being from Peoria, Illinois, this is a phrase I like quite a bit. And the idea in politics basically was, will the average American get this policy and like it? Does it make sense to them? And I think it's relevant here because it will impact folks like Jason's ability to bring about change, as in maybe his direct message will work at Temple. I think Michael Crowe, to an extent, has been able to do that at Arizona State University, be super direct. But for most presidents, I'm not sure that having this direct and straightforward message will work. But look, you run a program to train higher ed leaders. Do we need more of what Jason is espousing or would it just not work at most places, and so the context really matters?

Jeff Selingo:

So Michael, I'm not sure it works in many places because I think the culture of higher ed is not one where they think of the student or the employer as the customer, which is in part what Jason is arguing here. Now, maybe it'll work in Philadelphia because Philly is after all the home of Rocky, and there's a bit more of a fighting spirit in the city. I think there's a little bit of an underdog as the city is somewhat of an underdog, especially next to Boston in terms of higher ed. And you also have Penn as the Ivy League behemoth in the city. And then you have Drexel with his own innovative president in John Fry. And now Jason at Temple. So maybe there will be something in the water there in terms of an innovative spirit.

But what was interesting about what Jason told us, he said one of the reasons he was attracted to the Temple job is because most of the faculty members and most of the academic community at Temple recognizes that we have a client base, and I'm quoting from what he just said, that consists of employers who now have a larger gap than ever before in history between skills and competencies and the abilities that they need and what we're offering from our graduating classes.

And I think that's language, to be honest with you, that probably would get you thrown out of most faculty meetings. And maybe that's the point here. Maybe it's the language. In a recent newsletter, one of my recent newsletters, I talked about this translation problem we have in higher education. And I hosted this dinner recently, and we had Matt Sigelman, who's a good friend of both of ours, who's now head of the Burning Glass Institute. And one of the things he said at this dinner that really struck me was that he said, "Employers speak in skills and colleges speak in outcomes." And he talked about the work that he did at a big public university where they were mapping the curriculum to skills. And one of the things he noticed in the gender studies program, for example, which of course is a highly debated program in a lot of political circles, is that they have a lot of fieldwork.

And he said, "Well, fieldwork, it's really project management, but nobody in the department called it project management, which is of course a critical 21st century skill." And I think Jason just talked with us about how higher ed needs to really do both the liberal arts and the practical arts. And it's a source of tension I think on many campuses and institutions can't do it all. But I think that even up to the board level, boards are increasingly impatient and they want to protect that core product that they have. But at the same time, we have to be moving in the direction that Jason talked about. And so what do we do? What we need more of then if we're going to move in the direction that Jason talked about and bring the faculty along?

The first is I think that we really need to look at the 120 credits for a four-year degree, and is that really necessary for every degree that we have out there? Some disciplines really should require 120, maybe even more, but others don't necessarily need that. And it requires, I think, a fundamental redesign rather than a tweaking. And in many ways, this is exactly what the University of Minnesota at Rochester did with its next-gen medical degree. It redesigned it from the ground up and it turned out to be a two and a half year degree, which is what they felt like they need.

And then finally, Michael, I think that we need to focus on being a new president here like Jason is at Temple, because I think there's also the structures of our university. A point that Michael Crow, you mentioned him, brings up all the time, is that all institutions copy each other in their structure. And that's not only their academic structure, but also their administrative structure. And right now, we have a lot of churn during the pandemic or after the pandemic in the C-suite cabinets of colleges and universities.

So I think it's a great time now to start to really think, do we have the cabinet that we need to do the job that we need to do right now? And I think some of it is talent, and we've talked a lot about talent, and we're going to be talking a lot more about that this year on Future U., but some of it is structure, and are we missing some critical jobs we need? For example, Michael, as you might remember, we did that piece for Entangled a couple of years ago on the chief innovation officer, which was a growing title at many colleges and universities. Should more universities have a chief business development officer who is really in charge of new programs, new degrees? Where does the chief marketing officer fit in as a business development person, not just as somebody who has to promote everything that they're going to do.

And so I think that this is really a time for institutions, especially those that are with new leaders like Jason is, to really look at that structure and to really understand do we have the right people and do we have even the right jobs? So Michael, there's a lot more I probably can say on that, but I'm curious because in many ways, Jason is a proof point for stuff you've long talked and written about in terms of disruption in higher ed in the workforce more broadly. But he goes further than you do, I think, in terms of arguing that, hey, there's a disruption of the degree coming, some new credential, and as he said, everyone will be pointing at it and so higher ed has to get on board. What are your thoughts?

Michael Horn:

Yeah, Jeff, you're not wrong. We could parse this a few ways where I agree with Jason, where I disagree. I do like the take he has broadly speaking, but I do think, at least from my perspective, he oversells perhaps the disruption of the degree itself. But I want to make a macro point that I think Jason made really, really well, which is frankly, on the limitations of data. There are all sorts of new credentials and certifications out there and emerging right now. We covered it last year with Sean Gallagher. Only some of them are valuable and connected to real pathways that create value. And for this to "disrupt the degree," I think it's which ones of these, not one of them that's going to disrupt. Which ones will break through and create that value? We just don't know for sure. I'm not sure I'd bet that it would happen, but we just have no idea.

There's no data out there right now that says, Oh, it's this one, focus here. Because the data won't exist by definition until we've actually reached that pinnacle and there are new providers and pathways and employers that have optimized around these new credentials and the traditional degree is no longer valuable. So because the data is only in existence about the past and frankly only convincingly in existence about the more distance past, by the time we have convincing data, if Jason's view of the world comes to pass, it'll just be too late to adjust. And so when Jason tells the story of Kodak being disrupted... And by the way, they didn't just get disrupted by digital, but it was digital plus phones replacing the need for digital plus printing photographs. What he's really pointing to is the importance of having a valid theory guiding you so that you can make some smart, educated bets.

And Jeff, I say bets because every disruption you build that's focused on new markets or being super adaptive and needing to build programs at different rates for different employers or industries, students, so forth, around all the different potential credentials. Not every one of those bets, frankly, not most of those bets are going to be a thing that disrupts the degree, I'm sure. But what he's pointing to is if you can look at the world and say, look, this is the direction where things are going, then you'd be foolish not to take some of your resources, not the majority, maybe 20%, and just make some little bets on some credentials that you think might gain some steam. And by the way, where he's from in the world of professional studies programs and exec ed and continuing education and the like, those are the perfect places to do that. But I guess in my view, Jeff, you just can't wait for the data to materialize. You're going to have to place some bets and just as cautionary, in case the world goes the way Jason thinks it will.

Jeff Selingo:

Yeah, you have to place those bets. And it's interesting, if we would've placed bets on, for example, data science 10 years ago, if more universities would've done that, and I'm just going to channel Matt Sigelman again because he was talking recently about we're seeing significant shortage for specific skills and specific kinds of talent right now in this economy. And his belief is that even if the economy softens and we go into recession, that those skills are not going to go away. And so let's take data science, and we talked with Sean Gallagher about this when we were talking about the master's degree last year on Future U. As Matt said that in 2011 there were a total of 150 job postings for data scientists in the US total, last year there were 50,000 or so. So in the course of 10 years, we essentially created a whole new job.

But even more interesting than that is that the number of jobs that have intensive requirements for data analytical skills, so it's not just data scientists, but if you look at a decade ago there were about 300,000 jobs over 17 occupations that required some sort of data and analysis skills. And today there are 1.2 million jobs across 70 occupations. So what I think that this is showing is that colleges can't just wait to figure out what types of programs they want to offer and see where the job market is going, because by the time they see where the job market is going, it's already going to be there. And other institutions I think are going to get ahead of them. And the question then becomes, even if you create the program, is it worth the ROI on that degree or on that certificate or on that credential? And I think on this, Matt also had a really good point. Because one of the things he said is, for example, the average marketing manager in the US makes about $71,000 a year, but a marketing manager has SQL skills, makes $95,000 a year.

Michael Horn:


Jeff Selingo:

So his point was that if a college or university offers a certificate in SQL, for example, and the course costs like $5,000, if you're making $71,000 a year, an investment of $5,000 to make $95,000 is well worth it. And I bet, Michael, that most colleges and universities don't sit around trying to figure out what is the ROI on some of those certificates and degrees, especially post baccalaureate in that way. And if they did, could you imagine they could say, Okay, this price point of $10,000 or $15,000 makes sense because of the differential that they're going to get.

Michael Horn:

I think it's a really good set of points, Jeff, and it points to making some bets, but having some education behind those bets so that you're making it a logical way. But we're talking about some big, big shifts, of course. One last thought for now out of the conversation, I was really struck in terms of the change management, Jeff. Because Jason's used to operating in places like Goldman Sachs, where, as he said they move super quickly. They don't wait for faculty consensus to launch a new program or replace a traditional course. In professional studies, or exec ed where he is from, they don't need accreditors to sign off on a change of program or something like that. Whereas in more traditional parts of higher ed, it can take a few years for these sorts of changes to be affected. He's used to operating in a part of the university and a part of the learning economy, as you referred to it, that just operates at very different rhythms.

And I wonder how applicable that will be at other institutions or frankly scaling beyond professional studies programs themselves, which as you know, in my views, those are the autonomous places that you and I talk about where universities actually have the space to launch disruptive innovations. But I guess the question is how do universities then find the energy to really invest behind those disruptions and grow them so that they become not just afterthoughts in the academy or that the stepchild if you will, but really the dominant engines of what universities are. Can they use these programs to not just grow their footprint marginally, but even perhaps disrupt their core operations and what their identities have been, Jeff?

Jeff Selingo:

A good question, Michael. And just two quick thoughts on this. One is perhaps more presidents will follow the path that Jason has followed and become president after running professional studies and continuing education programs at these institutions. I could think of Rob Manuel, for example. Just left the University of Indianapolis to become President of DePaul, and he's the former Dean of Professional Studies at Georgetown. So we may see more presidents who come from more of these entrepreneurial backgrounds who are familiar with what their institutions have done in professional studies. So that's point one. And then the second point is that the rise of a budgeting system at colleges, universities, often what's referred to as RCM, responsibility center management, is something that many universities have moved to over the past 10, 15, 20 years where revenue generating units are wholly responsible for managing their own revenues and expenditures, which has been great, by the way, for those schools like continuing studies, which could get a decent amount of revenue.

And it has also created competition between deans as a result because they're able to spend what they get. But it does mean that everyone also needs to be rowing in the same direction because often it starves the mothership of much needed innovation funds. And what I fear has happened in this move to an RCM budgeting model is that there's so much now competition between deans of different schools that they forget about the innovation at the center of the university or the innovation that's happening in their school that's now almost impossible to spread to other schools because you have starved the mothership of those innovation funds and of the power that they used to have.

Michael Horn:

It's so interesting, Jeff. It's a reason for the dual transformation model. Maybe we'll get to talk to Clark Gilbert later this year as well about his thinking on how do you adjudicate resources and allocate between different parts of the institution. But a lot here to chew on. A bold take from a higher ed leader that accords with a lot of the things that I'm seeing on the ground. So he's certainly, in Jason Wingard, someone to keep an eye on to watch his progress. So much pomp and circumstance and hopes as he enters the role at Temple University, all as we get to watch the future unfold here on Future U. And with that, we'll just thank Jason again for joining us and thanks to you all for joining in and listening to the episode, and we'll be back next time.

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