The Upside of Higher Ed Downsizing

The other day I took a peek at my groups on Linkedin. Some groups send weekly newsletters and emails to the members. But it was time for my weekly check in to see what’s going on. What’s happening at my Alma mater?

I happened to find a post on my Walden University group. As you know, Dr. Patti Mason and I are alums from Walden University. We struggled together to get our doctorates – Walden will always have a special place in our hearts.

I found a post from senior staff in Career Services who was recently laid off, more gently known as a reduction in force. Is there an upside to downsizing in higher education?

Red flag

This info was a red flag for me. I know Walden is expanding its programs:

  • More variety in undergraduate degrees
  • New programs and certificates in the nursing school
  • More specialties in the business school
  • Outreach to more international students

With so many new programs in place, how could there be lay offs in career services? As students start winding down their programs, they will need to find jobs. How will students transition into the workforce of the future?

What’s the upside? More program choices for new students.

Survey said…

I reached out to my network to test the waters. I wanted to find out what others thought about the situation in Career Services. My survey included:

One person who was worried that our hard-earned degree would be worth less if Walden students graduated and can’t get jobs.

Another person thought that cutbacks in key units was a bad business move. It sends the wrong message to the students about serving their needs down the road.

A faculty person was not aware of the situation. He just took on another big project and wondered if lay offs were his future.

Another faculty person said that Walden is a for-profit institution. The goal is to make money.

What’s the upside? Happy shareholders.

Oh yeah – profit margin

This one slipped my mind. I’m reminded that Walden is part of the Laureate Education network of schools, the largest for-profit college in the world. Laureate has:

  • 71 institutions in 25 countries
  • Over 67,000 people globally
  • 1,130 workers in Baltimore and Columbia

As one school in a very large network, Walden may not need redundancies in HR, career services, IT and other functions. The situation may reflect more of a pattern of reaching for greater efficiency than a prediction for more layoffs.

What’s the upside? Less redundancy.

Priorities

I wondered if layoffs in key programs like Career Services was a message: career transition was secondary to getting students in the door.

Career services can be a competitive advantage if it’s done right. It’s more expensive to customize services for each student population. Will a model that works in Columbia serve the needs of students in Kansas?

This alum is also wondering about the competitive advantage of for-profit education.

Competing priorities (profit margin versus quality education) could short change students in need of career services support.

What’s the upside? Overall efficiency.

Dr. Bessie

Play is the highest form of research.
~~~Albert Einstein~~~

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Author: Dr. Bessie DiDomenica

Food Policy Researcher • Public Policy Wonk • Sustainability Advocate • Academic Writer • Public Speaker • Teacher • Social Entrepreneur • Associate Editor

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