You don’t have to attend last week’s ASU + GSV Summit (we didn’t say) to understand that the line between nonprofit and nonprofit higher education is rapidly disappearing. At the same time, the most important trends that affect colleges and universities cannot be described in isolation from the understanding of the role of nonprofit companies.
In no area of the academy is this university / corporate integration more obvious than the increase in online degrees and nonprofit programs. However, it is often mistaken for higher education supervisors to focus on the development of integrated online application management (OPM). OPMs take over the entire press because their trading model includes earnings stocks and long-term contracts – deals that some are concerned about.
OPMs represent only a deeper complexity between schools and companies. Universities typically rely on a wide range of corporate partners to promote their operations. What is different now is that partnerships have been formed with profitable companies at the heart of the training enterprise. Because education is digitally mediated, these are platforms of non-profit companies where a growing share of education and training takes place.
The pandemic has served to accelerate the pace at which universities and companies partner in the field of education. According to Holon IQ, the rate of edtech venture financing has increased by 72 percent in pandemic years, reaching about $ 21 billion in 2021.
There is nothing wrong with partnering nonprofit schools with nonprofit companies. Once we return to the OPM partnership, the university may decide to develop and launch new online programs using “internal” resources and eliminate the need to partner with an OPM integrated provider to design the course, technology, marketing and student support. However, the same university is almost certain to contract with a profitable provider on marketing, recruitment and registration management to complete classes for that new online program.
As we have said before, universities cannot have the capacity and experience in all components of digital education. We prefer that schools focus on improving teaching and learning, rather than optimizing search engines and online advertising. But one problem is that the services that universities pay companies to offer educational programs are in addition to corporate technologies, platforms, and digital tools that make us more dependent on teaching and learning.
As we all rush into this bold new world of post-graduate / commercial education everywhere, what is needed is a statement of principles to guide this partnership. The statement of principles can be an architectural tool of partnership. And this statement can be a cornerstone in which it can be judged that neither side of the nonprofit / nonprofit diaspora lives up to the principles from which the partnership originated. What can be included in the statement of nonprofit / for-profit principles to guide partnership in training programs? We offer:
Transparency: The financial terms of the business relationship between nonprofit schools and nonprofit companies should be made public. With the advantages of non-profit status, there is a responsibility to engage in behaviors that are in the public interest. This is especially important in collaborative management models. The faculty should be aware of university investments with this partnership. As companies become more deeply involved with the university’s core educational mission, it is hard to argue that a better understanding of the impact of this nonprofit / business partnership on student and institutional outcomes is not in the public interest. .
Research: Transparency around the school / company partnership is limited use only if nothing is done with this information. Universities, as institutions dedicated to both teaching and knowledge creation, have a unique position to use their core research competencies to study the impact on school / company collaboration. For research to be effective, it must be comparative and inter-institutional. Companies should act as research partners in universities in funding and conducting research related to nonprofit / nonprofit partnerships.
Participation: Neither transparency nor research is committed without commitment. Research needs to be discussed, analyzed, critiqued, and hopefully acted upon. Today, colleges and universities are forced to approach the assessment of potential educational partnerships with companies that only have minimal access to information. There is little to learn from the experience of peers and former partners. Visibility to financial mechanisms and outcomes related to nonprofit / business partnerships in the postgraduate sector is minimal. Schools and companies that work together to develop, market, lead, and support curricula should be committed to sharing what they have learned with the wider higher education community.
Clearly, these three principles of transparency, research, and engagement (if these principles are correct) to guide a school / company educational partnership need to be carefully considered, but perhaps this will help all participants in our work.
How can our community promote this conversation?