By David B Laird Jr

President, Templeton Laird


Most commentators expect the foreseeable future to be dominated by the impact of accelerating change, characterized by technological change, globalization, and climate change. Nearly all agree that high quality higher education will be a key resource on both the national and state levels.


Within that context what will be the most significant policy challenges for Higher Education? To address these challenges college trustees, presidents, elected leaders, faculty leadership, and donors will need to develop and maintain an adaptive course of significant change while securing quality and integrity. The identification of policy options and subsequent decisions need to occur within the framework of broad policy goals supported by continuous research and analysis.




Within this context what are the Strategic Questions for leaders:

  • Given the pace of change and growing competition, where will leadership for higher education emerge?
  • Given the dramatic changes in national and regional demographics, how will higher education respond?
  • In a period of dramatic and sustained change, who will be educated and how will it be funded?



While this paper is focused on Minnesota all states will experience variations on the categories which follow and no states will be immune from major effects of the changes.



A common theme among demographers is that demography is destiny unless organizations plan for that which can be anticipated. Minnesota is currently in a period of significant demographic change which will affect nearly every function of the State. Although much of the change has been documented and  known to be coming and ignored by political and most educational leadership,  adaptation has been delayed and modest responses have been insufficient.


For instance:

  • Age – without a major influx of younger immigrants, Minnesota will continue
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By David Laird

For more than two decades analysts have warned that changing demographics in higher education would induce major changes in institutions and their roles in our culture and economy. We now see the first wave of those changes in the projections of high school graduates through the next decade.

Higher education leaders who are hesitant to take unprecedented moves in the current marketplace may be limiting future choices while compounding the effects of major challenges. Below are some of the collective challenges which leaders and their boards should not overlook when establishing or adapting their strategic plans for the next decade or two.

High School Graduate Projections


Twenty-five states are projected to experience declines in high school graduation rates of 5 to more than 15 percent due principally to declining birth rates in the white population – rates that have remained below replacement rates for about twenty years. Only eight states are projected to show growth over the next decade. The states projected to decline also are states where retirement of baby boomers will leave significant gaps in the ranks of professionals.

Looking over the horizon, America’s changing population rates by race and ethnicity will alter the nation in many direct and subtle ways. As the principal source of well-educated leaders, professionals and high tech workers, higher education will be directly in the path of waves of change.

America's Changing Population

The increasing demand for more well-educated college graduates will focus on high school preparation and the financial ability of families to bear a realistic portion of the costs of higher education. There are a number of promising programs designed to help students (especially low income and minorities) prepare for success in college, but none have been tested on a statewide or national scale. As these adjustments were gaining traction, the recession beginning in … Read the rest

We recommend reading this very nice piece by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York examining the benefits and costs of college, with the weight of evidence coming down firmly on the side of benefits.

An except from the article:

In recent years, students have been paying more to attend college and earning less upon graduation—trends that have led many observers to question whether a college education remains a good investment. However, an analysis of the economic returns to college since the 1970s demonstrates that the benefits of both a bachelor’s degree and an associate’s degree still tend to outweigh the costs, with both degrees earning a return of about 15 percent over the past decade. The return has remained high in spite of rising tuition and falling earnings because the wages of those without a college degree have also been falling, keeping the college wage premium near an all-time high while reducing the opportunity cost of going to school.

Click to download the entire article.Read the rest