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from Kind of a Miracle:

Inventing the future: A college for tomorrow


CCV Kind of a MiracleIn 2015, the Georgia Institute of Technology organized a commission on the future of higher education. It asked the panel’s forty-eight members to imagine what a public university might look like in 2040 — and among the many compelling ideas” they produced, wrote Arizona State University professor Jeffrey Selingo in the Washington Post, three point to the possibility of a very different future for colleges and universities.”

Here are those three ideas, as Selingo described them in his July 6, 2018 Post article, The Future of Higher Education: Students for Life, Computer Advisors and Campuses Everywhere”:

1. College for life, rather than just four years.

The primary recommendation of the Georgia Tech report is that the university turn itself into a venue for lifelong learning that allows students to associate rather than enroll.Such a system would provide easy entry and exit points into the university and imagines a future in which students take courses either online or face-to-face, often in shorter spurts over the course of a lifetime....

2. A network of advisers and coaches for a career.

If education never ends, Georgia Tech predicts, neither should the critical advising function that colleges provide to students. The commission outlines a scenario in which artificial intelligence and virtual tutors help advise students about selecting courses, navigating difficult classes, and finding the best career options....

3. A distributed presence around the world.

Colleges and universities operate campuses and require students to come to them. In the past couple of decades, online education has grown substantially, but for the most part, higher education is still about face-to-face interactions. Georgia Tech imagines a future in which the two worlds are blended....


If you replace around the world” with around the state” in their third prediction, Georgia Tech’s forecasters could have been describing the Community College of Vermont.

Nor would they have been alone.

In a 2017 post on his blog Rethinking Higher Education, CCV’s founding president, Peter Smith — who has authored several books that urge higher ed to reimagine itself for a new era — wrote that the college of the future will be organized around the learner/user experience just as surely as traditional colleges were organized around teaching and the campus experience.”

And through all of its changes, innovations and real-world accommodations over the last fifty years, CCV has held fast to that core idea: that it would shape itself to meet the needs of learners, rather than the other way around.

When you think about the future of higher ed, it’s not sitting and waiting for people to come to you,” said current President Judy. It’s reaching out and providing pathways.”

Over the years, she said, we’ve had to find the balance between honoring [educational] tradition — doing that in the right way for students — and not being traditional. The focus is on student learning.” Even as its classrooms have grown more age-diverse, she said, what has stayed consistent are the college’s decentralized structure; its part-time faculty, made up largely of practitioners in their fields; and a flexible, outreaching responsiveness to Vermont’s communities, students and employers.

We are continually adapting to the evolving needs of Vermonters and our state,” Judy wrote in a 2019 blog post.

In recent years and especially in response to the Covid pandemic, we have diversified our course delivery models, which now include flexible, synchronous and accelerated options,” she wrote in a 2020 post. We are developing more short-term credentials that easily build toward certificates and degrees in high-demand fields such as manufacturing, child care and IT. We continue to work closely with businesses throughout the state to ensure that CCV programs are aligned with employer needs.”

Something we’ve held true to, throughout, is that we’ve tried to make sure students were at the core of our decision-making,” Judy reflected in an interview. Sometimes we were more successful at that than others, but it’s always on our mind.”

I think the future of higher education looks more like CCV than it does like traditional institutions,” declared Tim Donovan, CCV’s president from 2001 to 2009. Number one, we’ve never assumed that going to school is the defining element in a student’s life. You have to make college fit into their defining elements. Those might be geographic, they might be financial, they might be family, they might be work.

Number two, education is not sequential. It isn’t high school, then college, then career. Our federal [education] policy is the way it is because it was written by congressional staff who went to Middlebury, then went to work for their congressperson. Or law school. So that’s their view of how you need to support colleges and universities, and it’s just not the reality for a majority of students.

Going to college is not sequential — and it shouldn’t be sequential. That requires you to think about a whole bunch of things differently. You took this course four years ago, so that doesn’t count any more? That’s ridiculous! We need to be much more forgiving about how and when and where someone learned what they’ve been learning. Assessed prior learning should be a huge part of this: Yes, you learned that someplace. Let’s value it.

It’s constantly asking yourself what’s important and what isn’t,” he summed up. That I think is why CCV has been, and continues to be, a directional beacon of some sort.”