What do we do when the growth machine stops?

Laura Huenneke

By Laura Huenneke, Provost and Vice President
for Academic Affairs

Recently I’ve seen a new awareness, even in Arizona, that we can’t count on continued growth to solve our problems or fund our priorities in higher education. Nationally, there’s plenty of public discussion about the need to slow growth in the costs of college.

Now there’s recognition that the basic element of demand for higher education–numbers of potential students–may cease growing. In Arizona, we can’t count on demographics furnishing us with increased student numbers. It seems we have already peaked in high school graduate numbers for the coming decade or so.

Let’s talk: Next week I’ll be at the south campus Starbucks (at the Suites) at 4 p.m., Friday Jan. 25, hoping to visit with a few of you. See you there.

Institutions in other states, where high school graduates are already decreasing, are competing for “our” students. And the rapid advance of technology, which provides less-expensive options, is producing a grim assessment of the competition faced by traditional higher education.

For me this reinforces the importance of appealing to non-traditional student audiences, such as those we expect to pursue our new Personalized Learning degrees.

Moreover, it’s crucial to keep a careful eye on the value and quality of our “brand”–the degrees and student experience that differentiate NAU from the competition.

Finally, it’s clear we cannot always count on increased or growing revenues. It’s a tremendous challenge to move to stability rather than incessant economic growth, even to those of us focused on sustainability. In the future, how will we find the resources to put into improvements and new priorities?