August 7, 2023

Reimagining Higher Education: A Response to Scott A. Bass's Call for Meeting Gen Z's Expectations


Jose Flores

Scott A. Bass highlights the pressing need for colleges and universities to adapt to the expectations of Generation Z. Bass emphasizes the bureaucratic inefficiencies and the digital disparity between what Gen Z students are accustomed to and the current state of higher education.

Having recently read Scott A. Bass’s thought-provoking article in the July-August 2023 issue of TRUSTEESHIP Magazine, I felt compelled to share my reflections on his insights regarding colleges and universities meeting the needs of Generation Z.

The Bureaucratic Quagmire of Higher Institutions

Scott rightly points out the "bureaucratic silos" that have become emblematic of many institutions. This fragmentation leads to inefficiencies that are increasingly noticeable and frustrating to Gen Z, a cohort accustomed to the seamless experiences offered by modern digital platforms.

The Digital Disparity

The world has shifted, with almost everything now available at our fingertips. Generation Z, born in the age of the internet, expects immediacy in all aspects of their lives. The contrast between their online experiences and the ponderous bureaucracy of traditional colleges is stark, and as Scott suggests, detrimental to the student experience.

Service Delivery Paradigms: A Changing Landscape

One of the critical takeaways from Scott's article is the impending competition among colleges due to a shrinking student population. The way forward, as he suggests, is a holistic overhaul of service delivery mechanisms. The segmented systems currently in place are simply not agile enough to cater to the interconnected needs of today's students.

Real-life Conundrums in College Administration

Scott's anecdotes about administrative runarounds resonate deeply. Such tales of inefficiencies aren't rare, indicating systemic issues that go beyond mere technological shortcomings. His interaction with the corporate IT vice president crystallizes this sentiment – the problems aren't technological but managerial.

A Historical Perspective: How We Got Here

Scott's dive into the historical development of institutional structures offers a profound understanding of why colleges operate the way they do. While Weber's bureaucratic model might have been revolutionary and apt for its time, the current demands necessitate a reevaluation of its efficacy.

The Role of Trustees: Catalysts for Change

Trustees, especially those from sectors outside higher education, are in a unique position to instigate change. Their expertise can guide colleges in adopting best practices prevalent in other industries, focusing on enhancing the end-user experience.

Strategies for a Better Tomorrow

Scott lists actionable strategies, from integrated communication processes to horizontal organizational structures, that colleges can adopt. The emphasis on end-user experience, cross-functional problem-solving, and holistic support is particularly noteworthy.

The Chief Experience Officer: A New Paradigm

The introduction of roles like the "chief experience officer" could be a game-changer. These roles, while prevalent in other industries, are novel in the realm of higher education. Their adoption might be the key to ensuring institutions truly prioritize students.

Addressing Concerns and Resistance

Change is often met with resistance. Scott's article touches upon the apprehensions of the academic community, especially regarding the "corporatization" of institutions. However, as he rightly points out, the focus should be on reinforcing the primary purpose of colleges – facilitating student growth and learning.

The Road Ahead: Embracing Change

While the challenges are many, so are the opportunities. Trustees, administrators, faculty, and students must come together to reimagine and reshape the future of higher education. Only then can colleges truly cater to the needs and expectations of Generation Z.

Scott A. Bass's article serves as a clarion call for colleges and universities to evolve and meet the demands of a new generation. As we stand at the cusp of significant changes in higher education, it's crucial to prioritize student needs, streamline processes, and embrace a holistic approach to service delivery. The future of higher education depends on it.