Monday Minute, October 18, 2010

Dear Colleagues,

I mentioned at the faculty assembly on Friday that the anticipated drop in high school graduates in Minnesota over the next five years will be 7.2 percent, with further declines expected over the next decade. That statistic has prompted the increasingly national focus of the University's recruitment efforts, which has met with growing success in southern California, for example.

And it underscores the importance of our strategic planning. Our plans need to highlight -- in an easily Google-searchable way -- what we do that makes our academic programs and research and outreach activities nationally significant and attractive to prospective undergraduate and graduate students across the country and the world.

But it isn't just traditional students we need to focus on. Natasha Singer in Saturday's New York Times wrote that "for the first time in human history, people aged 65 and over are about to outnumber children under 5," and she went on to say that the public and private sectors will need to "creat(e) jobs and educational programs for people in their 60s and 70s -- the hypothetical new middle age." As part of our strategic planning, we, too, need to be thinking about "non-traditional" students -- older people wanting to make a career change or looking for enrichment courses.

While reaching out to the latter group may not have quite the urgency of attracting a more national and international profile of traditional students, I suspect that we will soon see an increased demand for our content from a much wider age group than in the past. Thinking about our programs not just in terms of degrees or certificates, but also in terms of continuing education opportunities for a broad, public audience is something that I would like us to begin to imagine. Life-long learning has taken on new life.