2018 Reflections on Higher Education: Taking the Long View
Dear Concourse friends and colleagues,
Let’s face it, 2018 was challenging! US relations with the world are at an all time low. The UK is struggling with Brexit, and populism is on the rise in Europe. China is facing a possible economic slowdown. Extreme weather events linked to climate change caused huge damage around the world. For most stock markets, 2018 was a train wreck.
So, as we return to our desks in 2019, I thought this might be a good occasion to reflect beyond the calendar year, and celebrate some things that are going well on a longer timescale. Did you know that the mortality rate for children under 5 years old has decreased 60% since 1990? That is roughly 20,000 young lives saved per day in the last 18 years. It is a truly astonishing and wonderful statistic. During that same time period, the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty declined from 37% to 10%, an improvement in the living standards of 1.5 billion people. Access to improved water sources increased from 76 percent of the global population to over 90% today. There are plenty of problems, yes. But there are positive developments too, and it is important to acknowledge and celebrate them.
Global access to education, while hard to measure, is improving as well. Literacy is climbing steadily. The proportion of adults over 15 years old with exposure to secondary education was 60% in 2005, and is projected to rise to over 70% in the next five years. The amount of energy and investment going into innovative education programs and ed-tech startups is increasing dramatically.
With international mobility and education options continuing to increase, students around the world have more choice than ever. Although not on the radar of most students in the West, China is becoming a higher education destination as Chinese universities continue to rise in global rankings. Another phenomenon is the growth of innovative design and coding academies like Kenzie and Andela, providing a practical, affordable alternative to a traditional four-year degree that can launch students into meaningful careers.
With many options available, it’s more critical than ever that graduating high school students make well-informed, well-considered decisions about their higher education. As things stand, a third of university students change their minds at least once about their choice of major, one in ten switches majors two or more times, and up to 40% of students at four-year institutions do not complete their degrees within six years. All this adds up to enormous amounts of wasted financial and human capital.
Higher education institutions face the flip side of this problem in their search for students to attend their programs. Enrollment funnels are getting larger, and the cost to recruit an undergraduate student has grown 33% since 2005. Industry experts argue that institutions need to shift away from traditional “funnel-based” marketing, toward more personalized engagement that takes better advantage of new technology.
This is the problem that Concourse is aiming to solve. Our mission is to make higher education more efficient by better matching supply and demand, i.e. helping the right students and institutions find each other by being the world’s “GPS for higher education”. We believe that high school counselors are a key part of this equation, and our guiding principle is to put them in the center of this new ecosystem that we are creating.
We are proud of how far we have come in less than two years! From a sketch on the back of a napkin, we have become a mature software platform supporting thousands of students around the world.
We are grateful to the many high school counselors and university recruitment and admissions staff who gave us encouragement, ideas, and feedback during our journey, and who are now active users on our platform. Thank you!!
Notwithstanding the challenges we all face going into 2019, at Concourse we are eagerly anticipating the year ahead. We are fortunate to have phenomenal investors, a great team, and an exciting program of new resources and software tools that we will be releasing in the coming months for high schools, counselors, students, and higher education providers. We hope you will find them valuable.
We hope you’re excited about 2019 too, and that you and your family, friends, and colleagues have a happy, healthy, and successful year.
Joe Morrison, Founder