Portland Summit Provides Insights Into Student and Economic Trends
Published: June 17, 2019

​You cannot talk about the future of higher education without talking about today’s students and the economic realities of our institutions and the nation as a whole. That is why campus leaders gathered last week in Portland, Oregon to discuss these topics at the ACE West Summer Su​​​​mmit, "Demonstrating Value: Economic Trends and the Changing Needs of Students."

The summit began with a half-day of content June 6 focused on understanding the needs and perceptions of students. Participants heard from Mushtaq Gunja, ACE vice president and chief of staff, who discussed current student demographics and the implications for what individuals require from higher education. Attendees networked with each other at a reception and dinner, then had the opportunity to attend a screening of the documentary film Unlikely, which examines the challenges low-income students face in pursuit of an education and meaningful career.

The main day of the summit entailed a series of panels, workshops and discussions. The day opened with a panel by those who best know the needs of students: students themselves. Attendees heard from Freedom Education Project student advocate Morgan Denton and Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America scholar Joscelyn Guzman on the unique barriers faced by non-traditional students, such as first-generation or adult students, and how colleges and universities can help. Campus leaders took advantage of the question-and-answer session at the end to ask the students for concrete steps they can take on their own campuses to better serve their needs.

Another session, “Understanding Economic, Workforce, and Labor Market Trends,” included a presentation by David Richardson, managing director of research at the TIAA institute and a response by Anthony Carnevale, director and research professor at the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University. There was a lot of information to unpack, but the audience sat with rapt attention as they heard expert insights on the economic realities and strategies institutional leaders can use to best position their institutions in light of market trends. There was also a panel delivered by campus and association CEOs on how to take these trends into consideration, alongside a student-centered approach, to make key institutional decisions.

In between each panel were interactive activities, which helped attendees digest the information and kept everyone’s energy high. Attendees also had time to visit a booth on ACE Engage, the peer-to-peer online learning platform for higher education executives being developed by ACE. At the booth, participants learned more about how to use the platform and tried it out themselves. Each attendee received early access to the platform as part of their registration for the summit. For more information on ACE Engage, contact engage@acenet.edu.

Summit attendees were encouraged to register as teams of at least three individuals from the same institution. Those who did found this to be a valuable opportunity to connect in person with their colleagues and apply group discussions to their campus’ specific context. Some who came as solo participants expressed the wish that they had brought along more members of their own campus. 

“Whether they came as individuals or part of a campus team, participants left this event with a good understanding of current financial trends in higher education nationally,” said Gailda Pitre Davis, director of ACE Leadership. “This foundation will allow them to start thinking about how to take this economic reality, coupled with shifting student demographics and needs, and bring it back to their own institutions to serve students in a way that better demonstrates the value of higher education.”

To learn more about ACE’s regional summits and stay apprised of future events, click here. Email questions to ACELeadership@acenet.edu