By C. Scott Green
As a proud Vandal, I know the value of a University of Idaho education.
Growing up in the hallways of Memorial Gym and being part of the energy and excitement of this university inspired me to plant my roots here at UI. Idaho invested in me, and my accounting degree from UI opened doors providing rewarding career opportunities that I did not imagine possible.
After a long career in accounting, global banking, consulting and international law firm management, those roots brought me back to my alma mater to bring energy, innovation and a new way of doing things to a very staid, traditional education model.
This is why I am excited about the opportunities available through affiliation with arguably the biggest name in online education, the University of Phoenix.
Higher education is changing. For institutions like UI, we must understand the coming changes in our traditional audience. Fewer children were born during the Great Recession. That smaller generation is nearing college age and the pipeline is about to fall off the proverbial cliff. This is compounded by a demographic whose trajectory was changed by a global pandemic. This means even fewer young people are going directly to college. Universities across the nation cannot meet the market’s demand for an educated workforce now, and it is about to get a lot worse. Failure to mitigate this decrease in potential students is a failure by those of us leading our institutions.
The University of Phoenix has long focused on adult education. They bring degrees, individual classes to help with career advancement, and skills training to working adults. In the past few years, and with a change in leadership, they have refocused on the success of these students. The organization’s leaders purposefully trimmed the business down to what it does best – deliver online education to working adults.
Delivering online education to all students is vital to Idaho. To quote Board President and UI Regent Linda Clark, your address should not determine your access to education. Training a place-bound working adult is just as valuable to the Idaho economy as training a recent high school graduate.
Developing a scalable, flexible and effective online system for delivering education to people where they are is no small feat. While we offer a handful of high-quality online degrees – and will continue to do so – the possibilities for online delivery through our affiliation with the University of Phoenix are endless.
The University of Phoenix has world-class systems. There is a reason they have 85,000 online students. Their systems are intuitive, easy to use and effective. We will be able to leverage this technology for the benefit of students across the state.
As with any business, creating new revenue streams to build and grow strategic pathways is vital to success. While we certainly appreciate the support of our state Legislature, we also know that the demands on state money are immense. We cannot expect limited state dollars and tuition from our students to be the sole income streams for our university, especially if we want to build out big ideas that benefit the industries of our state.
The affiliation reduces future risk by diversifying revenue sources. The operation generates tens of millions of dollars of free cash flow annually. By moving the University of Phoenix into a not-for-profit status, this money can be reinvested in all students. That is a win for Idaho.
There is misinformation out there and there will be more to come as this transaction is politicized by those outside our great state. That the details of the transaction are complex, there is no doubt. I would not have moved forward with this transaction without full trust in the deep due diligence of professionals who do this work every day. I welcome your questions and will work to answer them to the best of my ability.
But more than that, I hope all Idahoans will join me in dreaming of a brighter day for higher education in our state. A day when industry has not only the plentiful workforce it deserves but one trained to our high Idaho standards. This is a chance to break beyond the norm and use collaborations in higher education that have worked for years in the private sector. Our students deserve it.
Scott Green is the 19th president of the University of Idaho. He graduated from UI with a degree in accounting in 1984. He attended Harvard Business School, earning an MBA in 1989. He spent his career as an accomplished executive in global finance. He returned to run his alma mater in 2019.