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Value of Higher Education

Navigating the Future

Three Key Insights from the National Student Success Conference This year, we had the privilege of joining education professionals, thought […]

Three Key Insights from the National Student Success Conference

This year, we had the privilege of joining education professionals, thought leaders, and innovators at the National Student Success Conference (NSSC) in Orlando FL. The event provided a forum for discussions that delved into the challenges and opportunities facing higher education today. Here are our some of our key takeaways from the event.


1) The Public Debate Over the Value of Higher Education

The NSSC kicked off with a robust conversation centered around the evolving landscape of higher education. Attendees and speakers recognized a shifting paradigm in the public discourse about the value of a college degree. This was particularly true given the recent report released by the Strada Education Foundation and the Burning Glass Institute exposing an “underemployment” problem for college graduates. Coupled with the rising tuition costs, it’s no wonder that families and students are now questioning the return on investment in education.

Speakers and attendees acknowledged that it was important to recognize that the primary goal for a student in higher education programs is to obtain a good job and launch a successful career post-graduation. Attendees explored innovative approaches to align educational experiences with real-world expectations, ensuring that students not only receive a quality education but also see tangible benefits in their future careers.


2) Retention and Persistence

Financial constraints have long been identified as a significant factor contributing to student dropout rates. However, as conversations around higher education’s value continued, it became clear that the lack of a clear connection between classroom education and future careers is a major reason why students fail to persist.. The prevailing sentiment echoed by participants was that students need a compelling reason to stay in school. 

Addressing retention and persistence issues involves creating a seamless bridge between academic learning and real-world application. The NSSC discussions emphasized the importance of aligning educational content with career expectations, thereby instilling a sense of purpose and motivation among students. By redefining the purpose of education beyond the classroom, institutions can contribute to improved retention rates.


3) The Rise of Experiential Learning

A highlight of the NSSC was a presentation by Dr. George Kuh, an eminent expert in experiential learning. This emerging trend in education involves integrating hands-on, real-world experiences into academic programs. Experiential learning not only addresses the disconnect between classroom education and future careers but also offers a practical solution to the challenges outlined in the first two points.

As institutions increasingly recognize the value of experiential learning, they are incorporating it as a requirement for graduation. High-impact practices, such as internships, co-op programs, and collaborative projects, are proving to be effective in helping students see the tangible value of their degrees. Dr. Kuh's insights underscored the transformative potential of experiential learning in reshaping the higher education landscape.



The National Student Success Conference provided a dynamic platform for exploring the evolving dynamics of higher education. By addressing the challenges related to the perceived value of education, retention, and the integration of experiential learning, attendees left with a renewed commitment to shaping an educational landscape that prepares students for success in both academia and the ever-changing world beyond. PeopleGrove is excited to contribute to this ongoing dialogue and play a role in the transformative journey of higher education.