Adapt and Accommodate: How to Ensure Higher Ed Is Accessible

Higher education is not a one-size-fits-all system. Adjustments and changes need to be made in order to ensure student success at each particular institution.  

On this episode, EvoLLLution editor in chief and Illumination host Amrit Ahluwalia is joined by Mark Milliron, President of National University. Milliron gives his take on the debate around mega universities and reflects on how his background in non-profits and the corporate world influenced his outlook on the industry.  

Milliron says he doesn’t like the term mega universities – the term for an institution with more than 100,000 students and capable of providing education to the masses – since without properly scaling, the academic programs won’t be effective. 

“Impact without scale is kind of a false promise, and scale without impact is a scam,” Milliron says. “The idea is if you can get scale and impact, you’re doing something special, and part of the reason you want that is that there are millions of students for whom the traditional model of education may not fit.” 

He adds that there are millions of 18–22-year-old students for whom traditional models do make sense, but most students in higher ed need something more flexible.  

First-generation students, students who are juggling full or part-time jobs dand adults changing careers can all benefit from a level of flexibility rarely offered to traditional students.  

“Different models work for those students, and that’s what we need in our education ecosystem,” Milliron says. “I love independent schools, K12 schools, community colleges, state universities, big research universities, but there is also a need for an institution where the model of education is based around the specific needs of specific students.” 

As the former deputy director of higher education for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and as the Chair of the Board of Directors at Nearpeer, Milliron has seen a variety of practices and experiences for both teaching and learning that can be used for a variety of student demographics. 

“Every bit of work I’ve done has been about trying to help more and more diverse students be successful in their education pathways,” Milliron says. “What’s neat is that I've been able to go into those different environments and learn what’s possible with the tools, technologies and strategies available.”   

What higher ed leaders need to understand is that in order to make a difference at their institution, they need to have an understanding of policy, learning models, technology and data. A top-down view is one thing; comprehending how the pieces work together is going to make the difference for the students.   

In each of his roles, Milliron came in with a beginner's mindset and tried to absorb as much information as possible.  

“The people who make the biggest impact are the folks who learn broadly and then use analogy-based thinking to solve complex problems,” Milliron says. “That’s what my career has been – learning from different sectors and figuring out how to pull those resources together.” 


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Scaling Non-Degree Education

Last updated: October 19, 2022


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