Page 30 - BusinessWest May 13, 2024
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   “A liberal-arts undergraduate education prepares students to think on their feet, articulate their thoughts, work in groups, all the soft skills that employers are looking for.”
“There’s been an evolution in high- er education,” Elms College President Harry Dumay said. “About a decade ago, we knew there was a demo- graphic cliff coming up for traditional undergraduate students. So everyone was thinking about the non-traditional population. And Elms had a strategy of partnering with community colleges to create degree-completion programs, which was very successful in growing enrollment in college through non-tra- ditional students.”
“We must continue to embrace our role as the pri- mary developer of talent in the Commonwealth while ensuring that all of our students — regardless of their discipline — have the core skills, soft skills, and critical-thinking skills that will allow them to thrive in a rapidly changing economy and a rapidly
changing world.”
colleges and universities need to provide pathways, credentials, cer- tificates, and degrees that are adaptable to people at all stages of life, not just those in that 17-24 age range.
“What we used to refer to as a student conjured up notions of sitting at a desk, taking notes, listening to a professor. But that’s not the only way education is delivered anymore,” Doran added. “Peo- ple can learn forever.”
Into the Real World
Students are also training for a work world that’s fiercely com- peting for top talent — meaning not just graduates with skills, but those able to keep learning on the fly. With that in mind, Elms Col- lege recently crafted a strategic plan that emphasizes the core value of a liberal-arts education, experiential learning in the real world while still in college, and innovation.
“The employers of today are really desperate for students who are real-world ready; you don’t have to teach them how to behave in the workforce,” Dumay said. “At the same time, they can think on their feet. They have that critical thinking. A liberal-arts undergradu- ate education prepares students to think on their feet, articulate their thoughts, work in groups, all the soft skills that employers are looking for.”
At the same time, he said, the Elms has brought flexibility to the forefront, offering non-traditional students everything from remote options to short-term certificates and stackable credentials that will get them into careers, with growth potential, more quickly than in a full, four-year program.
The presidents we spoke with also emphasized the importance of offering programs relevant to growth industries, like STCC’s future involvement in the Richard E. Neal Cybersecurity Center of
and coordination of care. It’s changed the way doctors think about keeping people healthy.”
Today, with an older population than the national average, 70% of Baystate’s payments come from Medicaid and Medicare and 30% from commercial managed care, while the average hospital in the U.S. is 40% government and 60% managed care.
“Over time, the country’s going to have to tackle the question of whether we move to some single-payer health approach,” Keroack added. “We’re not done as a nation dealing with the cost of health- care. We have the highest cost of healthcare in the world and the most splintered, uncoordinated program of paying for it.”
Meanwhile, major projects continue locally in an effort to meet community needs, from Cooley Dickinson’s Emergency Depart- ment overhaul — the ER was built in the 1970s when ER vis-
its were less than half what they are today — to Trinity Health’s Enfield Ambulatory Center, which will reflect that overall shift toward outpatient care.
“There will continue to be an emphasis on innovation, technol- ogy, and what will be known as precision medicine or personalized medicine as we move into the future,” Roose said, citing projects at Mercy from a new palliative-care center to an agreement with the US Oncology Network to improve services, technology, and access to clinical trials.
“The main emphasis will continue to be on compassionate care and creating experiences that are holistic and compassionate and help people along their healing journey.” BW
John Cook, president of Springfield
Technical Community College (STCC), said the role of his institu- tion has become more prominent with last year’s launch of MassRe- connect, which makes community college in Massachusetts free for adults over age 25 — another example of how colleges are prioritiz- ing non-traditional students.
“We’ve become even more essential,” Cook said. “The fundamen- tals of what community colleges offer are even more important, if that’s possible, than they were 40 years ago. Access, opportunity, equity — all the things we talk about in the public sector — are real- ly part of our DNA. And it’s invigorating to be a part of this, especial- ly with MassReconnect, with a different kind of spotlight shining on us that further underpins this value that our name represents.”
Whether attending college right out of high school or returning as part of that older, non-traditional, often career-changing crowd, today’s students are increasingly facing an economy in flux, so they need, more than anything, to learn how to learn, Bay Path Univer- sity President Sandra Doran said.
“Today’s graduates will have, on average, seven careers — not seven jobs, but seven careers,” she told BusinessWest. “That’s why we’re really committed to the concept of lifelong learning.”
Elaborating, Doran said, “in the past, you’d go to school for four years, then start your career. But that’s not always how higher edu- cation works. You might be taking college courses as a high-school student, or between ages of 17 and 24, or, sometimes, when you’re 50 years old. You might be in the workforce and, at the same time, taking college courses. This continuum of being able to learn any time you need to learn — and have the courses and programs avail- able to do that — is really important to your future. And being adept at online learning is absolutely critical.”
In such a different environment from 40 years ago, she added,
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can access certain information from anywhere. In the old days, you had paper charts, and if a doctor was on call and needed to look at somebody’s chart, he couldn’t. Now you can look at it — X-rays, lab results, all sorts of things. And there’s certainly more data being captured this way.”
The main downside is what Hatiras characterizes as a big missed opportunity, and that’s the failure of the U.S. government, early on, to establish a bid process and choose the best electronic medical record system and make it the national standard.
“What has happened is we have a hodgepodge of a system,” he explained. “If you physically cover more than one hospital, it’s a bear; you’ve got to learn each other’s systems: how to input orders, how to check labs. It’s not easy. Secondly, you can’t train for it in medical school because what system are you going to train on? If we had a national system, we could be learning this from year one in medical school. And even though you have interoperability, the systems are not talking to each other. It’s a mess, if you ask me, where you could have made a really big breakthrough in medical records.”
Speaking of government, Keroack noted that the way health- care is paid for has changed dramatically, especially over the two decades since Romneycare; today, 97% of Massachusetts residents carry health insurance.
And with more than 90% of Baystate patients cared for under a global budget — specifically, Medicare and Medicaid accountable- care organizations — “if we overspend or are inefficient, we have to eat the difference. It leads us to emphasize prevention, wellness,
   “There will continue to be an emphasis on innovation, technology,
and what will
be known as precision medicine or personalized medicine as we move into the future.”
MAY 13, 2024
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