What is higher ed student "success" in the age of social innovation?

“I believe it is the universities who are not student-ready,” said Adam Bush, director of curriculum at College Unbound, during the “Student Access and Success” workshop at the AshokaU Influencer. The workshop sparked a debate about why success, like access, in higher education continues to be such a challenge for American students.  

The education leaders at the AshokaU Influencer rattled off a variety of potential causes, but they did agree on one point:  perhaps we should reframe the definition of “success” in the academic context to reflect what it means to the student, not the university.

An example of this potential shift would be for universities to start measuring (and growing!) the number of jobs each student creates after graduation, how many students go into service-oriented careers, or how many graduate college without debt. Although these measurements would not immediately raise the universities' rank by traditional standards – such as the median standard salary or number of graduates working with Fortune 500 companies – these new metrics would recognize students who are creating social capital, reinvesting their knowledge and skills in their communities . In doing so,  universities would graduate students who will spread the influence of higher education institutions in unforseen ways.

By measuring success using new, more complete metrics we can map the way to a different post-graduation future and, perhaps, begin offering other opportunities for high school students before they even start their college searches. 

This is the fourth post in a series where we share the  conversations between higher education leaders that came together during Everyone a Changemaker Week. They discussed the role of social innovation as a significant lever for the relevancy of higher education in a time when many claim that colleges and universities are becoming obsolete. This series delves into how higher education may be our best bet for empowering society to innovate at the rate the world is changing.