The Future of Higher Education Hinges on Educating the 21st Century Professional

As a co-founder of Jiffy Lube in 1979, we faced a complicated problem that had a simple solution. How do you reduce half-a-day of service time to 10 minutes?

The idea of preventative car care was catching on, and we wanted to turn wasted Saturday afternoons at the car dealership into a quick and painless experience. Yet, the hydraulic lifts used to service cars were slow and complicated. And once you had the oil changed, a full-service experience would require work under the hood and in the interior of the car.

We soon hit on a winning idea that seems obvious now. Drive the car over an opening in the floor and have three technicians work on it all at once—one underneath, one under the hood and one in the interior. Jiffy Lube was on its way.

Years later, I still tell this story as an example of a concept in business that is important in entrepreneurship called the “service delivery system.” The SDS is the method you use to deliver your product or service in a way that meets the demand in the market. It’s how you fill your customer’s needs. At Jiffy Lube, our SDS involved a bi-level maintenance bay. Now as the president of Philadelphia University, I believe we have developed a service delivery system that is revolutionizing the higher education industry.

Review the recently released Association of American Colleges and Universities survey, “It Takes More than a Major: Employer Priorities for College Learning and Student Success” and you will see a clear picture of the demand in today’s workplace. With survey results from more than 300 employers, the report demonstrates that employers are looking for a specific kind of college graduate to meet their needs.

More than 95 percent of employers prefer “college graduates with the skills that will enable them to contribute to innovation in the workplace.” We need graduates who learn in real-world settings, who think critically and can solve real problems—graduates who can communicate and collaborate. While two-in-three employers think that college graduates are prepared for entry-level jobs, less than half (44 percent) believe those graduates have the kind of education they need to advance to higher level positions.

At Philadelphia University, our vision is to be the model for professional university education in the 21st century. We believe we have a service delivery system that meets the needs of the market. It’s what we call Nexus Learning—it’s active, collaborative, connected to the real-world and infused with the liberal arts. It permeates every aspect of University, and over the last six years, as we have formalized this approach, we are seeing the benefits.

We are the first to acknowledge that our curriculum is different. If you’re a graphic design major at PhilaU, you will take classes and work on projects with business students and engineers. If you are an architecture student, you will work with interior designers and sustainability students. We have found that intense, project-based, active learning across majors and disciplines leads to the kind of educational outcomes that are treasured in the 21st century work world. And surveys like the one mentioned above and an earlier survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education continue to conclude that it is this type of learning, more than any other, that produces the kinds of next-generation leaders that employers are eager to hire.

So, what does this mean for the future of higher education? You would be hard pressed to find a car service company in the U.S. these days that does not have a bi-level maintenance bay. Jiffy Lube proved that it works. Philadelphia University is doing the same with Nexus Learning.

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One Response to The Future of Higher Education Hinges on Educating the 21st Century Professional

  1. I was extremely pleased to discover this great site “”… I want to to thank you for your time for this wonderful read which shows how Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.!! I definitely loved every part of it and i also have you bookmarked to check out new stuff in your website. It’s nearly impossible to find educated people about this topic, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

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