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Atlantic Cape Hosts Scott Van Pelt Professional Development Speaker Series Discussion on the Future of Higher Education

02/14/2023 | Media Contact: David Zuba, Public Relations Manager and Copywriter | (609) 343-4933
Dr. Gaba and Dr. Katz with Scott Van Pelt

MAYS LANDING — Higher education has undergone considerable change recently as the proliferation of online learning has given students alternative pathways towards achieving their academic dreams and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, has disrupted the business-as-usual model that has sustained academia for more than 100 years.

Discussing the path forward in these ever-changing times was author, educator, higher education professional and New Jersey native Scott Van Pelt, who appeared at Atlantic Cape Community College’s Walter E. Edge Hall Theater on February 10 for a Speaker Series funded by the Atlantic Cape Foundation titled “The Future of Higher Education: A Time for Leadership” before college faculty and staff, as well as college professionals from throughout the state.

In her opening remarks, Atlantic Cape President Dr. Barbara Gaba stated that “a lot of the things that Scott will talk about were already in the works, but when the pandemic hit it really brought into focus a lot of these issues. The major trends and clear realities facing higher education right now are the broad forces driving change: demographic, economic and technological.”

Van Pelt, who is currently an associate director in the Communication Program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a graduate of Teachers College at Columbia University with an M.A. and Ed.M. in Higher and Postsecondary Education, collaborated with Dr. Arthur Levine, a Distinguished Scholar of Higher Education at New York University, on the book titled “The Great Upheaval: Higher Education’s Past, Present and Uncertain Future.”

Scott Van Pelt speaking at Atlantic Cape“Our world is changing, our economy, our nature of work is changing and so many other sectors have been impacted and disrupted, and they have already changed,” Van Pelt said. “We are at a point where we are seeing new competitors, new providers, and if higher education doesn’t step up to meet the needs of the 21st century learner then someone else will.”

Adapting to the needs and desires of today’s learners and remaining nimble in the face of uncertainty are just a couple of the keys to ensuring a successful transition into a higher education atmosphere that is faced with four key realities. Competition for a learner’s attention is crowded by new distributors and providers who are able to offer non-traditional, flexible, 24/7 low-cost educational models and today’s students also prefer to learn at their own pace compared to the higher education model that is rooted in strict lengths of time.

“We need to consider our learners and how they have changed. Flexibility is paramount for today’s learners,” Van Pelt said.  He stated that recent surveys show that four out of five students today feel that the pandemic has changed their expectations of higher education, that 85% of U.S. students enjoy the flexibility of online learning and 75% would keep looking for the right educational opportunity if they didn't find it at first.

Van Pelt also acknowledged that the pandemic erased nearly 20 years of gains in equity and diversity in higher education. Equity is vital because it helps “ensure equal access to the same learning outcomes to achieve the same result.” The pandemic also brought to the forefront the exceptional digital divide that still exists among minority households as African Americans and Hispanics had 9% and 15% less adequate access to the internet, respectively, compared to other families.

The years ahead will bring extraordinary change, but it is an exciting time. Higher education must remember that a return to business “as usual” is not an option, that tomorrow will bring new challenges and that institutions of higher learning must ensure that they stand out from the crowd by understanding the communities they belong to and cultivating relationships. We cannot think about the future of higher education without putting the learners front and center.



About Atlantic Cape Community College

Atlantic Cape is a comprehensive two-year community college serving the residents of Atlantic and Cape May counties. The college offers over 40 career, transfer and workforce development programs to more than 8,000 students annually at three campuses in New Jersey: Atlantic City, Cape May Court House and Mays Landing.


About Atlantic Cape Community College Foundation

Atlantic Cape established the Foundation in 1978 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity to build a broad base of financial support for its programs and services. Foundation members are drawn from local industry and small businesses and represent a broad cross-section of active leaders in the community. The Foundation has raised more than $5 million for scholarships, Foundation operations and to enhance academic programs and the campus environment. Annually, the Foundation provides nearly $600,000 for institutional scholarships, grants and emergency help.