ACE President and CEO Discusses How Debt and Inflation Are Changing the Way Students Think About College


November 09, 2023

Bianca Stakes

Bianca Stakes

Marketing Content and Communications Specialist

American College of Education®(ACE) President and CEO Geordie Hyland recently joined Ron J. Stefanski for an episode of the “DisruptEd” podcast, where he discussed today’s challenges in higher education and how ACE’s efforts offer solutions. The conversation started with a focus on accessible programming for nontraditional adult students, the primary population ACE serves.

Financial access to higher education remains a hot topic in today’s society after student loan debt payments resumed in October 2023. Hyland explained that accessibility can be viewed through a variety of lenses – cost and flexibility – both of which are significant benefits to online higher education.

Americans’ dwindling faith in higher education was a big point of discussion as the country endures a tuition inflation and student debt crisis that is creating a deterrent for student enrollment and degree completion. Hyland believes misplaced spending at institutions, irrelevant programming and faculty models that don’t put students first are also contributing. Specifically, online institutions suffer from negative stigmas around virtual learning environments after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Higher education making headlines with student debt payment resumption has painted earning a degree as an unpayable option. “I think that raising awareness about the impact of debt on people’s lives and then the process around debt relief just made it more topical in people’s minds,” Hyland said.

Hyland explained how ACE’s affordability, flexibility and credit for prior learning (CPL) models create access for more students to continue their education and advance their careers. He also unpacked how these models differ from that of traditional institutions by focusing on student ROI.

“The degrees that our learners take are directly tied to career advancement and also salary increases,” Hyland said. “So, often the payback period on their investment is 12 to 18 months, and those salary increases help with career advancement, but they also flow through pensions.”

Stefanski pointed out how ACE’s graduation rate exceeds 80%, and Hyland discussed that the factors mentioned previously – affordability, flexibility and quality – are what keep students at ACE through graduation. Also, ACE faculty are industry practitioners who teach material that teaches student real-world skills that are immediately applicable to the workplace.

Regarding the stigma that came to online learning over the pandemic, Hyland hopes to iterate that it was emergency remote learning, not online learning. The real benefits of higher learning include unified quality efforts through curriculum development models, ability to adapt to employer needs and access to student engagement data.

“It’s a healthy discussion to really look at the debt levels, the impact on students and graduates and models for making progress in the right direction,” Hyland said. Stefanski ended the conversation concluding that ACE is indeed a positive disruptor in the world of education.

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