Home Associations & Accreditations APSCU to Focus on all Post-Secondary Career Education Regardless of Corporate Structure
APSCU to Focus on all Post-Secondary Career Education Regardless of Corporate Structure

APSCU to Focus on all Post-Secondary Career Education Regardless of Corporate Structure


Interview with Steve Gunderson, President and CEO, APSCU


We recently read that APSCU may be moving forward with a new mission along with some new strategies; can you elaborate?

I do no know whether it is a new mission or whether it is one that we will hopefully better articulate. The reality is that the mission of this sector was, is, and perhaps always should be post-secondary career education. I think in recent years, and certainly our detractors have helped frame this conversation in that way, is one about the corporate structure of the school, rather than the mission of the school. What we want to do, is we want to lift up what we believe is not only an important but an incredibly growing mission, which is the design and delivery of post-secondary career education at a time when we are looking at between 65 and 85 percent of all jobs in America require some level of post-secondary education and at a time where between 80 and 90 percent of all people who pursue post-secondary education do so to prepare themselves for jobs in careers.


Will there be any change in the structure and purpose of APSCU?

I think there will be a change in who we are, what we do, and how we do it. It all centers on the real focus, becoming the national and global experts on post-secondary career education.

We will seek members, regardless of their corporate status, engaged in this common mission.

We seek to be the voice, the research center, the place of expertise in supporting those institutions that are engaged in the delivery of relevant, emerging post-secondary career education and skills. As a result of that, how will we change? I think we change to some degree in terms of what we lift up, what we emphasize. This is not just about private sector education, although that will be an incredibly important part, this is all about the mission and the outcomes of our schools. As we focus on that, we hope to eliminate what we think are ridiculous debates about what the school is, their corporate structure, and focus on what the school does.


Could you articulate a few of your short and long-term strategic goals?

We do not change the short-term. We have two or three priorities in our short-term as an association. Government relations are first and foremost, because we serve a student body that is dependent upon financial aid programs in order to have access to education. At the same time we also focus on communications as the voice of the sector and we focus on professional development, which I happen to believe is of growing importance. We need to be able to identify what are the emerging skill demands and how do we convert those skill demands into academic programming. That is a place where the Association can serve the sector at large.

In the long-term, it is a little bit different in terms of what we want to do. I think what becomes important is to not only look at where we are at, but where we go. I want to lift up two areas in particular. First, we need to become the center for post-secondary career education. We want people to think and trust us as the knowledge based, cutting edge place for information, academic programming, professional development, convening, etc.

The second part is recognizing that in a global, knowledge based economy if we are serious about post-secondary career education we must also be serious about going global. I share with many of our members and colleagues that once we solve the current challenges at the federal level within the United States, my hope is that this Association and its programming can go global.


Do you see a potential name change for the organization?

It is an interesting question. I have had the privilege of leading this organization for the last four years and I went to the board in July and said I do not know that I have ever said to you something was essential for us as a tool in moving forward in the strategy that we all envision; but, I think a name change is one of those rare essential items. Not because the name we have is necessarily bad, although no one understands what APSCU stands for, and even if you give the words it does not help, because that name no longer defines either our mission or our membership.

If our mission is the design and delivery of excellence in post-secondary career education the current name does not reflect that mission.

If we welcome all schools engaged in the common mission regardless of their corporate structure, whether they be public, private nonprofit, private for-profit or they be something else, then we can no longer say we are just private sector, because we are not, we are more than that.


Have there been any thoughts of a potential name?

I had a lot of fun with my colleagues in the office a couple of days ago, when I encouraged them to submit some ideas. I have a page and a half of ideas. What we are going to do, which I think is exactly the right thing to do, is, we are going to thoughtfully consider what is the right name that both defines what we do, who we are, and where we are going. For that reason I think there is a general consensus that while Career College Association comes close to defining who we are, many people also see it as a step back to a name of the past. Clearly in today’s era you want to look to the future, you do not want to move backward.


Who is your target audience for membership?  

You first start with your strengths. There are between 500 and 600 private sector colleges and universities in the United States that for various reasons have chosen not to belong to the Association. That is an obvious place to start. Second, we know that many of those schools have belonged to the
Association in the past. Some have dropped off because they did not feel that it was the right fit. Some have dropped off for other reasons. Obviously we want to reach out to them and bring them back. You start with your strengths.

But beyond that, as we become more and more the expert on post-secondary career education, we believe that the services we will provide will be an important benefit to schools regardless of their corporate structure if that school is engaged in post-secondary career education. We want to redefine and better communicate who we are in ways that make all members comfortable and literally eliminates this whole debate about the organizing structure of the educational institution.


What is your plan to attract new membership? How will you accomplish this plan?           

One of the things the board has done for us in the short-term is they have offered us an opportunity to have a first-time, one-time incentive pricing for people to join the Association. If you are not a member of APSCU today, you can join APSCU for that first year at a reduced rate to really see what we do. There is probably no better time to join than now because there is not a more important time, from a government relations perspective, than the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Second, one of my goals is to rebuild our annual convention so that it is seen as being to our sector what CES is to the consumer electronics sector. So that everyone engaged in the delivery of career education in America, and hopefully globally, will increasingly see our annual convention as the convening you must attend to learn exactly what is happening, what are the emerging skill demands, what are the best cutting edge academic delivery tools and techniques that are out there, etc. Those are the ways we do it.


Can you tell us specific things that new members could expect from their membership now or in the future?

I used this analogy a couple of years ago, and it holds true today that if a school would calculate what we currently charged in membership dues and contrast that with the amount of financial aid their students receive, I think the cost of membership in our Association is about $8.00 per student. Investing $8.00 in our ability to be the voice and the protector of this sector and its programs and Title IV financial aid is a pretty darn good deal.

I would put our government relations team up against any in the country in terms of its knowledge, expertise, access, and frankly influence, in terms of post-secondary career education. We start with government relations because it was, is, and I think always will be the foundation of who we are and what we offer these schools. With the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, we will define what those programs and benefits and opportunities are for the students in our sector, for at least the next six years, if not longer. So it is incredibly important to what we do right now. In addition to government relations, we are probably the place to go on compliance information.

We provide a long series of communication services to our schools, because we really are the sole voice of the sector at the federal/national level. It is not only being the voice, but it is doing the research that provides the schools with the comparative information, the data, the analytics that they need to be effective and have that same communication with their local media, with their local leadership, with their business community, with their students, with their policymakers, etc.

The third thing is in this area of professional development.

As I have said we really see an incredibly important role for us in professional development at a time when the pace of change in careers and career education is so incredibly fast.

Those are the three areas that define any association but they really define the benefits that you can get from us as the only national association for this sector.


APSCU filed a notice of intent to appeal the District Court ruling in APSCU v. Duncan. Can you give us any updates on this?

We have reached an agreement with the Department on what we believe is the appropriate schedule for the appeal. That has been submitted to the court. We are hoping that we can have an expedited consideration of the appeal so that everyone will know where things are, hopefully, by the end of this year. We cannot speak for the court in terms of how fast they move, but we clearly want to resolve this as soon as we can.


What can people expect from the 2016 convention?

When you consider the changes that are going on in the sector and how those changes are being reflected by the changes within the Association, the 2016 convention will really become the place where we unveil the future of the sector, who it is, what it is, where it is going, etc. We will also likely be doing that at a time when Congress will have substantially completed its work on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Now, you notice I did not say Congress would have it completed. We could be gathering in Florida, June 2016, at a time when literally the House and Senate are in conference on the final issues. Sometime before the 2016 election, everybody believes that we will have reauthorization. We will have a pretty good idea of what the House and Senate reauthorization bills are going to look like and we will have a real opportunity to collectively come together to talk about the future of the sector. If that is not an exciting place to be, I am not sure what would be.


What do you see for the future of the career education sector in general, in five years, in 10 years?

I think it is good to separate the two because in five years we will be dealing with the retirement of the baby-boom generation. You have seen the statistics that by 2025 we are looking at 55 million new workers in the workplace and 32 million will replace retiring baby boomers and of that 32 million 65 percent of those jobs require some level of post-secondary career education. The other 23 million will take new jobs that do not even exist today. Of those 23 million, literally 85 percent of those jobs require some level of post-secondary career education.

So you will see in the short-term a significant recovery in growth, in the design and delivery and focus on post-secondary career education.

10 years from now, I really believe that career education will become an international conversation and that when we gather for our convention in 2026, you will see roughly 30 percent or more of those in attendance will come from other countries outside of the United States.


Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers or the sector?

The one other thing that I did not say earlier that I think becomes increasingly important, and something our sector needs to talk more and more about and that is the incredible importance of policymakers at the federal level recognizing that American can never create or recreate a middle class with 2 percent annual growth rate in the private economy. China has had an annual growth rate of over 7 percent every year. We are in the slowest recovery rate of any major downturn in the American economy, in history, at 2 percent annual growth rates. We need at least a 3 ½ to 4 percent growth rate in the economy in order to provide real opportunities for people to get real jobs with real incomes and a real chance at a middle class. It is really essential for our sector to engage not only in the educational conversation, but the economic conversation about the importance of private sector growth annually.


*Schools that would like to learn more about joining APSCU can visit www.apscu.org and click on membership or contact membership at membership@apscu.org.

Steve Gunderson

Steve Gunderson was named President and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities in January 2012. His appointment continues an entire career of leadership and engagement in the education and workforce investment challenges facing America’s citizens.

This commitment began at the age of 23, when he was first elected to the Wisconsin State Legislature. After three terms in Madison, Gunderson served 16 years in the U.S. Congress and was a recognized leader on education, employment policy, health care, human rights and agriculture issues. Following his career in public service, he was named the senior consultant and managing director of the Washington office of The Greystone Group, a strategic management and communications consulting firm. His portfolio centered around research, writing, speaking and consulting on the jobs revolution in America. He was the lead author of the book “The Jobs Revolution: Changing How America Works” and the sole author of “The New Middle Class: Creating Wages, Wealth and Opportunity in the 21st Century.”

Gunderson spent six years as President and CEO of the Council on Foundations. One of his many priorities at the Council was education and workforce investment. Under his leadership the Council created a division for Public-Private Partnerships where the National Fund for Workforce Solutions operates.

Gunderson graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a degree in Political Science, he then completed studies at Brown School of Broadcasting in Minneapolis. Steve serves on various nonprofit boards including Lutheran World Relief; The Gettysburg Theological Seminary; and The White House Fellows Selection Commission.

Contact Information: Steve Gunderson // President and CEO // APSCU // Phone: 202-336-6701 // president@apscu.org


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