Rounds with Leadership: Scanning the Higher Education Landscape

AACN Board Chair Cynthia McCurren and AACN CEO Deborah Trautman

Welcome to Rounds with Leadership, a forum for AACN’s Board Chair and President/CEO to offer commentary on issues and trends impacting academic nursing.

AACN is committed to serving as the authoritative source of knowledge to advance academic nursing. To achieve this strategic goal, staff routinely scan the horizon for any new developments in higher education that would be of interest to member schools and potentially impel AACN to take action.

Several concerns are generating much conversation in academic circles these days, including the increasing costs of higher education, the impact of the pandemic on student mental health and college readiness, leveraging AI and smart technology, sustaining enrollment levels, adapting to changes in student demographics, and maintaining unity despite increasing political partisanship. AACN recently released a statement in response to state-led legislative challenges to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) that is reshaping initiatives underway at many colleges and universities. We will continue to monitor this emerging development and other important issues – including the upcoming Supreme Court decision on race-conscious admissions – to provide advocacy and support on behalf of our member schools.

Critical to AACN’s work to synthesize and respond to higher education issues is our long-time affiliation with the Washington Higher Education Secretariat (WHES). For more than 20 years, AACN has helped to advance change through this collaboration of top leaders from more than 40 national higher education associations, which is convened monthly by the American Council on Education. With AACN’s President/CEO serving as our representative to this group, WHES focuses on federal policy initiatives relevant to the broader higher education community and provides a venue for conversations on major education policy initiatives. In addition, AACN’s government affairs and policy team tracks new developments from the U.S. Department of Education to identify funding opportunities, federal policy and rule changes, and available resources that will help AACN’s member schools meet their missions.

AACN’s work to inform members about key issues in higher education includes:

  • Offering conference sessions and webinars focused on trends in higher education, including a special panel presentation at the Academic Nursing Leadership Conference in October featuring thought leaders.
  • Advocating for legislation that supports higher education and schools of nursing.
  • Sharing summaries of new reports and journal articles on topical issues in higher education in our newsletters and on social media.

The AACN Board of Directors will be considering current trends in higher education at its upcoming meeting in July, including opportunities to take action. For those seeking more in-depth updates on the current state of higher education, here is a sampling of available sources that you might find helpful:

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education has released a six-part 2023 Trends Report on higher education, which is accessible online.
  • The American Council of Education offers a free Higher Education & National Affairs newsletter that covers breaking news and federal policies impacting college campuses nationwide.
  • The U.S. Department of Education publishes a blog titled Homeroom, which features insights from policy analysts on emerging issues in education.
  • Inside Higher Ed offers a variety of free newsletters covering general education news, student success, DEI, admissions, and other priority topics.