Strayer University’s president Brian W. Jones is optimistic about the future of for-profit higher education.
Jones is looking forward to advancing the institution by kickstarting new initiatives aimed at opening up accessibility for those seeking undergraduate degrees and to better equip students for the workforce.
With more than half of its students enrolled in online courses, Strayer University has 80 campuses in 24 U.S. states and offers undergraduate degrees as well as graduate degrees.
Jones said his priorities for the university include addressing the skills gap and innovating to better serve and support non-traditional students.
“Higher education institutions have not moved quickly enough to address the needs of students and employers,” Jones told Higher Education Tribune. “There’s a disconnect between the most sough-after skills in today’s marketplace and the skills students actually graduate with.”
Before joining Strayer, Jones co-founded and served as president of Latimer Education, Inc., a company that partnered with an historically black college to provide online postsecondary education to African American working adults.
“The fastest growing segment of students is adult learners, and Strayer University is built for the needs of these students,” Jones said. “Our students are often working full-time and supporting families, and coming to degree programs with very specific goals.”
Jones said there are unique programs in place to help non-traditional learners get comfortable with being students.
When asked about the biggest challenges facing higher education, Jones responded with affordability and career-readiness, which he is hoping to change through various programs at Strayer.
“Through our StrayerComplete initiative, we create innovative and alternative solutions for partner community college students to complete a four-year degree,” Jones said. “Interested students who are either pursuing or have already completed their associate degree can transfer all eligible credits to Strayer University, which will count toward a bachelor’s degree.”
In addition, Graduation Fund was implemented for Strayer students. Graduation Fund allows students to earn credit for free courses. Every three courses a student completes, he/she can receive a free course at the end of the degree program.
Strayer’s answer to student being ill prepared for a career of their choice is Strayer@Work.
Strayer@Work is a division of the university that works with companies to assess the skills gap and design degree programs that provide training for the missing skills.
“By developing these practical, customized degree programs, we’re continuing to find innovative ways to serve non-traditional students, and working to meet the needs of today’s employers and equip students to succeed in the modern workforce,” Jones said.
Jones attributes his passion for higher education to his father. Jones said his father started off with a high school diploma loading boxes into storage for State Farm Insurance but was encouraged to continue his education and earned a degree by going to school at night and eventually rose through the ranks at the company to become the first African American executive.
“His determination to seek a better life for himself and his family through a college degree inspired me to see the value in higher education,” Jones said. “I hope to help others see higher education as an attainable goal with a huge pay off.”
Jones joined the Strayer University team as general counsel before moving on to be part of the founding team of Strayer@Work and becoming president of the university in 2015.