A survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education & P3•EDU reveals a significant uptick in the prevalence of public-private partnerships (P3s) on college and university campuses, with 75% of surveyed Presidents/Chancellors, Provosts, and CFOs noting a noticeable increase in such collaborations.

Citing unique competencies/superior service to in-house alternatives (74%), and speed of execution/speed to market (50%), higher education leaders view private sector partners as key resources in creating better, more competitive student experiences.

These findings were at the forefront of discussions during the Innovation and Public-Private Partnership in Higher Education event held at University of Colorado, Denver Sept 27 - 29. P3•EDU, an exclusive gathering for higher education leaders and other stakeholders from government, associations, foundations, and corporations, provided a platform to delve into these trends and exchange best practices in the realm of P3s within higher education.

Image of P3•EDU conference panel with quote that says, "Partnerships are a valuable tool to improve outcomes and accelerate projects."

A History of P3s in Higher Education

P3s in higher education are formal arrangements between public and private sector entities that work together to achieve shared goals. These partnerships can take many forms, from relatively simple contracts for specific services to complex joint ventures that involve shared ownership and management of assets.

P3s have been used in higher education for many years, but their popularity has grown significantly in recent decades. This is due to several factors, including rising costs, declining public funding, and increasing competition from private sector providers.

The earliest examples of P3s in higher education were typically focused on the provision of auxiliary services, such as student housing, dining, and parking. For example, in the mid-20th century, the P3 development model originated as a structured business partnership between educational institutions and private developers/operators.

In the initial stages, the college or university would usually contribute the land, while the developer/operator took charge of designing, constructing, financing, owning, and/or managing the asset.

Current Trends

P3s have emerged as catalysts for transformative change, addressing various facets of the educational ecosystem, from student success and health to innovative approaches in technology adoption and funding models.

These partnerships can offer several benefits for both universities and the private sector. For universities, P3s help to reduce costs, access private sector expertise and resources, share risk, and accelerate projects. For the private sector, P3s offer the opportunity to generate revenue, invest in long-term assets, and gain access to public sector markets.

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Envisioning the Future of P3s

As a key partner to universities in health care education, Evidence In Motion (EIM) actively participated in P3•EDU. Represented by CEO Pradeep Khandelwal, COO Mallory Schindler, and EIM Co-founder John Childs, the event provided an opportunity for EIM to engage with the latest developments in the space, share insights, and contribute to the ongoing discourse about the future of higher education.

Image of P3•EDU conference session with quote that says, "Higher education is transforming, and P3s play a vital role, from student success and health to innovative approaches in technology adoption and funding models."

Two Key Takeaways From P3•Edu 2023:

1. Technological Changes

One of the prominent discussions at P3•EDU revolved around the transformative potential of Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the realm of education. The application of Generative AI holds promise in enhancing individual productivity while simultaneously reducing technology expenses.

Institutions are exploring its use in diverse areas such as project management, tutoring (particularly in writing), and the assessment and analysis of research papers and grant contracts. This innovative application of AI signals a paradigm shift in how technology can be leveraged to augment the educational experience.

2. Cost of Education

A noteworthy revelation at the event was the changing landscape of funding in education. Traditionally, students bore the brunt of educational costs, but the tide is turning. Employers are increasingly taking on a more significant role in funding education and training.

Initiatives such as tuition reimbursement, education as a benefit, and degree and non-degree apprenticeships are becoming prevalent. This shift not only alleviates the financial burden on students but also strengthens the connection between education and the workforce, ensuring alignment with industry needs.

The Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, James Kvall, a key speaker at P3•EDU, discussed present initiatives aimed at reducing student debt. One notable initiative is the push for free community college, an effort to make higher education more accessible and affordable.

Final Thoughts

Amidst these positive strides, a significant concern echoed throughout the event is the impending decline in the number of college-aged students in the United States—known as the 2025 enrollment cliff. This foreboding challenge underscores the urgency for collaborative and innovative solutions to sustain and grow enrollment rates.

As we reflect on P3•EDU 2023, it is evident that the future of higher education is undergoing a transformative shift. P3s are instrumental in the context of this change, addressing critical issues, and fostering collaborative solutions. EIM's participation in the event reinforces its commitment to being at the forefront of these conversations, contributing insights, and actively engaging in shaping the future of education.

Navigating the horizon of higher education will require collaboration, technology integration, and a reevaluation of funding models to create an educational landscape that is responsive to the evolving needs of students, institutions, and the workforce.

Connect with us today to learn more about how EIM’s innovative methods can support graduate growth plans at your institution.