Higher Ed in 2021

A Coffee Chat with Principals Bruce McKee and Jeff Jones

Happy New Year!  2020 was a tough and challenging year for many of us, certainly those of us operating in the higher education space.  It was uniquely a year that most of us are glad to have behind us.  Never have we seen so many significant, challenging situations — social, medical and environmental, all seemingly on top of each other, making 2020 a year that will likely have all of us looking ahead through a different lens than we have before.

A silver lining to the pandemic and unprecedented social unrest experienced throughout 2020, which has continued into 2021, is the impetus provided for the re-evaluation of principles and priorities that so many, including us at Capstone, are seriously thinking about and discussing.  Are we caught up in our own perspective, are our actions consistent with our words, and are we doing all that we can to be a positive influence and example in the current, challenging social and political environment?   Capstone often touts our Core Principles and we work hard to integrate those principles into our daily activities.  2020 has us reflecting — are we doing everything we can? Particularly as it relates to diversity and employee well-being, not to mention how we accomplish our service and partnership goals and objectives in this strange, new ‘zoom world’?

We are endeavoring to answer these questions, and we are looking forward to redoubling our positivity efforts for 2021.  It is a new year, and at CDP, we are taking the good and bad experiences from 2020 and using those to make ourselves and our company better and even more committed to our Core Principles.  We are also working to identify what pressures 2020 has put on universities, students and families across the country, and strategically exploring ways to use our experience and skillset to help both students and schools overcome the variety of challenges and situations that have resulted from the recent and ongoing uncertainty.

As of this month, we have officially announced our new Stepstone initiative, our currently modest but hopefully growing program intended to directly address and improve affordability in higher education.  Initiated in early 2020, this program was fortuitously timed and is already providing students with much needed financial support and assistance. We are also exploring initiatives intended 1) to help colleges and universities experiencing pandemic-exacerbated economic challenges in the context of persisting or growing capital project needs and 2) assist schools in improving their older, higher-density housing facilities that are currently only able to be partially occupied.

At Capstone, we do not believe there is a substitute for the valuable student and teacher interactions and relationships that are created and developed as part of a residential education and experience.  Nor do we believe that we as a country can make the social and/or political progress we need and hope to make in the years ahead without the vital, diverse interactions and exchanges that are encouraged, framed and accomplished on college campuses around our country and around the world.   That being said, it is our belief that all of us operating in the higher education space need to thoughtfully consider and re-evaluate both the near-term challenges in higher education, as well as longer term opportunities and goals. We believe that higher education has gone through a series of events and circumstances that will reshape the way we approach and think about education, economics, student living and community building.  The challenge is to rethink something that prior to a year ago was seemingly working very well.  The opportunity is to make it better and more sustainable, even when the next set of challenges appear.   Easy peezy–right?

Keeping all of the lessons of 2020 front of mind, as with everything we do at CDP, we believe that with proper intention and focus, strong partnerships, high levels of collaboration, and diverse, creative thought around shared goals, we will indeed find ways to make higher education more accessible, efficient, better and stronger than ever before.  We as a company are embracing these objectives and throughout 2021 and beyond we will be actively exploring, pursuing and implementing initiatives that will demonstrate our commitment to equity, inclusion, accessibility and student success. We look forward to working with you, our partners and team members, on this worthy journey!

Authors: Bruce McKee and Jeff Jones, Principals