Innovation in a Heavily Regulated Environment


Paul LeBlanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University offers an insightful and realistic approach to the continued demand for innovation in higher education in his blog post “Strange Bedfellows: How to Think about Innovation in a World of Regulation.”  LeBlanc concedes that while, “higher education badly needs genuine innovation and breakthrough models, if innovators want to gain access to Title IV funds and be accepted into (the) higher education ecosystem, they need to consider the constraints of the regulatory system from the start.”

LeBlanc, the 2015 New Business Models department author and editor for EDUCAUSE review, sees the massive amounts of VC money going into ed-tech not just as sign that higher education is “ripe for disruption,” but as a signal to the larger population that higher ed “does not do its job well.” The result is that, as it has with the music business, photography or journalism, silicon valley sees yet another chance to disrupt. LeBlanc cautions those looking to hastily disrupt,  arguing that there are distinct differences between those businesses models and higher education.

LeBlanc likens higher education to health care, “a highly regulated industry with billions of dollars of federal aid and a shrinking flow of state support.” Building on this analogy, LeBlanc offers three observations for innovators. Suggesting that those innovators, who wish to be truly successful and have a lasting impact, must begin with the complex regulations that govern higher education and the dispersal of federal financial aid.

LeBlanc, on leave from SNHU, is currently Senior Policy Advisor to Under Secretary Ted Mitchell at the U.S. Department of Education, focusing on innovation and competency-based education. To read the complete article click here.


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