Graduate and professional enrollment has seen its most dramatic growth in students attending full-time. Between 1985-86 and 2015-16 the number of full-time graduate and professional students will have more than doubled, and in 2015-16 will represent 57% of those enrolled at this level.
Source: “The Higher Education Landscape 2007″ CollegeBoard.com
This statistic from the College Board, an association of educational organizations, points to a continuing trend in this country. As a population, we are increasingly educated. And we place a high value on what used to be called continuing education, but is now more aptly termed “life-long learning.” This is true not only within our profession, but from the perspective of our clients. Because they are also more educated, they expect their advisors to develop and maintain true expertise.
When continuing education was first introduced to the financial and insurance profession, it was informal and wholly voluntary. As you might expect, at that time quality was the primary consideration. Members of the profession sought continuing education to keep abreast of new developments, better serve their clients, and differentiate themselves from their competition.
Over time, credentials and licenses were developed that required their holders to obtain a certain number of continuing education credits each year. In response, a variety of sources sought to fulfill the growing need for what had become known as Continuing Education, or CE, including professional organizations like the Society of Financial Service Professionals (FSP).
CE became a way to keep abreast of legislative and regulatory changes, new product development and implementation techniques. In addition – not surprisingly in our litigious society – many CE programs were, and continue to be, focused on helping practitioners meet ethical challenges and comply with regulatory requirements. This is important as laws like the Age Discrimination Equalization Act (ADEA) and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) are enacted, which impact conduct and restrict how we communicate with our clients.
But as CE became mandatory, it also became more formalized, more rigid, and ultimately, more commoditized. Quantity — in the form of the most credits for the least amount of money — became the hallmark of commercially available CE.
Today, we’re seeing this trend come full circle, perhaps in part as a result of the wide-spread social phenomenon that has led to recognition of professionals as people. We’re no longer expected to be automatons who march around doing something to earn money during weekdays, and we don’t expect our clients, colleagues, or staff members to behave that way either. This recognition has spawned such trends as “business casual” and workplaces where every one is on first name basis.
Becoming a Perpetual Student