The Changing Landscape of Education and Healthcare Philanthropy

Ben H.

Hatched by Ben H.

Jun 29, 2023

4 min read


The Changing Landscape of Education and Healthcare Philanthropy


In recent years, there has been a shift in the choices made by high-school graduates and the funding strategies employed by healthcare providers. The combination of a strong labor market for less-educated workers and a growing trend of questioning the value of a college degree has led to a decline in college enrollment rates. Additionally, healthcare organizations, like Henry Ford Health, are turning to philanthropy to support their operations and expansion. These developments reflect the changing dynamics of the education and healthcare sectors.

Declining College Enrollment Rates:

According to the latest Labor Department data, the college enrollment rate for recent U.S. high-school graduates has declined to 62% in 2020 from 66.2% in 2019. This trend can be attributed to the brighter prospects for blue-collar jobs in a historically strong labor market for less-educated workers. Many high-school graduates are opting for immediate employment opportunities instead of pursuing higher education. This shift in mindset raises questions about the perceived value of a college degree and its relevance in the current job market.

Diminishing Confidence in the Value of a College Degree:

The decline in college enrollment rates can also be attributed to a growing sentiment among Americans that a college degree is not worth the high cost. A Wall Street Journal-NORC poll revealed that most Americans do not believe that a college degree guarantees success or financial stability. This erosion of confidence in the value of a college education marks a significant departure from the long-standing belief that obtaining a degree is essential for achieving the American dream. The changing perception of the worth of a college degree is indicative of the shifting priorities and aspirations of high-school graduates.

Healthcare Philanthropy for Operational Support:

The case of Henry Ford Health highlights the increasing reliance of healthcare providers on philanthropy for operational support. Henry Ford Health, in its 108-year history, has launched its largest fundraising campaign to support the $1.8 billion expansion of its Detroit hospital. This move raises questions about the financial sustainability of healthcare organizations and the role of philanthropy in bridging the funding gap. As prominent healthcare providers turn to philanthropy to operate, it reflects a market-based approach where organizations seek external funding to support their initiatives.

The Role of Philanthropy in Healthcare:

Health systems across the country, such as the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and Johns Hopkins, have long recognized the importance of philanthropy in supporting their operations and research endeavors. These institutions often employ hundreds of fundraising or development employees to secure the necessary funds. The University of Michigan's Michigan Medicine serves as an example in Southeast Michigan, with significantly higher fundraising numbers than Henry Ford Health. The reliance on philanthropic efforts underscores the need for alternative funding sources in an era of rising healthcare costs and evolving reimbursement models.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Embrace vocational training: High-school graduates should consider vocational training programs that provide specialized skills and prepare them for in-demand blue-collar jobs. These programs can offer a viable alternative to traditional college education and lead to fulfilling and financially rewarding careers.
  • 2. Reevaluate the value of a college degree: Before making a decision about pursuing higher education, individuals should carefully assess the potential return on investment. Consider alternative pathways, such as community college or online courses, that offer more affordable options while still providing valuable skills and knowledge.
  • 3. Advocate for affordable education: The declining confidence in the value of a college degree highlights the need for policymakers and educational institutions to address the rising costs of higher education. Advocacy for affordable education and financial aid reforms can make college more accessible and financially viable for a broader range of students.


The changing landscape of education and healthcare philanthropy reflects the evolving priorities and challenges faced by high-school graduates and healthcare providers. The decline in college enrollment rates signifies a shift in perception about the value of a degree in a robust labor market for less-educated workers. Simultaneously, healthcare organizations turn to philanthropy as a market-based approach to secure funding for operational support and expansion. As the education and healthcare sectors continue to transform, it is crucial to adapt to these changes, embrace alternative pathways, and advocate for affordable education to ensure a more inclusive and sustainable future.

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