5 Trends Shaping Higher Education in 2018

Last updated on: January 12, 2022

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Adapting to the rapid changes in higher education requires the tracking and understanding of domestic and international shifts. This is no small task. Fortunately, author and higher education administrator of more than forty years, Marguerite J. Dennis, has researched the trends currently shaping higher education and provided the following list of the changes she believes deserve the most consideration:

See the biggest trends currently shaping the higher education landscape. U.S. higher education enrollment continues to decline: 

Since 2014, national college enrollments have declined 7.9 percent. For example, according to survey findings, student enrollment is on the decline, which is greatly impacting colleges and universities. Inside Higher Ed found that only 34% of institutions met enrollment goals in 2017 (declining from 37% in 2016 and 42% in 2015); and The Chronicle of Higher Education found that 44% of public colleges and 55% of private colleges missed their enrollment goals in 2017. For-profit schools, community colleges, and state-supported colleges and universities have been hit the hardest. This could mean trouble for several tuition-driven schools with low endowments and weak brand-name recognition.

Online learning continues to grow: 

A recent report conducted by Babson Research Group and the Online Learning Consortium, shows continued growth in the number of students taking courses online. For example, in 2015, more than one in four students (28%) were taking at least one distance education course, and that has only increased. In addition, the majority of institutions plan to increase their online offerings within the next year. Online offerings may present one way to increase enrollment and the bottom line.

Competency-based education is booming: 

Acceptance of competency-based learning, a system of instruction, assessment, grading, and academic reporting that is based on students demonstrating that they have learned the knowledge and skills they are expected to learn as they progress through their education, is growing. At least 600 institutions of higher learning are planning to implement competency-based degree programs. That’s up from 50 schools with active programs in 2014.

Tuition discounting is up, but unsustainable: 

According to recent studies from the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), tuition discounting at private, nonprofit institutions is up, and tuition revenue is straining to keep up (especially at a time when enrollment is low). Most business officers consider the current discounting figures unsustainable. For example, the rising discount rate meant that essentially half the tuition and fee revenue that private, nonprofit colleges collected from first-time freshmen in 2017-18 went to awarding institutional financial aid.

Tuition-free programs expand: 

Since May 2017, multiple new tuition-free college programs have been offered to low-income students. The Boston Bridge program in Massachusetts is one of them, pooling over 21,000 applicants only days after opening the application window. Time will tell whether this trend continues to gain traction.

The trends above suggest higher education administrators must be willing to explore new strategies to adapt to shifting learning and business models. Read the full article from Enrollment Management Report to learn how several institutions are reacting to these trends.

For more higher education trends and approaches to change, including strategies some CAOs are taking to increase institutional value, visit our Resources page.

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