In 2018, higher education grappled with declining enrollments, financial uncertainties and unique localized challenges. But the year is over and as we look at trends in higher education for 2019, it helps to remember a quote from Charles Darwin:
“The species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”
With that said, here are a few things to keep an eye on (and embrace!) in the coming year:
1. Virtual Reality Will Grow as an Educational Tool
Virtual reality (VR) technology isn’t just the latest craze in the video game world; it’s now available in almost half of all U.S. colleges.
Educators are always looking for new pedagogical approaches to increase student engagement in an on-campus and online environment, so the adoption of this technology makes total sense. In fact, a study from the University of Warwick found that students “had a higher positive emotional response to the VR learning method” compared to textbook and video methods.
In college settings, VR devices can be used for everything from creating virtual lab facilities for chemical experiments to simulating medical procedures. K-12 schools are also adding VR strategies to their lesson plans, which means students will likely enter the post-secondary world with an expectation that the technology will be readily available.
2. Online Education Will Get Even Better
Arguably the biggest improvement to higher education, online learning has transformed the way we think of going to school. In fact, 1/3 of higher education students now take at least one class online.
You might be asking yourself how online programs could possibly get any more convenient. Well, many reputable institutions are exploring new avenues for online education. Here are two examples:
- Arizona State University now allows students to take their first year of college completely online with some added benefits through their Global Freshman Academy. The program has a “try before you buy” rule that lets students pay for their courses at the end of the term, but only if they’re happy with their grade and want the academic credit.
- Acknowledging the ever-growing cost of education, the University of Pennsylvania has partnered with the online learning platform Coursera to offer a master’s degree in computer and information technology for 1/3 of the cost of their on-campus degree. That’s an Ivy League graduate degree, available fully online, for a fraction of the normal cost!
3. The Economy Will Continue to Affect Enrollments
For community colleges specifically, enrollments tend to increase during times of economic uncertainty.
Take the recession of 2007 to 2009 as an example. There was a 33% increase in enrollment at two-year colleges between 2006 and 2011 — otherwise known as the years when unemployment was high and the U.S. economy was low.
In 2010, 29% of all college students were enrolled in a community college. However, this fell to 25% by 2015 (when the recession was over), which was lower than the pre-recession average of 26%.
As of the beginning of 2019, the economy is healthy and many community colleges (and even universities) are experiencing a decline in enrollments. While the state of the economy is outside the control of college leadership, following market trends and institutional patterns can help avoid any surprises.
4. College Leadership Will Continue to Change
The American College President Study has found that the average tenure for college presidents dropped from 8.5 years in 2006 to 6.5 years in 2016. This decline could have a lot to do with our previous note on declining enrollments, as well as funding issues that many higher education institutions across the country are facing.
The demographics of college presidents are also changing, although at a much slower pace than in other industries. In 2016, females made up 30% of college presidents while minorities made up 17%. Both of these numbers are only a 4% increase from 2011. White males in their early 60s still hold the majority of these positions, but with declining tenure averages, we could see some more drastic shifts in the near future.
5. Colleges Will Rely More on Data
Of course, we only know about the above information because of data. Universities, colleges and community colleges are relying more and more on data to get a better understanding of where their institution stands and how it can move forward. This is especially important during a time when declining enrollments are an increasing concern.
The power of data for the higher education industry is tremendous. From student demographics like race and gender to course success and disproportionate impact rates, everything you need to know about your institution is fully accessible through data sets. Why are enrollments declining for ENG 101? Why is a specific cohort struggling in MAT 103? By using data to identify trends, you can easily gain the context you need to identify a wide range of problems and strategize solutions.
However, managing all this data is no easy feat. To take advantage of this information, colleges and universities need to adopt an efficient method to collect, store and utilize data. With so many disparate sets of information across various departments, thousands of students and hundreds of employees, the best tool is a higher education analytics software program. With the right program, your data can be automatically organized into a single platform to provide visual insights into your institution’s success.
Through 2019 and beyond, Precision Campus is prepared to equip your institution with sophisticated data analytics capabilities to help you stay ahead of the trends. Contact us to learn more or sign up for free here.