Top Ten Trends Changing the Face of Higher Ed

Within the past month I attended a university board meeting as a Trustee as well as the New York State Community College Business Officers Association meeting. Whether a two-year, four-year, private or public institution, there are some changing trends that are underway that will change the face and financial well-being of a higher Ed institution over the next several years.

The top ten change agents I see developing are as follows:

  1. The demographics of college students are changing. The two largest areas of growth are (a) the first student in a family to attend college and (b) students who are 25 years old and up.

  2. High school students are fewer and declining in number, creating a more competitive marketplace for colleges and universities to attract and retain students.

  3. Health issues are increasing among a greater number of students, requiring the allocation of more resources for their physical and mental health needs.

  4. Alternative methods of teaching will continue to develop with advanced technology. Though online demand will continue to grow, it will not replace the on-campus experience for undergraduates.

  5. Financial considerations will encourage collaboration between institutions and may lead to an increase in mergers.

  6. Four-year institutions will continue to need community colleges as a feeder for its enrollment needs. However, community colleges should coordinate and offer   courses that might not be available at certain times for undergrads at four year institutions to meet necessary requirements.

  7. Institutions will start enticing students at a younger age, even as early as their freshman year of high school.

  8. Given the growth of technology, new types of degrees will need to be developed and offered to meet the growing needs of for-profit and non-profit employers.

  9. Financial strains will lead to some hard choices by college administrators and faculties around the type of degrees or professional development assistance that should be offered.

  10. All departments/schools in college and universities will start to be considered their own “line of business” with a need to justify their bottom line and course offerings.

The environment for higher Ed is challenging, but it is also very exciting.  Personally I believe that one of the largest markets for higher Ed to pursue is the baby boomer sector, those between the ages of 50 to 75.  This group is not looking to retire, but rather is seeking second careers in areas they are passionate about. Earlier on, when they entered the workforce back in the ’70s and ’80s, circumstances did not allow them to do this. They now have the money to spend for on-campus life and online experiences without creating any stress on these institutions for discounts, scholarships, or student loans. In addition, these seniors can serve as great mentors for younger students who require greater support—and can also lead the way for planned giving to their institutions of choice.

Yes, the face of higher Ed is changing, but there are growth opportunities for those institutions that embrace the changing demographics and business-like practices that make a difference.