by Donna Fuscaldo, Good Call: https://www.goodcall.com/education/future-of-higher-education/
Free college, online-driven education and aligning skills with
in-demand jobs are just some of the ways college may change in the
After all, with student loan debt in the trillions, college
graduates unprepared for entry-level positions and many people dropping
out before earning a degree, it’s become clear that something has to be
done to address higher education’s problems.
That’s not to say change isn’t already happening. Approaches to tackling the outsized student debt
and better preparing students for the rigors of the real world are
underway. But what will emerge from the fruits of these labors depends
on who you talk to.
With that in mind, GoodCall spoke with experts across the higher
education landscape to get a sense of what college will look like in
five, ten and twenty years. In some cases, they agreed, while at other
times their visions were very different. But one thing is for sure -
twenty years from now, higher education won’t going to look the same as
it does today.
More Focus on ROI
Students and families will focus more on college return on investment, affordability and student loan debt
Change takes time. And for higher education, there won’t be a
complete revolution in five years. However, there should be a lot of
progress, whether it’s in how students evaluate schools or how the
student debt crisis is handled. Take shopping for college, for starters.
During the next five years, students and families are expected to
become more savvy shoppers, weighing attributes that historically
haven’t been considered when deciding on what school to attend or what
kinds of degrees to pursue.
300-plus years, we evaluated the quality by the square footage of the
library or what exclusivity it has,” says Carol D’Amico, executive vice
president of National Engagement and Philanthropy with USA Funds, the
non-profit focused on increasing access to higher education. “The
quality of the consumer experience has not been part of the equation.”
Over the next five years, D’Amico sees a shift happening, where
potential students will weigh college return on investment, including
the outcomes of the past students, job prospects upon graduation and the
overall college experience more seriously than whether a school has a
state-of-the-art gym. Similar to how people get real-person reviews of
restaurants, doctors and other services, the same diligence will be
applied to shopping for college.
Becoming more discerning shoppers is also expected to help with the
student loan debt crisis. After all, students will know upfront that
spending $100,000 for a particular degree may not be worthwhile based on
the outcomes of the students before them.
During this election season, much has been discussed about the cost of a college education
and the more than $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. Presidential
hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders extolled the benefits of
free college, while politicians have been putting forth bills to help
students with their mounting debt. That progress is only going to
continue during the next five years, although it remains to be seen what
dent it will make in the overall problem (or whether free college will
become a reality.
“We’ve seen real improvement on college affordability in the last
five years,” says Natalia Abrams, executive director at
StudentDebtCrisis.org, the non-profit focused on changing the way we pay
for college. “I’m hopeful that we will have free college and completely
debt-free college, and we will see a strengthening of consumer
protections on the loan servicers’ side and a streamlining of repayment
programs.” Abrams also expects more of a crackdown on the cost of
college during the next five years in which state funding will be tied
to certain limits on what schools can charge for tuition.
Blending the Traditional and the Technological
Internet will play bigger role in learning
While the debate rages on about the need for a traditional college
degree, progress will continue to be made in marrying a traditional
college education with online classes. The Internet is increasingly
becoming a tool for colleges and universities around the country who see
the value it can bring.
“About 50 percent of all private colleges have some kind of online
program,” says David L. Warren, president of the National Association of
Independent Colleges and Universities. “A vast majority are blended
courses that utilize online education opportunities, but the brick and
mortar continues to be there.”
According to Warren, while the Internet will increasingly play a
larger role in how college students learn, schools will maintain a tight
connection between the online world and their physical campuses and
communities. What’s more, over time Warren sees an increase in
one-on-one learning with faculty members and the flexibility of how the
courses are offered.
Still, that doesn’t mean the blending of these two mediums will be
easy sailing. According to Avi Flombaum, dean of Flatiron School, the
New York-based coding school, the challenge will be in making sure
schools are creating programs that truly reflect how people learn. “Learning is social and knowledge is almost always transferred from person to person,” says Flombaum.
“In the future, the idea of community should be built into every
digital learning experience - students across the world supporting each
other, content improving the more people use it. And then, that should
seamlessly transition into the offline experience in the form of
co-learning, similar to today’s co-working spaces, where we know people
thrive,” Flombaum says.
But online learning won’t be the only driver of change to higher
education. Decreased funding on the part of states could create more
debt for low-income students attending public 4-year schools. This, in
turn, could drive students to look for cheaper alternatives. One that
may emerge as a big player, says Dr. Katherine Bihr, Vice President of
Programs & Education at the Tiger Woods Foundation, is community
colleges, which will increasingly come up with models that include
offering bachelor’s degrees.
What’s more, as families look to curb the cost of a college degree,
high school can become more important in fighting student debt. “I can
envision a movement towards dual enrollment between secondary school and
college, where students can take college courses receiving credit
satisfying high school graduation requirements and eliminating the need
to take general education courses,” says Bihr.
Schools will be more accountable to students and graduates
For decades, colleges and universities have focused on churning out
graduates that are well-rounded individuals. But increasingly they are
dropping the ball when it comes to giving employers graduates with the
skills needed to succeed. That has prompted employers to spend money
training their new hires – or looking outside the pool of college
graduates for qualified workers.
As a result, in the next few years, experts expect colleges and
universities to be more accountable to what they are teaching their
students. There will be greater collaboration with corporations to
ensure students are gaining the correct skills for the in-demand jobs.
There will always be a time and place to analyze Thoreau, but a lot of
focus will also be placed on communications and technical skills.
are finally signaling that what they are getting is just not good
enough,” says D’Amico of USA Funds. “Only about 11 percent of employers
think that higher education is doing a good job.” According to D’Amico,
there are an increasing number of startups that are emerging to close
the gap between what employers say they want from graduates and what
they are getting from the experience.
Whether or not in twenty years’ time we get to the point where college is free or debt-free
is still up for debate. But it is clear that if we do nothing, tough
times are ahead - not only for college students but the nation at large.
“If things proceed according to the status quo, we are likely to see a
path that we’ve seen in the past almost fifteen years,” says Robbie
Hiltonsmith, senior policy analyst at think tank Demos. “The cost of
tuition goes up even more, and we will likely see increasing amounts of
student debt, which will be a damper on their financial future. We
pretend that certain paths are an inevitable result of economic forces
beyond our control, but in reality through policy, we have a say in what
the future can look like.”
We spoke to 8 experts from various parts of the higher
education world, and compiled their thoughts on the future of higher
education in this report.
Donna Fuscaldo is a freelance journalist hailing out of Long
Island, New York. She has also written for Bankrate.com, Glassdoor.com,
SigFig.com, FoxBusiness.com, Business Insider, Dow Jones Newswires and
the Wall Street Journal.
You then have to find someone else who is interested in it, too. For science graduates, this will probably be a case of joining a team of people working in a similar area. For those in the arts and social sciences it will be a matter of identifying a suitable supervisor.
Hartley says it can also be useful to think about topics that spark general interest. If you do pick something that taps into the Zeitgeist, your findings are more likely to be noticed.
Patrick Dunleavy, professor of political science and public policy at the London School of Economics and author of Authoring a PhD, says your choice of topic should be continually updated to keep pace with your findings. "It isn't just a question of defining a PhD topic," he says. "It's a question of configuring it.” He warns that problems arise when people fail to answer the question they have posed.
Another common problem is ensuring originality. Dunleavy says that you have to think carefully about what the key value-added components of your thesis will be. In a standard eight-chapter PhD, with 10,000 words per chapter, you will usually need an introduction, a conclusion and perhaps a chapter on methods, leaving five chapters in which to concentrate on original work. “Pick up an idea, take it for a walk and put it down somewhere else. You are moving it around and seeing a new application," he says.
On the other hand, you will need at some point to go out on a limb. "If you want to do original work, you need to understand that you don't understand something and that the rest of the world doesn't either," Dunleavy says.
He advises focusing yourself by reading and discussing things with everyone from your peer group to your partner. "It is very important to articulate what you are trying to do," he says. Your thesis will be cited in your CV for years to come so it is essential to get the topic and title right. Achieve this, and it could set the pattern for the rest of your career.
- Authoring a PhD: How to Plan, Write and Finish a Doctoral Thesis or Dissertation, by Patrick Dunleavy, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003
- The Postgraduate Research Handbook by Gina Wisker, Palgrave Macmillan, 2001