4 Higher Education Trends Concerning Today’s Educators And Students

By Danika McClure

Each year, leaders in higher education are faced with a number of unique challenges as well as opportunities to grow and expand their discipline. For educators, administrators, and policymakers, recognizing and leading in a time of educational change will be a vital part of transforming the educational sphere. As the year comes to a close, many are wondering what changes will continue to be present in the next year.

The answers to these questions are complex, however, especially as the definition of what it means to be a college student and how that education is presented has continued to grow and expand. Today’s students aren’t necessarily young adults living on campus. Instead, university students in the modern era are extremely varied in age, occupation, location, and experience. Similarly, technology has changed the face of education as a whole, making it more easily accessible for a larger number of students.

In years to come, educational leaders will need to pay attention to a variety of trends in order to keep up with a constantly changing educational climate. Below, we look at some of the biggest issues educators and leaders will have to contend with in years to come.

Tuition and Student Loan Debt

Paying for college is a primary concern for students and families, and for good reason. According to studies by the College Board, the price of attending a public four-year college has risen 27 percent beyond inflation over the past five years–a trend which is also mirrored in community colleges and private universities.

As a result, American students owe an astonishing $1.3 trillion in student loans. As New York Times author Susan Dynarski reported earlier this year, a staggering seven million borrowers now feel the impact of defaulting on student loans, and many more are falling more and more behind on their payments.

Students and parents are highly critical and concerned about the cost of education in the U.S. and will continue to look carefully at potential student loan debt and the return of interest for obtaining degrees at their chosen school.

To combat this problem, Michael Alexander writes that university professionals will have to take a closer look at their business models in order to keep doors open and students interested and engaged with higher education.

“[There has been a lot] of talk about new business models, but not much action,” he states. It is imperative that we find alternative models for traditional undergraduates that preserves the focus on personal as well as intellectual development of students, while delivering a quality education at significantly lower cost. I think we will start to see colleges experimenting with various approaches to this issue.”

Technology and remote learning

Higher education has been rapidly evolving in recent years. Perhaps most notably, technology and remote education have completely transformed the educational sphere, allowing students from all ages, professional backgrounds, and locations to pursue advanced education.

Unfortunately, many schools–especially mid-tier and private colleges–have neglected to keep up with technological trends, which creates problems.

“Data reveals that enterprise software currently installed in colleges and universities is not keeping up with the disruptive technology transforming the digital experience and life as we know it,” writes Unit 4 author Steve Strathearn. He goes on to report that many technological systems at the university level date back to an average of 13 years, contributing to a technological trend which is commonly referred to as a “digital downgrade.”

Experts agree that technological advances will continue to shape a number of industries, education included. Regardless of whether that education is obtained through a traditional classroom setting or in an online setting, educators will continue to have to balance and adapt their pedagogy to accommodate this emerging trend. As insights from the tech company Report Linker note, “Traditional teaching now has to cope with elearning availability, and adapt the methodology, to make sure both learnings are compatible and qualitative.”

As technology continues to expand, teachers and administrators will continue to have to adapt and grapple with the additional challenges that technology brings to the classroom in order to make the best student experience possible.

Campus Safety

In recent years, campus safety has become a prevalent issue for students around the country. Reports of sexual assaults on college campuses and numerous school shootings have long been a part of the national narrative, a stigma which numerous individuals are trying to combat.

In the years to come, administrators, counselors, and other educational and mental health professionals will have to come together to help combat violence and sexual assault on campuses across the country.

When discussing problems of violence on campus, Cyndi Amato, Assistant Director of Online Education at the University of New England writes, “I think we really need to look at prevention; we really need to look at raising awareness and giving people what they need to be able to respond to it. I truly believe people are good to the core and they just don’t know what to do sometimes…”

Student Retention and Success

Colleges typically spend a lot of time recruiting students, so much so, that they often lose sight of current students and helping them finish what they start.

To combat this, many colleges have adopted student success programs, attempting to ensure that students have the support and resources necessary to earn the degree they started with, be in a stable position to pay off their student loans, and contribute to the American workforce.

Some promising results have been made on a state-to-state basis.

“States are increasingly moving to higher education funding formulas that allocate some amount of funding based on performance indicators such as course completion, time-to-degree, or transfer rates,” according to Ellucian insights.  “In some states, funding also is tied to the number of degrees awarded to low-income and minority student graduates.”

For schools that are particularly interested in attracting and graduating more female and minority students in disparate fields, these issues become even more serious.

The higher education system is one that through technology and innovation will only continue to grow and expand. In upcoming years, leaders in higher education, professors, and policymakers alike, will be responsible for navigating these complex challenges.

Danika McClure is a writer and musician from the northwest who sometimes takes a 30 minute break from feminism to enjoy a tv show. You can follow her on twitter @sadwhitegrrl

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