4 trends shaping higher ed in 2017

In: transfer students. Out: traditional college experiences

Jim Hundrieser, the associate managing principal for institutional strategies at the Association of Governing Boards, recently spoke about the future of higher education at the 99th annual American Council on Education meeting.

Hundrieser stressed the importance of looking for new revenue opportunities rather than new areas to save money, Autumn Arnett reports for Education Dive.

Cutting costs is nothing more than a temporary phenomenon," he told the audience. He went on to argue that "growing and diversifying revenue" is "critical in building a sustainable model," though he acknowledged that it's tough to do.

Hundrieser suggested four trends that colleges should consider in their strategic planning.

1. The "unbundled" education

Traditionally, a college education was sold as a package deal: you get all the classes, the campus, the experience, the degree, for a single price.

But that's no longer what students want, Hundrieser said. Students are being more selective about which courses they want to take and which opportunities they want to sign up for. According to a 2016 report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, more students are stacking credentials.

Colleges today have big opportunities to offer niche programs that meet specific student and employer needs, experts say. Hundrieser suggested schools can use online education to offer standalone:

  • Certificates;
  • Credentials;
  • College prep courses; or
  • Job-related curricula.

How colleges can benefit from student and employer demand for health care training programs

2. Transfer students are the new freshman students

According to Hundrieser, 75% of students today will attend more than one school in the process of obtaining a degree—which means the market for transfer students is higher than it's ever been.

Because many of these students are adult learners, he argues schools will need to change their approach to recruitment and student support. Adult learners demand higher levels of service and convenience, for example, and they operate at a higher speed.

Now, almost half of those enrolled in higher education fall under the nontraditional student category, with one-quarter over the age of 30. Many of these students are entering college with the hope of securing better jobs in the midst of economic instability.

Hundrieser predicted that colleges may soon admit the same number of students to their transfer class as they do to their freshman class.

Everything you need to know about recruiting and enrolling transfer students

3. Reclaim the liberal arts

No, liberal arts are not obsolete—nor are they a recipe for lifelong poverty. In fact, they're about to go through a major renaissance, Hundrieser said.

Since technology is poised to take the place of many technical tasks in the workforce, candidates skilled in communication and innovative thinking will become increasingly vital.

A 2015 Wall Street Journal survey found that out of nearly 900 executives, 92% said soft skills were just as important—or even more important—than technical skills. But 89% struggled to find candidates who have those highly desired soft skills.

4. Futuristic teaching tool of the year: Augmented reality

Hundrieser said augmented reality is about to "literally transform higher education," since it will allow educators to use technology to enhance learning. It could also make students more competitive in globally.

In a Campus Technology poll of 97 faculty members nationwide last year, virtual and augmented reality won top place for the tool expected to be most crucial to technology's positive influence on education.

Most innovations involving augmented reality are currently taking place outside of the higher ed sphere, and Hundrieser encouraged colleges to catch up (Arnett, Education Dive, 3/12).

What do your students want from technology?

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