5 trends coming to higher ed this year, according to 6 experts

The coming year will bring a tide of innovation in higher ed, as leaders experiment with new business models, new classroom designs, and new tools for recruiting and retaining students, Autumn Arnett writes for Education Dive.

In a recent article, Arnett rounds up predictions from several higher education experts about what 2018 will bring.

1: New forms of delivering education

Higher education will see more partnerships between for-profit and nonprofit institutions, similar to last year's deal between Purdue University and Kaplan University, says former University of Phoenix President Bill Pepicello. He argues that the PROSPER Act under consideration in Congress would make it easier for alternative programs to achieve eligibility for federal financial aid, encouraging more such partnerships.

Commenting on the Purdue-Kaplan deal, EAB Executive Director Melanie Ho argued last year that the deal was a sign of a broader trend in higher ed. "Colleges and universities are turning to creative models outside traditional governance structures in order to meet market needs more nimbly," she wrote.

Under the traditional model, new degree programs can take years to gain approval, Ho noted, which can lead to competitive disadvantages. To adapt more quickly to market changes, institutions have tried a range of strategies, such as creating a separate for-profit subsidiary, establishing a separately accredited institution, or revamping program approval processes for market-oriented programs.

Read more: What the Purdue-Kaplan deal means for you

2: More schools going international

Ho tells Education Dive that colleges will show more interest in building micro-campuses abroad this year. "It’s still an open question as to how the U.S. political climate will influence international enrollments," she says.

So instead of waiting for international students to come to the United States, colleges and universities plan to meet them where they are with international campuses. According to Ho, colleges are increasingly asking themselves: "What strengths of U.S. higher education institutions can we export abroad?" The University of Arizona, for example, has built micro-campuses in countries such as Mexico, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Jordan.

3: Innovations in space utilization

Institutions are now becoming more creative about using existing space on campus to support interactive learning, according to David Houck and Kevin Wayer, higher education practice leaders at JLL. "Why build new facilities when you could use existing space more effectively?," they say.

The most meaningful innovations in updated classrooms are actually fairly low-tech, writes Ann Forman Lippens, Facilities Forum practice manager at EAB. "Relatively simple physical modifications—such as whiteboards, swivel chairs, or tables with wheels—can have a greater impact on learning outcomes than expensive technology," she adds.

Read more: How active learning spaces support an evolving pedagogy

4: More alternative credentials

"Students are no longer buying that whole college [experience]," says Jim Hundrieser, associate managing principal for institutional strategies at the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. Instead, today's students are hyper-focused on their future careers and salaries. For some students, that will mean bypassing the traditional degree program in favor of alternative credentials targeted to niche employer needs.

See the hottest jobs, skills, and employers in your state

5: New technology for recruitment and retention

Mobile apps and digital media have quickly become popular tools for recruiting and retaining students, and the trends will continue next year, Arnett predicts. She notes that Education Dive selected mobile and digital media as its best investment of 2017.

According to EAB research, underrepresented students are more likely to first discover a college on social media, making it a critical tool for reaching these students.

On the retention front, mobile apps can give students a "one-stop-shop" to access important information about their accounts, complete administrative transactions, and identify where to go for help. Advising leaders can also use the apps to communicate in a more timely and personalized way with students, cutting through the noise when messages matter most (Arnett, Education Dive, 1/3).

Learn more: How a smartphone can help you support student success

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