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The number of students who graduated from high school this year and immediately entered college dropped 22% from 2019, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. In a special analysis of the annual High School Benchmarks 2020—National College Progression Rates, Clearinghouse data shows a stunning freefall in the postsecondary enrollment rate from 2019 to 2020:
- Community colleges: 30.3% drop, compared with a 0.7% gain in 2019
- Private four-year non-profits: 28.6% drop, compared with a 5.9% decline in 2019
- Public four-year institutions: 13.8% drop, compared with a 4% decline in 2019
For colleges and universities to succeed beyond this difficult season, each institution must stay on top of and adapt to trends in higher ed. As your campus makes plans for upcoming semesters, these 10 considerations may impact your strategic planning.
1. Online learning will thrive.
Many universities in the U.S. have offered online programs for years, but students had the chance to choose between in-person and online programs. However, COVID-19 changed everything, as universities had to close campuses and resort almost exclusively to online learning. Given that COVID-19 isn’t slowing down, many universities will continue to use online platforms in the upcoming academic year. So, expect online learning to flourish.
2. Hybrid learning will expand.
Similarly, hybrid learning has existed for many years, but COVID-19 is pushing colleges to expand this learning model. Given the challenge of universities remaining open for students to return to campus, many institutions have opted for online learning. However, not everyone finds online learning as effective as in-person learning. Hybrid learning is somewhere in the middle of these models, which is why more universities are announcing that they will begin the new academic year with expanded hybrid models.
3. Some colleges will close or merge.
COVID-19 put many American higher ed institutions in financial peril. In fact, in 2018, Moody’s Investors Service predicted that approximately 15 colleges would shut down during 2020. Due to the pandemic, however, there are 110 more schools potentially shutting down. To avoid closing, some colleges are consolidating. In this way, the schools avoid massive state cuts, relieve financial pressure and combine resources to improve student opportunities.
4. Education and business will partner.
The U.S. State Department encouraged organizations and corporations to develop academic programs that provide students with the knowledge, skills and training required for the workplace. This dialogue is the result of expanded apprenticeship programs. Facebook, Google and Amazon are working with colleges to develop courses that teach students in-demand skills as a result of companies facing a shortage of skilled workers.
5. Standardized testing will decline.
The College Board was among the organizations affected by COVID-19. As a result, it postponed and cancelled SAT testing dates. In response, many universities declared that SAT or ACT scores will not be required for admission. The SAT and ACT were launched in the 20th century to reward academic merit, break social class barriers and give all students access to higher education. However, studies show that these tests don’t always have those results.
6. International student numbers will drop.
As a result of U.S. consulate closures, travel bans and new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidelines in response to COVID-19, the National Foundation for American Policy reports that the number of international students that will enroll in American universities this upcoming academic year will decline by more than 63%. Because U.S. consulates have been closed, interviews are not being conducted, and visas are not being issued. Even if they open now, there may not be enough time for students to get visas. Also, it’s not clear whether visas will be issued to international students in countries subject to travel bans.
7. Recruitment will be scrutinized.
The recent college admissions scandal exposed wealthy parents paying millions of dollars to guarantee their children enroll in elite universities. This revelation laid bare the vulnerability of the system to exploitation. Even without “foul play” to get admitted, influential people still find ways to get that spot in the university by donating large sums of money. The children of alumni also have an advantage to get admitted, making it harder for less connected students to earn a spot at some schools. As a result of this and a number of discrimination lawsuits, several universities announced that they will review their admission policies.
8. Revenue streams will diversify.
Colleges and universities continually face financial pressure, which is why it’s critical for schools to find innovative ways to gain control of budgets by creating new ways to generate revenue. Revenue diversification helps struggling institutions improve their financial health. Diversification might mean developing innovative academic programs, expanding research and innovation opportunities, finding non-traditional uses for campus resources, pursuing external partnerships, and restructuring budget strategies.
9. Diversity services will expand.
Colleges host students from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. In fact, 45% of students in the U.S. are students of color. Despite this rising percentage, these students still face systematic challenges. Higher ed leaders now understand that they must provide these students with appropriate services, like helping meet basic financial needs, supporting and hiring faculty of color, engaging parents in students’ education and supporting underperforming students.
10. Telehealth will increase.
One study found that of the 20 million students enrolled in institutions of higher learning in 2019, most of these students — 19.9 million to be exact — had some level of mental health challenges. To meet the growing needs and changing preferences of students, many colleges and universities are investing more time, money and resources in establishing and improving health services. One of the resources that has been adopted by many institutions is telehealth. As leaders look to the future, telehealth is more than a short-term, quix-fix solution. It is a long-term, stable fixture for how higher ed can meet students where they are, with the care they need.
The landscape is rapidly changing for higher ed, and colleges and universities are being hit from all sides by social, curricular, technological and financial changes. Institutions that want to survive and thrive need to be adequately prepared to adapt to relevant trends. Fortunately, most college leaders have the will to successfully change with the times.
If you’re interested in learning how telehealth can support your college community through COVID-19 and beyond, contact TimelyCare to learn how 24/7/365 access to mental health care can support the health and wellness of your campus.