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Five Trends to Watch in Higher Education

These five long-term trends are creating the most risk for higher education leaders in the United States. But they also represent some of the greatest growth opportunities.

  1. Revenue from key sources continues to fall. Enrollment is the main driver of tuition and fee revenue, but enrollment across public and private universities is flat or even declining. Meanwhile, state funding for higher education has reached its lowest point in decades. Endowments have experienced volatile returns. Philanthropic gifts have waned. And universities are competing for a smaller pool of available research and development dollars.
  2. Demand is rising for a greater return on investment in higher education. The investment required for a college education is outpacing incomes. Student debt loads have grown 8% annually since economic recession began, but unemployment for recent college graduates remains high. As a result, many families and employers are questioning the value proposition of undergraduate degrees.
  3. Greater transparency about student outcomes is becoming the standard. Institutions are being asked to demonstrate student success in specific programs and areas of study. For example, the US Department of Education and many states are developing online sites that allow consumers to compare costs, student performance, graduation rates, and median student-borrowing levels across institutions.
  4. New business and delivery models are gaining traction. Colleges and universities are providing alternatives to traditional degrees. These include accelerated and lower-cost degrees, industry accreditations, and online and hybrid learning programs.
  5. The globalization of education is accelerating. International enrollment at US universities, for example, has nearly doubled over the past two decades. Because this new source of enrollment helps schools offset declining government funding, many institutions are aggressively pursuing international students, opening satellite campuses overseas, and making digital courses available globally.

Online Learning and International Enrollment Offer Opportunities for Growth

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