Higher education is seeing significant changes occur as we enter a new decade of higher learning. Technology, globalization, changing demographics, and fluctuating enrollment numbers are just some of the trends to impact higher education in the past decade from 2010-2019. Let us take a closer look at the trends affecting higher education and what is driving them.
Technology is at the forefront of driving technological change. Digital learning used to be rare but is now common and even standard in most classrooms. The proliferation of smartphones, tablets, and laptops makes digital learning ever more accessible and easier to use for students who are already used to having these gadgets as a significant part of their everyday lives.
More students are now studying outside their home country than ever. Globalization allows students to travel and study abroad in countries that were previously closed off to them. More students from different cultural backgrounds have also caused higher education to adopt a more culturally responsive approach to teaching to accommodate these diverse student bodies.
Student enrollment in higher educational institutions saw significant fluctuations in 2010-2019. From 2010-2013 there was a 3% decrease in total post-secondary education enrollment. It appears that ups and downs in enrollment may be more a norm now than in previous decades, where enrollment seemed to be on an ever-increasing trajectory.
The demographics of the new college student is also rapidly changing. Many of us think that the traditional student enrolls right after graduating high school. This traditional-age demographic is stereotyped as being between 18-24 years. Today, about 40% of new students are over 25 years old. More and more people are now delaying going to college and choosing to work rather than enroll in higher education right away.
Adjunct instructors make up almost three-quarters of the teaching staff at higher educational institutions. The number of adjunct instructors is forecast to continue to grow despite their challenges, such as lack of appreciation and even disrespect by their tenured colleagues.
There is a renewed push to make college more affordable to students. Some states are experimenting with legislation that would provide free or reduced tuition in fields of study such as engineering. Some politicians promise free college at public universities. The focus on making higher education more accessible and affordable is a trend that will remain as college becomes increasingly expensive for many.