A new paradigm for what students want and how they’ll get it

The College of 2020: Students

“What is college? And why should I go? Those may be the defining questions for colleges over the next decade. More than an expression of teenage angst, they reflect a fundamental transformation in the way students see higher education, and how they want to go about getting it.

The traditional model of college is changing, as demonstrated by the proliferation of colleges (particularly for-profit institutions), hybrid class schedules with night and weekend meetings, and, most significantly, online learning. The idyll of four years away from home—spent living and learning and growing into adulthood—will continue to wane. It will still have a place in higher education, but it will be a smaller piece of the overall picture.

Students’ convenience is the future. More students will attend classes online, study part time, take courses from multiple universities, and jump in and out of colleges. Students will demand more options for taking courses to make it easier for them to do what they want when they want to do it. And they will make those demands for economic reasons, too. The full-time residential model of higher education is getting too expensive for a larger share of the American population. More and more students are looking for lower-cost alternatives to attending college. Three-year degree programs, which some colleges are now launching, will almost assuredly proliferate. The trend toward low-cost options also will assuredly open doors for more inexpensive online options.”

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