Four Challenges Facing Higher Education

Cultural shifts, technological trends, revenue pressures and student engagement are challenging colleges and universities like never before.

October 23, 2018


higher education trends



Perhaps at no other time in history has the traditional higher education model been more disrupted. Colleges and universities are  seeing new challenges and experiencing greater difficulty deciding where to focus their attention and dedicate scarce resources. Four key higher education trends — cultural shifts, new learning technologies, increased revenue pressures and student engagement challenges are forcing administrators to seek guidance and new solutions to support their educational mission.


Cultural Shifts

When non-traditional and Gen Z students started arriving on campus, things began to change. Education professionals were forced to  reconsider assumptions they had made about their campus demographics. Today, an increasing number of students experience additional outside family and work pressures, while some simply get lost and drop out. It has became apparent that the traditional college or university model has not kept pace with a changing student population.


Institutions devoted to student success need to understand the cultural shifts happening on their campuses — and invest in flexible programs, accessible courses and tailored support services that will address the unique needs and challenges of a changing student demographic.


Technological Trends

It is not a secret that colleges and universities face reduced funding, changing student demographics, questions regarding quality and value, and increased competition. Their success requires change in the form of new teaching and learning that will prepare students for success.


Transformative learning technologies, such as courseware, inclusive access models, learning analytics and competency-based education (CBE) can enhance affordability, access and achievement — and ultimately student retention.


Revenue Pressures

The effects of the Great Recession have caused tremendous concern for college finance offices across the country. It has also heightened anxieties about the ability of institutions to support operating costs in the face of sharply declining endowments, lower enrollments and shrinking budgets. As a result, higher education has been forced to look for new revenue streams — beyond raising tuition.


No matter the goals — increasing revenue, decreasing the cost of education, enhancing the brand experience, improving student outcomes — or a combination of all four, colleges and universities are looking for answers to future-proof their institutions. Forward-thinking institutions must therefore look for revenue from new sources such as campus stores, cafes, affordable learning materials and brand royalty protection.


Student Engagement

With rising college costs and changing student demographics, it’s no surprise that there has been an increase in the number of students who don’t complete their degrees and graduate. According to the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), less than 50 percent of students complete their degree within six years. Although some of these students transfer and complete their education at another university, a substantial number never finish. The unsettling fact remains that as many as 30 percent of students drop out entirely and never graduate.


So, how can colleges keep students engaged — and enrolled? As the economy continues to stay strong, completion rates should start to go back up, but understanding new student demographics and their unique needs, introducing new learning technologies that increase engagement and success, revamping student services and tackling rising college costs are all required to fully address the challenge.


Higher Education Trends Series

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be exploring, in more depth, the higher education trends effecting colleges and universities, including cultural shifts, technological trends, revenue pressures and student engagement. The first article in our series focuses on cultural shifts: understanding the new student population and addressing their unique needs.


College store retail intervention


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