2020 Trends: What To Expect of Higher Education This Year

Technology, culture, and the economy have all helped change the face of higher education with the well-publicized college admission scandal leading the headlines. Since 2011 the number of high school graduates has plateaued and is predicted to fall. Additionally, colleges will likely continue to witness increased competition for enrollment. The pursuit for a college degree is clear for some, yet made more difficult by cost. Knowing what to expect may help make the journey easier. Following are some of the trends in higher education for 2020.

1. Student debt has doubled. In 2018 it was reported that student debt reached a whopping $1.465 trillion. As stated by economist Paul Della Guardia for Bloomberg, ‘’Over 90% of student loans are guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Education, meaning that if a recession causes a rise in youth unemployment and triggers mass defaults, this contingent liability could prove burdensome for the U.S. government budget.’’ As of 2019, these numbers are staggering ($1.41 trillion) but are expected to rise. Those who fail to obtain their degree will find it even more challenging to pay off their loans. And with 54% of college students taking on debt the average borrower will owe roughly $35,359. As for adults, it is estimated that roughly 14.4% are still paying off their student loans. 

2. Discounts across private colleges have increased. Since 2009, the National Association of College and University Business Officers reports that discounts have risen from 36.7% to 46.3% in 2018. Newer applicants may find themselves favoring opportunities that speak more to their financial availability versus college status.  

3. Growing interest in online programs. Online education saw a growth of 15.4% in 2018 from compared to 2016’s 14.7%. Given the relative newness of the platform, it’s understandable that some parents and students may be reluctant to consider it. Since the early 2000s, however, online education has witnessed both rapid development and quality improvements. While there is plenty to choose from it is important to consider the pros and cons of an online education. What works for one person won’t necessarily correlate with another person’s schedule or character traits. As University of the People suggests, students should ask themselves What kind of learning experience am I looking for or What kind of institution do I want to attend? 

Note: Universities like Harvard, Yale, and NYU are now offering online degrees through OPM providers!

4. Corporate-Institution Partnerships are on the rise. Big institutions are increasingly working with corporations. The reason? Employee skill matching. Patterning up with universities, these places are opening up their networks to help aid the tech-talent gap. HR still implements solutions to help enhance career development for the younger generation—but higher education remains the best training ground for students due to the fact that universities who participate in partnerships can directly connect them with programs that fit their unique needs. 

5. Recognition of the impact of mental health is on the rise. Depression, anxiety, stress, and sleep disorders. Adults (and soon-to-be-adults) may already hold relation to one or more of these health topics. Attending a new school, paying off student loans, and working multiple jobs to pay off these same loans can lead to detrimental medical issues if body fatigue and physiological awareness is seldom addressed. As published by the Institute for Empowerment Studies and Research Equity, ‘’the incident of students requesting support each year from university counseling services has increased.’’ This spike is likely due to significant changes in culture and mainstream media that have taken place between the 1990s and 2020—particularly in how Americans approach conversations surrounding mental health and therapy. 

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