Here’s How Higher Education Will Change in the 2020s

My higher education experience primarily took place at the turn of the decade. My “turn of the decade” was 10 years ago, when the 2000s turned to the 2010s. As a student, I found myself watching the trends from 2000–2009 die and the groundwork for 2010–2019 become established. Now, it’s time to look to the 2020s.

This decade begins at a unique time where universities are adapting to a change in the academic climate. Students are forced to collaborate in different ways and administration needs to learn to use more technologies. The digital revolution that once loomed over the heads of higher education has been forced upon it. This is going to shape the next decade, but there are many other changes to the education climate unrelated to COVID-19.

Of course, some changes will arise in the second half of this decade. We may not have any indication of these changes at this moment. Other changes are happening before our eyes. These changes point to current trends and trends that will impact higher education over the next ten year.

1. Lectures Are Stationary

If you’ve ever taken an online course, you immediately know when your lecture isn’t unique to your class. This isn’t always a bad thing; some information doesn’t change. Professors will learn to adapt to the online learning initiative by recording one lecture and using it for Psych 101 sections A,B, and C. This means professors will actually need to do less work delivering lectures in the long run.

This can work to the student’s advantage. Perhaps, it will place the importance on office hours rather than just sitting through a Powerpoint. Students will listen to the lecture and their time spent with the professor will focus on resolving questions.

2. Groups Won’t Be Grouped

Everyone dreads group projects, and a big aspect of this is actually meeting with your group. Thanks to the Zoom-hell we’ve been enduring for the past six months, college students will become comfortable meeting virtually.

Class projects, campus organizations, and even classrooms won’t be forced to meet in person. While students living on campus will likely want to continue seeing each other face-to-face, virtual attendees won’t be abnormal. If you can’t make it to class, Zoom in. Or if you need to be included in a group project, a Google Hangout might be all you need. Digital attendance is going to be an acceptable substitute.

3. Confrontation is a Foreign Concept

In my time working with students, especially surrounding the touchy subject of money, I’ve only seen a handful of incoming freshmen advocate for themselves. In the moment, you don’t want to handle an upset student. After the fact, I was incredibly proud of them. School is expensive, and students need to be involved in their enrollment process.

Young adults now are accustomed to their parents being their advocates. They tend to take a back seat during confrontations, and when they’re all alone, they can’t handle themselves eloquently. When they’re upset they’re likely to turn to social platforms to air grievances. When the moment of confrontation arises, they tend to be meek and non-confrontational.

4. News Will Be Instantaneous

When I was in college, Twitter was on the rise. This changed the spread of news, and soon major news networks spread stories over social networks. Students now will spread information in real-time, and not just national news. Campus information will be received by a thousand smartphones within fifteen minutes.

Social media will continue to play a major role for college students. Incoming students were born in the 2000’s. This means they’ve never known a world without social media and internet communication. Instead of keeping secrets, they spread the word on a grand, digital scale.

5. Scooters Everywhere

Assuming companies like Lime and Bird don’t collapse due to COVID-19, their presence will explode on college campuses. Many campuses are like mini cities, and usually well maintained. Even in harsh climates, this would allow for scooters to have clear paths on sidewalks.

Students will rely on dockless transportation to jet across campus. There’s a huge appeal to hopping on a scooter and reducing a ten minute walk to two minutes for under $2. Transportation start-ups were putting this trend on campuses in 2019, and it’s bound to dominate the cross-campus commute in the 2020s.

6. Budget Learning

With the costs of tuition rising, more students will explore options to get credits from cheaper sources. This may mean starting at a community college or taking courses over the summer. If a new student has any exposure to older students, they’d know the impact of college debt.

Right now, students are witnessing the new college “experience.” If universities don’t differentiate themselves from cheaper alternatives, students won’t see the value in paying premiums for private schools. Cost-friendly options become increasingly appealing when debt is rising and jobs are scarce.

7. Debt Will Get More Extreme

Universities wear a huge price tag, and it’s not uncommon for students at private universities to pay over $50,000 annually for tuition alone. This will lead students, even those coming from upper-middle class backgrounds, to rely on loans. After taking out a loan, students are left with debt. More students will struggle to meet the rising costs. Therefore, more students will struggle with debt after graduation.

Thanks to the economic struggles posed by COVID-19, donors are going to forgo their university contributions. Universities will have less going into their endowments, and major events like homecoming are getting postponed. This will have a longterm impact on the funding students can receive, and it likely means fewer dollars offered by the university. To bridge the gap, loans will be the solution.

8. Small Universities Will Get Consumed

With changes in enrollment and funding, small schools will struggle to stay afloat. Private universities will be competing with large, public schools and their more prestigious counterparts. As time progresses, more schools will close or be purchased by their competition.

COVID-19 accelerated this process, but it was happening before the pandemic. Students are looking for schools providing career outcomes and specialized programs. When a small school excels in an area where larger schools struggle, the big schools will try to acquire the smaller school. By the end of the decade we will have fewer schools, but just as many opportunities.

9. More Populations With Diverse Needs

College students are becoming increasingly unique, and this means universities will have to learn to adapt to their needs. I’m not just talking about ethnic and cultural identity groups. These populations also include students with: dietary restrictions, learning differences, and emotional support needs. Administration will be putting forward more initiatives to make campuses inclusive and welcoming.

This will also result in a rise in protests and rallies. Campuses are hubs for young adults to express themselves. We’ve seen many underserved populations demand action and reform in recent years. Universities host these events. They also host event for people with opposing views. Some schools will succeed in becoming more inclusive. Other schools will feel a divide.

10. Boundaries Will Be Pushed Further

In many ways, universities hold a reputation for being somewhat luxurious. Campuses host over-the-top amenities and hold events for students that cost thousands of dollars. This will be no different in the future, in fact, campuses will continue to create buzz through lavish campus life.

Expect to see campuses with room service, or classrooms with self-cleaning desks. Anything that is somewhat useful and could earn spot in an admissions brochure will be considered. Campuses continue to seek luxuries that will justify costs while also explaining tuition increases.

More Changes To Come in the 2020s

While some of these changes are inevitable, others reflect the fact that universities are wildly expensive. We are currently living in a time forcing change. This accelerates the movements toward distanced learning and less-structured courses. Other changes are a reflection of technological advances or shifting attitudes toward parenting and eduction.

This is not all bad. Many of these changes demonstrate that young adults want to improve society and push growth forward. Every decade has its own trends, and the ones we once shunned have proven to have value.

In the 2020s we will see a lot of changes. Still, universities are going to be staples in American culture. Students will continue to attend, and schools will continue to make money. Universities aren’t going away; if they’re going anywhere, it’s online.

Originally published at on August 28, 2020.

User Analytics | Digital & Brand Marketing | Productivity … hoping to explore topics that interest me and find others with similar passions

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