Higher Education; What the Future Implies

1 Nov

It is obvious that higher education is not a problem-free issue in today’s political world.  The problems in the United States’ higher education system can be seen just by turning on the television to tune in to your local news station.  Nearly everyday, especially now during an election year, student loan debt, rising tuition costs, and how the next President will make colleges and universities more affordable are topics of discussion during news reports.  In earlier posts, I have discussed the positions of both presidential candidates and their affiliated parties on how to solve the problems in America’s higher education system.  I have also theorized that a way to bring an end to controversy between these opposing sides would be to develop a higher education policy that acts as a compromise between the two.  At this time though I have come to wonder, what does the future look like for colleges, universities, and students if the issues in the higher education system go unsolved?

In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and Elon University, 1,021 experts in the field of higher education were asked what they believed higher education would be like in 2020.  39% of those surveyed agreed that higher education would be much the same as it is today even though there may be an increased dependence on the use of technology due to college and university costs being so high currently. 60% of those surveyed agreed that the higher education system will be drastically different by institutions having to move towards the use of online learning to decrease costs.  As for what I think of the future of higher education, I agree with the 60% that believe there will be drastic change if the issues of college costs are not solved. One of those 60% that I agree with, Professor Barnes from Guangxi University in China puts it best by saying, “the high and growing cost of university education cannot be sustained, particularly in the light of growing global demand for such education.” Professor Barnes also points out that colleges and universities will shift to using the Internet as way of delivering education in a more “economical and efficient mode.” Like Professor Barnes and the rest of that 60%, I believe that if costs continue to rise, many institutions will have no choice but to increase the amount of online classes.  An increase in dependence on online learning in the future also leads me to wonder how students and parents will feel about what the education they are receiving is worth.  In an article from The Chronicle on Higher Education, editor Jeff Selingo, describes how the importance of a college degree in today’s job market has caused students and their parents to continue to pay college and university tuition costs even as they have increased rapidly.  This continuous willingness to pay is evidenced by the $110 billion in student loans that was borrowed last year.  As tuition costs continue to grow if the federal government cannot stop them, I believe that in the future there will still be high demand for a college degree from students but that more pressure will be put on colleges to prove what the students are paying for is worth the cost.  While prospective graduates will still be willing to pay to earn a degree, they will become much less willing to attend “any college at any price” as Selingo says.  It is for this reason that I believe if the federal government can do nothing to effectively increase accessibility to higher education by lowering tuition costs as well as the national student loan debt, not only will colleges and universities increase the amount of online or “hybrid” learning offered, but students around the country will take advantage of it.  Not only will the move to hybrid learning reduce costs for colleges, leading to a decrease in tuition costs, but students will also be able to learn just as effectively as if they were in a traditional classroom setting.  Hybrid learning is a form of education in which the student receives the majority of their instruction online while also getting weekly face-to-face time with the instructor.  While some may not agree that hybrid learning is as effective as traditional learning, a study by the Brookings Institution shows that hybrid learning in fact “does no harm” to the student’s comprehension of material.  In the study, students on six different public university campuses were assigned in seven goups at random to take an introductory statistics course through either online learning with one hour of face-to-face instruction each week or through traditional classroom learning.  The results showed that students who took the hybrid form of the class did just as well as those who took the traditional form in terms of pass rates and exam scores.  The results of this study show that while the future of higher education may be up in the air right now (or at least until November 6th), online learning is a solution that colleges can provide for students themselves if the federal government is unable to.

In summary, I believe that the future of higher education lies in the development of online learning. If tuition costs are allowed to increase by 1,120%  in the next 34 years as they have since 1978 and the government does nothing to reduce the current student loan debt of $1 trillion, higher education institutions will look towards technology as a means of providing the demanding students of the USA wanting to compete in the job market with a degree. The future of higher education will become more clear on November 6, 2012 when either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama is elected President of the United States.

For more on online learning in higher education, check out this video!

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4 Responses to “Higher Education; What the Future Implies”

  1. mormonwaffles November 1, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    The demand for higher education is increasing, and that doesn’t seem to be a problem to me. The problem is the worth of the degrees. If one uses a college degree to help them get a job, what defines that degree. 25 years ago my parents, who both had 2 year college degrees, easily found a job they sustained for many years to come. However, in today’s society, does a four year degree even establish a successful future? I am curious to see how your blog concludes.

    • mixedupmind November 5, 2012 at 5:37 am #

      I also do not think the increasing demand for higher education is a problem. I believe it is very productive for our country to produce more educated workers to contribute to the national and world economy. The problem clearly is though that while many want to attend college, not everyone can because of the rising costs. These rising costs have led to the questioning of the worth of a college degree as you have pointed out. Both have my parents also obtained college degrees approximately 30 years ago and have had successful careers since, showing that the cost of their education was worth the return they received from their jobs over these past 30 years. As for your question about a four year degree establishing a successful future, the yearly income facts say YES. College graduates earn an average of $65,000 per year as compared to high school graduates who only earn $26,000 per year. A college education also provides those who have one with a job that is secure and most often includes benefits, like health insurance. A college degree also increases your chances of employment by 50%. These facts show that a college degree has the ability to establish a successful future for the degree holder, however, I must acknowledge the fact that many recent graduates are having a hard time finding a job in their field or any job at all. My final answer: a college degree is one of if not the most important tool in establishing a successful future but it cannot always be used to its’ full potential in a struggling economy.

  2. theironbaker November 6, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

    Can online schooling be a real option? I don’t believe that many students would get the experience/knowledge they need from an online school to be able to sustain a job. And nowadays in this crazy economy no one can find a solid job unless they have graduate degree.

    • mixedupmind November 8, 2012 at 1:19 am #

      You bring up a point that many of those opposed to online learning often point out. This point being that online learning is not as effective as traditional classroom learning. I too feel that schooling COMPLETELY taking place online does not provide the necessary experience and knowledge needed, but online schooling in combination with traditional learning is what some colleges may begin to use more in order to lower costs. The question in higher education is not whether or not online schooling is an option, since it is already being used today, but whether or not colleges can lower their costs enough to reduce dependence on online learning.

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