What the future of higher education looks like
Demand for change in the overall college experience is putting pressure on academia to act fast. By 2030, higher education is expected to look completely different than it has for decades.
The 2020 pandemic only accelerated what was already on the horizon—students wanting more accessible, convenient, flexible, and affordable options. Many want short-term learning options for specialized credentials instead of irrelevant classes that don’t directly contribute to their earning power after graduation.
The requests are reasonable, and not at all surprising. Yet expecting a change in the way universities have always delivered education was out of the question as recently as ten years ago.
Graduating with debt regret and the attitude that traditional education isn’t worth the cost is driving the need for change too. Those who have already spent way too much to make too little are now steering their teens away from traditional college programs.
Vocational training with specific career goals and income has become a priority over going to college to get a job. However, there are no guarantees a job will be waiting because employers are more interested in the skills you offer than the degree you hold.
For example, many colleges and universities have expanded their continuing education departments for workforce development, vocational skills training, and professional designations from certification programs. This specific skills training provides students with access to programs to help them change jobs, start a business, or boost their careers quickly.
In addition, traditional schools offering vocational training through continuing education programs have seen an increased interest in freelance jobs that are on the rise in the market, such as digital marketing, sales training, social media management, virtual assisting, and many more.
And it’s not just freelancers that are on the rise. For example, the hospitality industry is experiencing a rebound since events have opened back up from the pandemic, and small businesses servicing events are booking out clients well into the next two years.
Entrepreneurial education is also part of the equation. As more people pursue learning new skills for their careers, freelancing turns into small business ownership. Programs that offer both skills training with entrepreneurial education focused on starting a business or new contracting career have proven to be a successful combination.
Colleges and universities must maintain their accreditation to qualify for federal funding and financial aid from the federal government. One academic benchmark identified to keep a college in good standing with 3rd party accreditations is the success of its graduates. More specifically, how many graduates found jobs, employment, got a raise, or started a business based on their education.
Schools that offer continuing education with career specific skills preparation like vocational training and entrepreneurship will meet the growing demand for workforce development and meet their obligations of accreditation.