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10 Trends Affecting the Future of Higher Education. Ralph Wolff President and Executive Director Senior College Commission, WASC World Future Society. Overview of U.S. Higher Education. Greatest diversity of institutions in the world Long considered the best system in the world

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10 Trends Affecting the Future of Higher Education

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10 trends affecting the future of higher education

10 Trends Affecting the Future of Higher Education

Ralph Wolff

President and Executive Director

Senior College Commission, WASC

World Future Society

Overview of u s higher education

Overview of U.S. Higher Education

  • Greatest diversity of institutions in the world

  • Long considered the best system in the world

  • Major innovations – independent boards of trustees, community colleges, open access

  • Massification since Korean War

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Mission differentiation

Mission Differentiation

  • Research

  • Liberal arts

  • Comprehensive universities

  • Community colleges

  • Faith-based

  • Specialized/single purpose

    “One solution never fits all.”

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Public 4-year institutions 643

Public 2-year institutions 1,045

Private 4-year institutions, nonprofit 1,533

Private 4-year institutions, for-profit453

Private 2-year institutions, nonprofit107

Private 2-year institutions, for-profit533


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Where students go

Where Students Go

Public 4-year institutions 6,955,013 (39%)

Public 2-year institutions 6,225,120 (35%)

Private 4-year institutions 4,285,317 (24%)

Private 2-year institutions 293,420 (1%)


81% of all freshmen in the fall of 2006 who had graduated from high school in the previous year attended colleges in their home states.

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Foreign 3.4%

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1 financial meltdown

1. Financial Meltdown

At a time of increased need for higher education:

  • Public funding cuts

  • Endowment decline > 20%

  • Crunch on lines of credit

  • Limits on tuition increases at private institutions

  • Increases at public universities

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10 trends affecting the future of higher education

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3 5 year setting

3-5 Year Setting

  • Every state will have a structural deficit

  • Pell increases do not make up differences

  • $50 billion stimulus money for higher education is one time, focused

  • Student debt load increasing

  • Student work hours increasing

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Short medium term consequences

Short –Medium Term Consequences

  • Immediate response is to freeze and cut, not restructure

  • Will shift most public supported institutions to “public assisted”

  • Lead to search for new sources of revenue -- increased business partnerships, joint ventures

  • Need for new models – are they out there?

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2 president obama s priorities

2. President Obama’s Priorities

  • Highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020 (40 % → 60%)

  • National high school exit standards

  • Linked to college readiness standards

  • $15 billion community college initiative

  • $50 million for free online courses

  • Centers to develop and share best practices

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Short medium term impact

Short – Medium Term Impact

  • Shift toward vocational and technical education/jobs

  • Partnering with major Gates and Lumina Foundation Initiatives

  • Recognition that community colleges are today what high schools were 30 years ago

  • Increased access through open admissions

  • Increased participation of underrepresented groups

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3 influence of for profits and market capital

3. Influence of For Profits and Market Capital

  • Fastest growing sector

  • Increasing mergers, acquisitions

  • Conversion of nonprofit universities

  • Joint ventures with mainline institutions

  • Growth, scalability and high profitability of proprietary systems

  • Increasing connections with industry – e.g., $500 million BP grant to Berkeley

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4 technology and distance education

4. Technology and Distance Education

  • > 2 million students

  • Growing rapidly, increasing competition

  • Hybrid programs most effective

  • Greatest number within traditional settings

  • High tech does not always mean high enrollment

  • Can be centers of high profit

  • Continuing Congressional concerns

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5 internationalization

5. Internationalization

  • Lincoln Commission – value to US students of study abroad

  • Increase in international students in US

  • Increased competition here and abroad for best international students

  • Infusion of international perspectives -- a course or a holistic perspective?

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6 globalization

6. Globalization

  • International recognition of importance of higher education

  • Major investments in local systems

  • Bologna Process will have significant impact over time

  • Cross-border offerings increasing – Australian medical school opening in US; new programs and institutions in China, former Soviet bloc, Middle East

  • Creation of new partnerships, joint degrees, dual degrees

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7 quality assurance and accountability

7. Quality Assurance and Accountability

  • Completion rates

  • Placement rates

  • Learning results

  • Costs

  • Debt load

  • Executive compensation

  • Board accountability

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Has quality declined

Has Quality Declined?

  • NAAL: Performance of college graduates and those with graduate degrees 1992 to 2003:

    -- % college graduates proficient in English fell from 40% to 31%

    -- % Proficient in prose literacy fell from 51% to 41%

  • National Survey of America’s College Students: significant numbers of college grads (20-30%) have only basic quantitative skills

  • No significant differences between public and private institutions

  • In 2 year schools, no significant difference based on academic or technical curricula

  • Employers: college grads lack skills for the workplace (AAC&U surveys)

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6 year graduation rates at 4 year institutions

6 Year Graduation Rates at 4-year Institutions




Visit www.edtrust.org – College Results Online

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Global competitiveness

Global Competitiveness

  • Drop in high school graduation rates (77.5%)

  • Dropped from 1st to 7th in college participation rates of 18-24 year olds

  • 2d for 35-64 yr. olds; 10th for 25-34

  • 15th in completion rates

  • Lower than OECD average for science and math literacy for 15 yr. olds (PISA scores)

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8 sustainability and the university

8. Sustainability and the University

  • President’s Climate Commitment

  • Involvement of professional associations

  • Moving from facilities to curriculum to institutionalization

  • Major area of scientific research

  • Need equal work in social and behavioral sciences, arts and humanities for the change in consciousness needed

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9 21 st century learning competencies

9. 21st Century Learning Competencies

“We are responsible for preparing our students to address problems we cannot foresee with knowledge that has not yet been developed using technology not yet invented.”

“The problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at which we created them.” Albert Einstein

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Is higher education primarily for economic gain

Is Higher Education Primarily for Economic Gain?

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Or developing the nation s talent and creativity

Or Developing the Nation’s Talent and Creativity?

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Changing character of knowledge

Changing Character of Knowledge

  • Sources of Knowledge

    education institution → everywhere (deinstitutionalized learning)

  • Understanding of Knowledge

    static → dynamic (openness to new knowledge, ability to “unlearn”)

  • Structure of Knowledge

    compartmental → holistic

  • Nature of Knowledge

    external authority → personal and contextual

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21 st century skills

21st Century Skills

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10 new forms of institutions

10. New Forms of Institutions

  • Institutional consolidations/closures

  • “Cloud” programs across institutions

  • The “partnering” university

  • Privatized public universities

  • Credit banks

  • Transnational universities

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What is on your list

What Is On Your List?

Ralph Wolff


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