The Tomorrows Professor blog has posted a compelling section from The Shaping of American Higher Education. It begins with a fascinating historical analysis of how unpredictable education trends have been over the years, and then bravely proceeds to venture a few predictions for the future!

Future Trends

  • The growth of new institutions has slowed considerably and hardly any new nonprofit campuses will be built.
  • State, federal, and private-philanthropic funds will be available to expand campus facilities but not enough to establish entire institutions.
  • Smaller percentages of students will have full-time, on-campus experiences.
  • Faculty professionalization has already made a U-turn, retarded by the massive influx of both part-timers and full-timers without security of employment.
  • All the external pressures on curriculum favor vocationalism.
  • Colleges and universities at all levels will be forced to seek other funds in order to mitigate the effects of state support that has not increased sufficiently to accommodate rising costs and enrollments.
  • Colleges and universities may find themselves judged according to the same standards that are applied to any business: “To what extent does this entity add value?
  • Inflation, depression, and increased competition from other agencies will continue affecting the funds available for higher education’s support, as well as the type and mode of postsecondary training desired by students.

Future Questions

The study then poses some thought-provoking questions about the future:

  • Will twenty-first-century students continue enrolling in postsecondary institutions through depressions and recessions, or will prospective students’ reluctance to take on large debt burdens lead to reduced enrollments?
  • As the number of high-paying jobs available to college graduates diminishes, will greater numbers of students develop and act on tendencies to create jobs for themselves?
  • Will research and scholarly productivity be replaced with online course design and dedication to teaching when promotions are evaluated?
  • Will the growing number of home-schooled students and the increasing popularity of online courses develop to the point at which virtual universities become an appealing alternative to the residential college experience for a significant percentage of students?

Good News

And the survey concludes with some encouraging news:

In the twenty-first century American higher education is the nation’s premier industry. By any measure, most of the world’s top universities are in the United States, which is the preferred destination for foreign students; American universities educate 30 percent of the total number of students who cross borders for advanced training. Furthermore, since September 11, 2001, more of them have developed overseas programs to serve international students who are unable to obtain student visas.