What does 2013 have in store for higher education?
The total cost of education has been growing faster than the rate of inflation for decades, and 2012 seemed to be the year when the effects of this trend finally entered the public consciousness. Not a week goes by without another article appearing in my news feed on the sky-rocketing cost of tuition, or massive student debt. Everyone was talking about it, from the 2012 Presidential campaign trail, to the Occupy Wall Street protests, to the education blogosphere. On a recent trip to Denver, I spotted a billboard that read, “Kiss Student Loans Goodbye”. Upon further inspection I realized that it was part of a Denver transit system marketing campaign to encourage transit usage. I was amazed to see that the concept of student debt has become such a part of everyday life.
So when I started thinking about what 2013 might hold for higher education, I couldn’t shake the thought that this year must bring with it action. Action on the part of politicians, who are feeling pressure from their constituents to do something to curb the cost of education. Action on the part of colleges and universities, which will be forced to examine their traditional way of doing business. And action on the part of consumers, who will begin to make more conscious choices around their post-secondary education.
2013 will see politicians begin to take action around the cost and ROI of higher education. We will see legislation proposed that will compel schools to more clearly divulge both the total cost and the expected earnings of the degrees offered. We may also see proposals to award more aid to schools with moderate tuition increases and strong educational outcomes, while reducing funding from those with the highest costs and more moderate outcomes.
Increased efforts to create a more informed consumer through disclosure
For years, the idea that a post-secondary degree would provide a student with a better chance of a career and future financial success was widely accepted. However, I foresee this idea being challenged. With potential legislation surrounding the cost of education, and increased public scrutiny, institutions may now face challenge of having to prove the ROI of a student’s investment. We have seen for-profit institutions tackle this issue since the 2011 Program Integrity Rules around gainful employment and debt measures went into effect, but for traditional, not-for-profit schools, this is a level of scrutiny that they are not used to.
Credit transferability changes
As a result of the media and political attention on the issues surrounding the cost of education, 2013 will bring with it an increased amount of pressure on institutions to accept transfer credits from a wider variety of institutions, in an effort to lower the overall cost of earning a degree. To the public eye, the lack of wide recognition of credits earned at another institution will essentially cause the student to pay for and earn the same credits two or more times. This will be perceived as unfair to the student and a system focused on maximizing revenue for the educational institutions, not on positive student outcomes.
Increased emergence of disruptive models of education
Private enterprise has responded to the issue of high education costs with companies such as StraighterLine and Peterson’s Degree Accelerator, which provide students with a cost effective way to gain skills and complete much-needed prerequisite courses, and Mozilla’s Open Badges Initiative which allows online learners to get recognition from skills learned outside the traditional classroom. Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) companies like Udacity, Coursera, and edX have a part to play here as well. Although they are not yet credit granting, the popularity of these courses cannot be denied. It will be interesting to see how this model evolves over the next year.
There is no doubt that as the cost of education receives an ever greater share of the overall national consciousness, and therefore more political and media attention, certain facts will be distorted and certain proposals will feel overly burdensome and unfair. Additionally, there will also be confusing policy contradictions such as how the current 90/10 rules and Title IV award process actually promote higher tuition, not lower tuition costs. However, it is the environment we will be operating in, and it is incumbent upon all of us that care deeply about education to engage in the conversation, keep the student first and foremost in our minds, and help shape new approaches and policies that result in an ever more educated population.
This entry was posted on Monday, January 7th, 2013 at 5:17 pm and is filed under CUnet, Higher Education News, Transparency & Compliance. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.