Higher Education Trends to Watch in 2020

Jan 23, 2020

The trends that shaped higher education in 2019 and will continue to exert their impact in 2020, have their roots in the preceding year i.e. 2018. This was the year that brought the abrupt demise of the Mount Ida College, a move that jolted higher education policymakers.

In the aftermath, Massachusetts, a state renowned for its huge and influential private institutions, passed a law expressing its concerns over the dire straits of the education sector and its deteriorating financial health. But, the financial distress of education institutions has been an old elephant in the room.

The move created giant anxiety and outrage ripples across the expanse of the US education system. Private colleges outraged and Mount Ida’s 1,500 students who had no prior information about the shutdown, ran amok.

The State of The US Education Industry:

Mount Ida debacle was just the beginning of a lasting domino effect. The tremors are being felt nationwide.

In November 2019, Inside Higher Ed. published a list of 946 institutions that are likely to be sealed this year. Moody’s Investors Service has forecasted 15 shutdowns in 2020.

New England, with its unprecedented downturn in the high-school graduates, is at immediate risk of many more shutdowns.

If you’re thinking that this dark doom cloud looms only over public institutions, you are likely misinformed. For-profit institutions, too stand in its fatal shadow.

But the good news is that the factors shaping this collapse are also the factors with the potential to resuscitate these dying institutions. Here’s a look at these top shapers.

Traditional education costs are soaring and its popularity is declining:

Every year the cost of education shoots up by an average of 3%. Adding to it is its slumping demand. 2008’s recession greatly impacted the middle-class’s faith in it. This section, the most prominent buyer of the service, shrunk by a significant margin. Today, higher education is mostly picked by people who want to root themselves in the global economy. A significant share of this pie is consumed by the growing preference for cheaper international education in countries like Australia and Germany.

Generation Z is more interested in getting a college degree than their predecessors, Millennials:

Here’s the silver line. In 2019, 59% of high school graduates opted for college. But these new enrolments are coming with novel expectations. Generation Z is also keen on knowing the ROI of its investment in education. Hence, the inclination to professional degrees, which are also among the highest-paid, is growing rapidly.

Flexible learning ecosystems are rising:

Disruptive technologies have changed the lay of the land for the traditional US students. Of the current 20 million students in the US, 75% prefer non-traditional methods and are enrolled in post-secondary courses. About 59% of these students are employed and work in full-time roles.

This has made institutions rethink their content delivery methods and forge a flexible learning ecosystem.

Many institutions introduced online platforms and LMS software providers that facilitate flexible learning.

The ramifications of this change were:

  • Parallel enrollments in related subjects witnessed a steep rise.
  • Video-based learning surfaced as a preferred learning method.
  • Blockchain was integrated into the system for semester and course exchange, scholarship data, academic data, and student transfers.
  • Self-paced learning eased time constraints.
  • Supporting services like chat-bots, podcasting, IoT, virtual reality grew in popularity.
  • Certifications became a preferred skill up-gradation route for working professionals.

Online Program Management Organizations (OPMs) market will hit USD 8 billion in 2020

The popularity of eLearning software laid the foundation for OPM organizations. These OPMs provide platforms for students to take up courses developed by universities and corporate partners and charge 60% of the tuition fee.

In the coming few years, 50% of the 4-year colleges will begin offering online programs.

Industry, alongside institutes, is laying supportive footing. Pluralsight, an online platform provides industry-updated content. Revature, with its employment program, helps students pay their tuition fees within a couple of years of employment.

Popular LMS software for Higher Education:


SAP Litmos:


ISpring learn


Spending on digital education will spike to 350 billion USD BY 2025

Though the previous decade has been grim for the education industry, the rise of online and flexible education paves way for a brighter future. This is leading to heavy investments by governing authorities in the digital education space to further strengthen the education system.

These investments will be branched into cloud-based technologies, assessment management and learning Management Systems.

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