A review and a look to the future



Enrollment in regional universities has been a challenge this year. COVID-19 has played its part. Yet the greatest impact has resulted from universities failing to recognize that the students are ein flight, their Numbers decrease and the expectations university experiences are progressing. More and more students are non-traditional, work full or part time, raise families, and in another way, participate in activities that rival the conventional and consuming nature of the college experience. The number of university loans high school graduates shrinks itself. In addition, the United States birth-rate is low, almost the lowest on record, and the nature of the value equation in higher education is changing. Expectations and demands for sustainable value rise as costs rise. Modern students have different expectations of universities. Non-resident students are less involved in Greek life, intercollegiate athletics, clubs and organizations, and other activities that traditionally consume student time. Students want attend University, take courses, improve their job prospects, work and raise a family, and often all at the same time.

The reduction in schooling is most pronounced in regional institutions. Deliberate change will require unique approaches to serve diverse student populations. The idea that college students are monolithic and that their needs and aspirations can be collectively predicted is a mirage. Large national universities may be able to do business as usual at the moment, but regional universities may not. Is this a “Little Chicken – The Sky Is Falling” reactive forecast? No, but rather a sober and necessary reaction to a rapidly changing reality.

Registration models will continue to evolve.


Some saw online education as a panacea to meet the needs of non-traditional students in the 21st century. However, in the coming year and into the extended future, even traditional students more and more hybridize (campus exchange and online study) the educational experience. Students may have transcripts with courses from a dozen or more institutions, coupled with concurrent work and family life as alternatives to conventional “extracurricular activities”. Certainly, the COVID-19 experience has brought changes. But this sudden aberration also brought a long simmer, now boiling, need to offer alternatives to the surface. The four-year camp on a college campus looks like a monastery to the current generation. Our new wave of students expect the opportunity to integrate personal, professional and academic life into a tailored, individualized and integrated whole – a personalized experience that works for them.

Too many educational institution leaders are too comfortable with programs that embrace centuries-old conventions. In 2022, expect universities to develop hybrid opportunities, reducing the distance between on-campus and online. The distinctions will disappear. I know of current students who live in halls of residence, eat in college cafeterias, and take all of their courses online. New student breeds expect more possibilities.

The modes of teaching online and on campus will merge until the distinctions disappear.

Changing needs and aspirations of their constituents, aka students, have drawn the attention of state lawmakers and appointed officials. There has been erratic growth and wandering of goals across much of post-secondary education over the past fifty years. Affordability, discount, demographics, business / institution partnerships, learning and teaching management systems, skills-based education, micro-master’s programs and many more experimental, often risky approaches are developed. Some are successful; some are not. Entrepreneurship stimulates innovation and inevitable failures that the entire company responds effectively to changing forces at work. The clarion call of students and families is a receptivity to programs that meet real needs, for real students, with real aspirations. Too many universities are and have been reluctant to give up the comfort and predictability of the status quo.

Leaders, students and families will expect innovation and welcome thoughtful risk.

These and other changes on the horizon will continue to affect colleges and UNuniversity life for everyone. There will be change. It will be uncomfortable. It’s inevitable. Students and institutions that embrace thoughtful change will be successful in 2022 and beyond. Those who refuse will struggle, and some, to calcification and extinction.

Comfort and predictability are not what they used to be.


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