Higher Education Trends Reflect Nontraditional Student Needs

Higher education trends for 2020 will include efforts to meet the needs of nontraditional students. Nontraditional students are a valuable part of the higher education population. Their need for affordable education and efficient pathways toward completion will inform higher education trends in upcoming years.

Higher education institutions are competing to have nontraditional students attend their institutions. With smaller numbers of traditional age students enrolling in higher education, colleges and universities need nontraditional students to boost their enrollment numbers. Higher education trends to attract this student population will include offering effective and efficient ways for nontraditional students to continue their education and obtain their degree.

Facilitating Credits Transfer

For too long and for too many students, transfer from one school to another involved losing many credits. One of the ways to attract nontraditional students is to ease the transfer of credits from one institution to another. And higher education trends will see creative plans from schools.

For example, Edcor partner school Southern New Hampshire University recently established a credit-transfer pathway with all 14 Pennsylvania community colleges. Community college students will be able to transfer 60 of the 90 credits needed for an associate degree, or 90 of the 120 credits needed for a bachelor’s degree. These students will also receive a 10 percent discount on tuition. SNHU also has similar agreements with Kentucky and Massachusetts.

Russell Poulin, director of WICHE Cooperative for Education Technologies predicts that many large on-line institutions may pursue similar agreements. “In some states four-year institutions are not always willing to transfer credit from community college. If there’s a smoother path being offered by SNHU or other online institutions, that would be very attractive to students.”

Another Edcor partner school, Western Governor’s University also has agreements beneficial to students with community college systems. WGU has schools in eight states. In six of these states they have articulation agreements with individual community colleges or the community college systems. They also give students who transfer from these schools a 5 percent tuition discount.

Easing the cost of Higher Education

With federal and state governments contributing less to the cost of higher education, students are left to face increased costs. Many higher education trends will reflect the need to ease these costs for students.

Higher education trends will include programs that help students stretch their employer tuition benefits. For example, some partner colleges and universities in the Edcor Preferred School Network have developed programs that allow working adults to continue their education without making payment out of their own pocket. These schools will accept the $5250 yearly tuition amounts that employers can give employees through tuition reimbursement as total payment for an academic year, allowing students to take more credits than if they had to pay for each class separately.

Education benefits will be increasingly important to employers as a tool for recruiting and retention. Full-service benefits that allow students to select their education path at the higher education institution of their choice will allow students to complete their education path or continue their life-long education.

Innovative credit granting programs such as CBE will continue to influence higher education trends in 2020. Earning credit through demonstrations of competency is ideal for working adults and will help nontraditional students complete degrees quicker. It’s possible for students to complete degree programs 50-75 percent faster than in tradition programs says Kerri Laryea, curriculum and assessment director at Western Governors University.

Programs such as CBE also fill the need for employees who need to upskill and engage in continual education. “CBE challenges the idea that education is a one-size-fits-all experience. It allows institutions to personalize learning at scale. In addition, learners can up-skill and re-skill in concert with or independent of traditional degree pathways. CBE provides for that flexibility. Learners deserve options in how they develop the needed skills to achieve their goals,” says Laryea.

Higher education trends for 2020 and beyond will reflect nontraditional students’ needs and benefit all stakeholders. Innovative education programs and important employer education benefits will increase student completion, fill employer skills gaps, and create a sound student population for higher education institutions.