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15 Higher Education Trends for 2020: Latest Forecasts To Watch Out For

Category: B2B News

There’s no mistake; the higher education sector is facing a lot of challenges. These problems range from the declining number of overall student enrollment to a decrease in state funding. Looking at the bright side, though, these difficulties allow new strategies and methods to be developed by the sector. Are you up to speed with the trends in higher education?

In this article, we will take a look at what’s shaking up the sector. These college trends can either open new doors to success for you or hint at much bigger problems in the coming years if they’re not addressed.

lates events on higher education

Higher education leads to financial security, a prosperous career, and a comfortable lifestyle. In today’s society, a college diploma is more or less equal to a higher income in the future. With this mindset, it is reported in 2018 that 35.3% of women and 34.6% of men in the United States are college graduates.

However, many still question the value of higher education and its return on investment for students. Since the Great Recession, colleges and universities continue to face domestic and global challenges. Thus, the efforts of administrators and students in addressing the problems in higher education led to developments and changes to the system.

College Enrollment by Ethnicity (Fall 2019)

White students

Hispanic students

Black students

Asian and Pacific Islander students

Students of two or more races

American Indian/Alaska Native students

Nonresident alien students (not identified by race/ethnicity)

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Designed by

With increasing concerns over student loans, tuition fees, and lower graduation rates, the higher education sector continuously develops new methods, such as online education and utilization of popular LMS platforms. In the following sections, we will discuss the current trends in higher education.

1. Affordability of College Tuition

Higher education is a necessity for an individual who wants to compete in the global economy. The mindset that a college diploma is necessary to living a middle-class lifestyle got tuition and fees skyrocketing to the point of being unaffordable. And because of decreased state funding, colleges experience an increase in their tuition and fees.

Since the ’80s, the costs of college tuition and fees have been increasing. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that for the academic year 2015-16, the average cost per year was $19,000 for a public four-year university. Meanwhile, it’s $40,000 for a private university.

However, the cost of college tuition varies depending on the type of institution and its location. The average tuition and fees for the school year 2018-19 range from $1,430 in California to $8,190 in Vermont. In Wyoming, it starts at $5,400 and $16,000 in New Hampshire. Furthermore, the Trends in Higher Education (College Board) reports that in the public four-year sector, there is a price increase of about 3% each year.

Average tuition and fees

School year 2019-2020

Public, in-state

Public, out-of-state


Source: US News(2019)

Designed by

Cost of College Education Trend Highlights

  • There is a 3% price increase in college tuition each year in the public four-year sector. (Trends College Board).
  • The cost of college tuition and fees has been increasing since the ’80s. (Trends College Board)
  • In California, the average cost of college tuition is $1,430 for the school year 2018-19. (Research College Board).

2. Discount Fees by Private Institutions

The National Association of College and University Business Officers, or NACUBO, revealed that incoming freshmen were offered discounts of higher than 50% by private colleges and universities for the school year 2017-18. In the following school year, it even rose up to 52%. Private institutions used this as a strategy so that students can consider attending their schools.

Instead of reducing the overall tuition, private institutions offer tuition fee discounts. Moreover, a psychology consultant found that 40% of students and their families would choose a school with discounted tuition over another college with lower tuition costs.

This could be because higher prices are interpreted as an indication of quality. Concerning the trends in college spending, many assume that the higher tuition price, the better education quality.

private institutions market data

Discount in Education Trend Highlights

  • Private institutions offer discounts on college tuition and fees.
  • Discounted fees help colleges and universities retain or recruit new students.

3. Shifting Campus Demographics

More high school graduates attend colleges and universities without being held back by full-time work or family obligations. As a result, student profiles changed drastically. The pipeline of traditional students aged 18 to 22 has now become flat or decreased in higher education. And with this, student preferences and behavior have also changed. According to Generation Z statistics, the current generation is overtaking the number of Millenials on campuses.

Gen Z students are divided into several races and ethnic minorities, making their population more diverse. Furthermore, Gen Z students are more focused on their education. In fact, about 59% of high school graduates aged 18 to 20 are in college.

Thus, education leaders now take into account these changes in the demographics and exert efforts to tailor the existing educational system to the new generation’s needs.

How Generation Z Male and Female Value Education

Based on a 10-point scale

Female in 4-year college

Male in 4-year college

Female in 2-year college

Male in 2-year college

Female not in college

Male not in college

Source: UPCEA Generation Z and Millenial Survey

Designed by

Campus Demographics Trend Highlights

  • Gen Z students are outnumbering Millenials in campus demographics.
  • The population of Gen Z students is more diverse, comprising of several races and ethnic minorities.
  • With the change in student demographics also came a shift in student preferences and behavior.

4. Accommodating Non-traditional Students

Nontraditional students make up almost 75% of the nearly 20 million students currently enrolled in post-secondary education. This led to institutions using more diverse course content delivery methods.

The trends in higher education enrollment see a decline in traditional student enrollees. Hence, the sector continues to recruit more non-traditional students.

To accommodate the educational needs of nontraditional students, institutions gear towards a flexible learning ecosystem. This includes online platforms, such as LMS software providers, that allow flexible learning management. Such systems also accelerate course completion by offering additional courses.

nontraditional students statistics

Accommodating Non-Traditional Students Trend Highlights

  • Almost 75% of the nearly 20 million students enrolled in higher education are nontraditional students.
  • About 59% of nontraditional students have full-time jobs.

5. Online Education

Because of the recent student demand, there is more emphasis on online learning programs. Online education saw a growth of 15.4% in 2018, up from 14.7% in 2016. Recently as well, administrators at Purdue University within the transdisciplinary studies in the technology program launched a competency-based online class. Professors used recording and video conferencing tools to record online lectures that students can access anytime.

In its earlier development, online education had the reputation of being second-rate. The past decades, however, saw remarkable advancements in the growth and quality of online education. The significance and usefulness of LMS solutions are now recognized in schools and corporations. These days, most universities and colleges are also providing online degrees.

Percentage of Internet users by geographic region

North America



Latin America / Carribean

Middle East



Source: World Education Services

Designed by

Online Education Trend Highlights

  • In 2018, online education saw a growth of 15.4%. (Inside Higher Ed)
  • Recent student demand puts more emphasis on the growth of online education.
  • There are remarkable advancements in the quality of online education.

6. International Student Recruitment

The number of international students in the US during the fall semester of 2016-17 fell by 2.2% at the undergraduate level. At the graduate level, however, it fell by 5.5%.

To battle the declining number of student enrollees, universities and colleges recruit international students more aggressively. Leveraging international student activities can help raise new revenues. Recruiting more international students and encouraging partnerships with universities abroad also raise the stature of colleges and universities to global audiences.

In addition, the recruitment of international students leads to a diversified student body. It allows new cultural contexts that can, when integrated with the current curriculum, better prepare students to compete in a globalized economy.

International students attending universities in the USA (in millions)

School year
Number of students






Source: Statista (2019)

Designed by

International Student Trend Highlights

  • Universities and colleges spend more effort in the recruitment of international students.
  • International recruitment of students contributes to a more diversified student body.
  • News curriculums are designed to better prepare students for the global economy.

7. Online Program Management Providers

The growth of elearning software paved a new path for online program management organizations or OPMs. Universities and their corporate partners develop online courses. Meanwhile, OPMs provide the platform for students to take the classes.

Renowned universities like Harvard, Yale, NYU, and Georgetown provide online degrees through OPM providers. According to an OPM report by Huffpost, OPMs typically take 60% or more cut of tuition. As forecast, the market for OPMs and related services will soon hit almost $8 billion by 2020.

online programs data

OPM Provider Trend Highlights

  • Renowned universities now provide online degrees through OPMs.
  • By 2020, the market for OPMs could hit almost $8 billion. (CNBC)

8. Corporate-institution Partnerships

Institutions are now working with corporations to ensure that employee skills match their jobs. These enterprise training companies partner with universities and leverage their vast networks to help companies bridge the tech-talent gap in their workforce.

Although the uses of HR solutions include enhancing career development, higher education still serves as a better training ground for students. The likes of Pluralsight and Revature encourage university partnerships and collaboration with employers. They provide students and companies with the right programs to match their skills and needs.

Pluralsight, an online platform for software and IT developer training, utilizes its industry-updated content. With its close ties with employers, the corporation ensures success in the match. Revature, on the other hand, provides a program where students can pay back their tuition within two years after employment. This way, the needs of both students and employers are addressed through a collaborative learning management process.

Registered Apprenticeship National Results (in thousands)

Number of apprentices






Source: US Department of Labor (2018)

Designed by

Corporate-School Partnership Trend Highlights

  • Institutions work with corporations to address the mismatch between employer needs and worker skills.
  • Enterprise training companies provide students with industry-specific educational programs.

9. Student Loans

As the number of young adults in college rose, student loans also increased. By the end of March 2018, Americans owed approximately $1.5 trillion in student loans.

Data in 2018 show that about 70%  of college students graduated with student loan debt. According to MeasurOne, an academic data firm, private student loans make up 7.63% of the total outstanding US student loans.

Moreover, the public student loan forgiveness, or PSLF, has improved since its launch in 2007. The program is for government and qualifying nonprofit employees with federal student loans. In this program, the remaining loan balance will be forgiven tax-free after eligible borrowers have made 120 loan payments.

But this is only possible if the borrowers are under an income-driven repayment plan. Based on the most recent data from Federal Student Aid, 1,216 people have received loan forgiveness.

student loan data

Student Loan Trend Highlights

  • Americans owed approximately $1.5 trillion in student loans. (Pew Research Center)
  • 7.63% of the total outstanding US student loans are private loans. (Nerd Wallet)
  • About 1,216 people received loan forgiveness from the public student loan forgiveness. (Federal Student Aid)

10. Learning Management Systems

Learning management systems for schools, or LMS created a more efficient system in higher education. Educators and administrators now use LMS to better develop and distribute course content. These applications are also handy in tracking student progress. Although LMS solutions mostly cater to corporations, there are now LMS platforms specific for higher education. Various LMS systems are available in the market today.

Here are  some examples of LMS solutions used for higher education:

  1. Blackboard: Blackboard is an LMS solution that has distinctive features for learners and students. It is a web-based tool that provides course management and student information systems.
  2. Moodle: Moodle has a user-friendly interface and documentation and usability enhancements. It includes a simple interface and is helpful in the delivery of online courses.
  3. Canvas: Canvas is an open-source cloud-based LMS. It includes learning tools for teachers and learners. The software comes with student information systems, video platforms, professional development, and more.
  4. Brightspace: Brightspace is another LMS solution that helps create new course content, set up courses, and measure student progress. The software is a well-integrated system that operates seamlessly with other third-party applications.

Learning Management Systems Trend Highlights

  • The higher education system uses LMS platforms to easily deliver course contents to students.
  • LMS solutions are widely used by corporations. However, there are specific platforms that best suit the higher education sector.

11. Salary of College Professors

According to, the average salary of college professors in the US is $152,327. For most popular college professor positions, salary ranges between $72,448 and $232,206.

But to earn a position in the academic field, it takes at least eight years of post-doctoral education and work experience. Moreover, instructors with several years of non-academic professional experience have greater chances of being a university professor.

Such is why the highest-paid professors are mostly found in prestigious private universities like Duke, Yale, and Harvard. These professors are commanding a continuous career and educational growth in the academic field.

Top salaries for full-time professors at private universities

Academic year 2018-19

Columbia University

Stanford University

Princeton University

Harvard University

University of Chicago

Source: American Association of University Professors Faculty Compensation Survey (2019)

Designed by

College Profession Salary Trend Highlights

  • Most of the highest-paid professors are teaching in prestigious private universities.
  • The average salary of college professors is $152,327. (

12. Most to Least Popular Courses

A college degree leads to more opportunities career-wise. Thus, for many students, choosing a course in college takes a lot of preparation and consideration. According to the US Department of Education, the top factors affecting students’ college course choice include academic quality, having the desired program of study, and job placement.

Most popular college majors in 2019 for students following lucrative career goals (Kiplinger):

  • Electrical engineering
  • Nursing
  • Computer engineering
  • Chemical engineering
  • Civil engineering
  • Email templates
  • Biomedical engineering
  • Computer science
  • Construction management
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Petroleum engineering

13. Higher Education by Country

Teaching skills, principles, and rules of education influence a country’s higher education sector. In addition, evaluation skills and appropriate educational materials make a difference in a country’s education quality. Thankfully, many countries have made huge improvements in this aspect.

Each country invests in its education system in the hopes that more graduates will soon move their economies to greater heights. According to QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings, the US tops the list of countries providing the best higher education quality. Meanwhile, the UK and Australia rank second and third places, respectively. This is based on system strength, access, flagship institution, and economic context.

10 best universities

Top countries delivering the best higher education quality and systems:

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • Germany
  • Canada
  • France
  • Netherlands
  • China
  • South Korea
  • Japan

14. College and University Governance

The year 2019 in the higher education sector has been filled with headlines of presidential departures. In one instance, in 2019, four university presidents left their respective institutions in a single week.

As the years went by, the average tenure of college presidents decreased. From seven years in the past, it has now become five years or even less. This is because of the increasing demands and stressors that college presidents need to deal with. These include state funding, declining enrollment, and changing student demographics.

Meanwhile, according to data published by the American Council on Education last 2017, college presidents served an average of  6.5 years in the office. This is relatively lower compared to the 7-year average in 2011 and 8.5-year average in 2006.

Average tenure of college presidents




Sorce: American Council on Education

Designed by

University Governance Trend Highlights

  • 2017 data reveals that presidents served an average of  6.5 years in the office. (American Council on Education)
  • The average tenure of college presidents has drastically changed.
  • In a single week in June 2019, four university presidents left their respective posts.

15. Bill Gates on Higher Education

Since the year 2000, Bill Gates has been investing in education. He and his wife believed that they could do something about the disparity between post-secondary success and achievements among students of color and low-income students. This led to the establishment of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Gates Foundation started a commission to determine the value of a college degree or certificate.  Correspondingly, the Postsecondary Value Commission aims to provide a measurement tool to determine the economic payoff of certain degrees.

In addition, the commission will consider various factors affecting higher education. These include economic factors and post-college earnings, as well as the differences in earnings by degree type, student debt, and economic mobility.

Bill Gates on Education Trend Highlights

  • The Gates Foundation recently started the Postsecondary Value Commission to determine the value of a college degree.
  • The Postsecondary Value Commission uses measurement tools to determine the economic payoff of college degrees.

Monitoring the Trends in Higher Education

The current trends in the higher education college board sector give us a partial view of what the future has in store for us. Some issues need addressing, and actions must be performed for better outcomes. For instance, technological advancements paved the way for learning management system platforms to address some of the changing demands of the education sector. Developments like this define how future graduates will fare in their respective fields.

What’s more pressing is, education quality today will influence the future workforce. This is why more corporations are taking measures to address employee skill mismatch. By working with educational institutions, corporations provide industry-specific courses to produce highly skilled graduates. This ensures that the new wave of employees is rightfully skilled for their jobs. And in case you need a hand in preparing new employees, you can read our guide to efficient employee onboarding.

By Nestor Gilbert

Senior writer for FinancesOnline. If he is not writing about the booming SaaS and B2B industry, with special focus on developments in CRM and business intelligence software spaces, he is editing manuscripts for aspiring and veteran authors. He has compiled years of experience editing book titles and writing for popular marketing and technical publications.

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