Since the New Year, several articles have been published that have reflected on the accuracy of predictions for the year 2020, while others have speculated on what will happen in the coming year and decade, in areas ranging from politics to fashion to technology.
College and college admissions are another aspect of American life in which we are likely to see considerable changes over the next ten years. Inside Higher Ed and Forbes are among the publications that have recently speculated on the upcoming trends in this area. Here are some of their predictions:
- Small colleges will either close or merge with larger institutions. Between 2015-2019, 53 non-profit colleges closed, and it’s likely this trend will continue in the coming decade. Inside Higher Ed‘s John Kroger predicted that 100 colleges will close in the next ten years and offered the following opinion on which schools will remain open: “To survive today, a small college needs a great location, a large endowment, and a powerful brand. Schools with all three of those attributes will thrive. Schools with one or two will have challenges but get by. Schools without any of the three will fail.”
- Tuition will continue to rise, forcing students to consider a wider variety of options. As the cost of a college education continues to increase, more students will opt for community colleges or technical schools. In addition, a larger number of U.S. students will attend four-year colleges abroad. Another possibility, and this is my own prediction, is that more students will forego the traditional college experience in favor of a fully online degree, which will be much cheaper.
- Colleges will become less diverse. Another negative consequence of colleges’ decreasing affordability is that revenue generation will become a bigger priority for colleges than diversity, which means colleges will admit more students who can pay full price vs. those who need significant financial aid. This will serve to further widen the gap between wealthy and poor Americans. (For more insight into this phenomenon, see this recent New York Times Magazine article.) However, if certain presidential candidates’ promises of free college become reality, that would lead to a very different outcome.
- More colleges will become test-optional. In 2019, 47 colleges adopted test-optional or test-flexible policies. In an article for Forbes, Brennan Barnard, the director of college counseling at a private school in New Hampshire, predicted that at least one, if not several, Ivy League colleges will become test-optional by 2030. Barnard quoted Lawrence University’s vice president for enrollment and communications as saying he thinks more public colleges will adopt test-optional policies. In a recent blog post about a lawsuit against the University of California over its use of test scores in admissions, I speculated that if the UC system becomes test-optional, it’s very likely that many more colleges (public and private) will do so as well.
- Colleges will have greater flexibility in recruiting students, even those who’ve enrolled elsewhere. In response to an investigation by the Justice Department into the National Association for College Admission Counseling’s (NACAC) Code of Ethics and Professional Practices, NACAC members voted in September to change those standards. As Barnard explained, the changes involved “removing key guiding principles against offering incentives for students to apply Early Decision and the recruitment of students who have committed elsewhere or transfer students.” Barnard interviewed directors of admission and vice presidents of enrollment management at multiple colleges, all of whom predicted that as a result of these changes, colleges will continue trying to recruit students after the May 1 national enrollment deadline. Cornell University’s vice president for enrollment management said, “colleges are going to provide a range of incentives to their ‘customers’ that will make early decision agreements and the May 1 deadline mushier.”
These are just some of the predictions of how college admissions and colleges themselves will change in the next decade. For more, see the articles in Inside Higher Ed and Forbes.