That college education you thought had become out of reach because of rising costs might become achievable after all.
The reason: As college costs become out of reach for many would-be students, enrollments at colleges across the country are falling. In an attempt to reverse the slide in student numbers, administrators are taking innovative steps to make their colleges more affordable and more accessible.Read More »
Among the new innovations are flexible learning formats, new programs, and new marketing campaigns—all aimed at stopping the decline in enrollments.
Some of the new measures were prompted by the initial months of the pandemic and the restrictions that it placed on colleges. Suddenly administrators had to think of new ways in which their students could study. Now they are applying some of those methods even though the pandemic is over.
In a sense, rising costs have taken over as the new barrier to higher education.
College administrators therefore are taking these steps to attract new students largely because attending a college or a university has become too costly for a growing number of would-be students. Not only are the fees out of reach in themselves, but the prospect of taking out substantial student loans to pay for the fees adds to the financial burden.
As a result, for a growing number of young people college is out of the question. They would like to receive the benefits of a higher education, but they simply cannot afford to do so.
The situation is a growing concern to administrators, almost all of whom are deeply worried about future enrollments, according to The Fall 2022 installment of the Digital Learning Pulse Survey produced by Boston-based global educational technology company Cengage.
Institutions of higher education already had to be willing to experiment and to be agile during the pandemic, points out Edwin Robles, general manager for U.S. higher education at Cengage. Now students are looking for choices when it comes to how and when they learn. Institutions that are equipped to meet that demand will be successful, he adds.
Key survey findings
Here are key findings from the survey:
College has become unaffordable; inflation is making it even worse.
In the survey more than 80% of the those questioned—administrators, faculty, and students—in two-year as well as four-year institutions agree that educational costs are becoming financially out of reach for most students.
In addition to the fees themselves rising interest rates mean that the monthly student loan payments will be even higher than they have been up to now.
Inflation is another worry that is cited by almost all administrators, faculty and students. Growing costs for almost everything means that student fees are squeezed out of their budgets.
Administrators at two-year community colleges are the most concerned about falling enrollments.
Almost half of them are “very concerned.”
Colleges are redesigning programs to retain and attract students.
To attract students, nine out of 10 colleges are redesigning their programs to retain students. They also are revising programs that are already in existence to attract new students.
Among the steps they are taking:
• They are offering online courses.
In many cases courses are being offered online so that students can learn at home. Doing so means that they do not have to attend a college or a university full-time which is a major source of college costs.
• They are offering blended, or hybrid, courses.
These courses mean that students can study at home as well as visit the college campus. Such courses also lower costs.
• They are offering courses that are microcredential.
These courses include a set of subjects that concentrate on specific skills or knowledge. They often are offered in collaboration with employers who can specify the kinds of skills that are needed in certain jobs. The courses are tailored for them.
These courses take less time to finish than a full degree or, in some cases, even a certificate. They therefore help by saving on costs.
• They are reaching out to new groups of people who might not have considered attending college, but might be persuaded to do so under new less-expensive and more tailored programs.
Education is worthwhile
Most students believe that higher education is worthwhile and that it meets their needs, according to the survey.
Three-fourths of students surveyed said they believe that their education is worth what it costs. It also meets their needs. The problem, of course, remains meeting those costs.
The good news from the survey is that students continue to believe that higher education is valuable, even if they want it delivered on their terms and in new formats, says Dr. Jeff Seaman, lead researcher and director of Bay View Analytics.
Community colleges are designed to help those students who have limited resources, says Jee Hang Lee, who is president and CEO of the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT). They thrive during economic times that are challenging.
He welcomes the survey findings, which, he says, show that college leaders are making wise decisions for their students.