19 Higher Education Trends for 2022/2023: Latest Forecasts To Watch Out For

A diploma isn’t just a piece of paper that signifies the end of a student’s journey. Instead, it provides a gateway for fresh graduates to land a successful career in the corporate world, which entails higher income, more advancement opportunities, and better employment benefits. With a competitive job market affected by the pandemic, they can also learn the skills they need to strike out on their own and make their own opportunities.

This underlines the importance of understanding this generation’s key trends in higher education. After all, the higher education sector is sharing the burden of producing work-ready graduates and defining a large part of today’s workforce.

As the higher education landscape continues to evolve and take on a more transformative path, we’ll take a look at some of the most crucial education trends that are redefining education at this level. Below, you’ll see some of the global trends in higher education that you must keep tabs on.

key higher education trends

One glance at the employment rates of college graduates is enough to tell you that higher education attainment is one of the major deciding factors for employers hiring new employees. It’s simply a given that graduates have better job prospects than their undergrad counterparts.

A study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics revealed that the employment rate among people with bachelor’s or higher degrees peaked at 87%. On the other hand, employment rates for high school graduates fell to 74% (NCES, 2020). This is the underlying reason why there are 2.3 million people obtaining college degrees in a span of a year (CollegeStats).

employment rate

With higher education attainment having such a substantial impact on employment prospects, more students are recognizing the need to finish a bachelor’s degree. While this explains why students continue to pursue higher education, experts point out a decline in the education quality that students get from colleges and universities.

But that doesn’t mean the higher education sector is numb to the danger signs found in particular aspects of education—college affordability, changing student profiles, the effectiveness of teaching approaches, and disruptions brought about by the pandemic. In this post, we compiled the modern trends in education that you should look out for.

1. Affordability of College Tuition

Cost is a huge factor that matters to many students who want to pursue higher education. And given the increase in demand and lack of state of funding, the cost of tuition and fees keep increasing at breakneck speed. These days, higher education institutions are charging more than twice the cost in 2008. In the states of Alabama and Arizona, for instance, tuition at public universities and colleges increased by more than 60%.

Aside from this, students have to mind the cost of boarding rooms, food, books, and other additional fees while enrolled in a college degree. For those that rely on online learning, they will have to prepare a budget for fast internet connection as well as a computer to use at home. In effect, the increasing higher education costs render most students either dropping out of college or not pursuing a degree at all.

It seems, however, that for 2021 and the next few years, college costs are dropping, with the year-over-year tuition declining by 5% for private schools and by 4% for public schools (US News, 2020). For the school year 2020-2021, tuition at private schools can cost $35,087 while it costs $9,687 for public schools (in-state).

Cost of College Education Trend Highlights

  • Year-over-year tuition costs dropped by 5% at private colleges and about 4% at public colleges.
  • For the school year 2020-2021, tuition at private schools can cost $35,087 while it costs $9,687 for public schools (in-state)

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 (Inside Higher Ed, 2019). 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. Amid the pandemic, some private colleges have also decided to place a freeze on costs or even slash tuition fees for the school year 2021-2022 to help struggling families (CNBC, 2020)

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 college trends in spending, many assume that the higher tuition price, the better education quality.

US spending on students

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, most of them reporting that they feel a college degree is important.

With the rise of online learning in 2021, data suggests that students are both younger and older than the previous year. In a survey, 47% of school administrators said that age was the most significant trend that they have observed in online student demographics. 25% of school administrators said that they saw more adult non-traditional learners while 20% observed an increase in younger learners (BestColleges, 2020).

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.

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How Generation Z Male and Female Value Education

Based on a 10-point scale

How Generation Z Male and Female Value Education
Female in 4-year college: 8.5

Female in 4-year college

How Generation Z Male and Female Value Education
Male in 4-year college: 7.3

Male in 4-year college

How Generation Z Male and Female Value Education
Female in 2-year college: 8.0

Female in 2-year college

How Generation Z Male and Female Value Education
Male in 2-year college: 7.4

Male in 2-year college

How Generation Z Male and Female Value Education
Female not in college: 6.9

Female not in college

How Generation Z Male and Female Value Education
Male not in college: 6.5

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 (NCES, 2020). More alarming than this is that 7 in 10 full-time college students also work to make ends meet (Georgetown University, 2018), 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.

working students

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

Online education is one of the fastest-growing areas in education technology trends. From 33.1% in 2017, the percentage of all college students who took at least one online class rose to 34.7% the following year. Meanwhile, in the fall of 2020, 97% of college students reported switching to online instruction altogether (Education Data, 2020). With its steady, growing rates, online education remains the main driver of growth in post-secondary enrollments.

Data from various sources reveal that students show a more favorable response to online education. It brings to the table various benefits that cannot be achieved in a traditional classroom setting. For one, it gives students more flexible options, allowing them to take the courses while managing other responsibilities.

These digital learning trends in the higher education sector also signals a good time for learning management systems to expand their market to universities and college institutions.

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, Moreover, it is predicted to increase at a CAGR of 9.23%, reaching $319.167 billion by 2025 (Research and Markets, 2020).  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.

With face-to-face classes posing health risks, the rise of online learning is expected to continue while the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. The shift to online learning will also make learning institutions optimize their websites to be more mobile-friendly and to provide a good user experience overall. With students not constricted to enrolling in a particular geography, schools are redesigning their courses to be easily searchable to remain competitive (Annertech, 2020).

VR is also expected to provide immersive digital experiences as a workaround for social distancing restrictions such as conducting campus tours, open houses, and graduation ceremonies (Annertech, 2020).

Source: Internet World Stats via Statista (2020)

Online Education Trend Highlights

  • In 2018, online education saw a growth of 15.4%. (Inside Higher Ed, 2018)
  • The online education market is expected to reach $319.167 by 2025 (Research and Markets, 2020).
  • 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

International enrollments are not looking so good for the higher education sector as well. Different institution surveys found that there’s a decline in new international enrollments for two years in a row. Despite the higher education sector’s efforts in attracting international students, new enrollment rates fell at 5.5% at the graduate level, 6.3% at the undergraduate level, and 9.7% at the non-degree level. Furthermore, due to the pandemic, overall international student enrollment rate has dropped by 16% in 2020 (IIE, 2020).

Educational leaders point to the social and political environment in the US as partly the reason for this decline. The more restrictive policies on US visas and the administration’s take on immigration are making it a challenge for higher ed institutions to recruit more international students. With the newest policy in place, international students could easily accrue an unlawful presence in the US and be prohibited from re-entering the US for a period of 3 to 10 years. In addition to these issues, many students have also opted out of studying abroad to avoid the risk of contracting COVID-19.

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.

Source: IIE

International Student Recruitment Trend Highlights

  • International recruitment of students contributes to a more diversified student body.
  • However, with the ongoing pandemic, international student enrolment has plummeted by 16% in 2020 (IIE, 2020).
  • 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 (Huffpost, 2019) OPMs typically take 60% or more cut in tuition. As forecast, the market for OPMs and related services will soon hit almost $8 billion by 2020.

online learning in the US

OPM Provider Trend Highlights

  • Renowned universities now provide online degrees through OPMs.
  • By 2020, the market for OPMs could hit almost $8 billion. (CNBC, 2019)

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.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

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

Accumulating student loans continue to be a worrying part of college education. As higher education costs become more expensive, student loan debts climbed to an all-time high of $1.7 trillion in 2020 (, 2021). Moreover, loan balances tend to be different for each state, with some states having higher unpaid balances more than others. Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island emerged as the states with the highest amount of student loan balance at $38,510, $36,854, and $36,250 respectively.

According to a report by Student Loan Hero, about 69% of the graduating class in 2018 used private and/or federal loans (Student Loan Hero, 2019). And that’s not counting the additional 14% of loans that parents of college students took to fund their children’s higher education. Overall, students ended up with an average of $29,800 in debt after graduation, while their parents were left with about $35,600.

Student loan statistics in 2020 show that 44.7 million Americans currently have student loan debts, with an average amount of $32,731 (Forbes, 2020). This state of student loans in the US is further aggravated by the COVID-19pandemic, with 81% of full-time higher education students reporting they are facing more financial difficulties (Student Loan Hero, 2020).

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 (Nerd Wallet, 2021).

student loan

Student Loan Trend Highlights

  • Americans owed approximately $1.5 trillion in student loans. (Pew Research Institute, 2019)
  • 7.63% of the total outstanding US student loans are private loans. (Nerd Wallet, 2020)
  • About 1,216 people received loan forgiveness from the public student loan forgiveness. (Federal Student Aid)

10. Increase in Capital Campaigns

The decline in state funding led to higher education’s aggravated efforts in raising capital funds. In recent years, the higher education sector saw an increased focus on capital campaigning. As state funds became scarce, education leaders and policymakers train their sights on private donors.

Today, capital campaigning in the higher education sector is more ambitious than ever. For instance, the University of Michigan raised $5 billion in its fundraising campaign, which was led by 1,600 fundraising volunteers and 550 development staff members.

On a similar note, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is aiming to raise $3 billion, while the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s fundraising goal is $4.25 billion. Meanwhile, the University of Washington has a $5 billion campaign underway.

Capital Campaign Trend Highlights

  • Higher education institutions are taking major strides into raising capital funds.
  • As state funding continues to decline, colleges and universities turn to private donors for alternative sources.

11. Learning Management Systems

Learning management systems for schools 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.

Most Popular LMS Software

  1. TalentLMS. This is a cloud-based LMS that simplifies how users conduct online seminars and courses. In TalentLMS reviews, the product has been lauded for its course authoring, exam engine, and registration management modules.
  2. SAP Litmos. A leading LMS platform, SAP Litmos provides customizable learning paths, progress tracking, and management controls. Read more about its other features here in one of our in-depth SAP Litmos reviews.
  3. Docebo. In various Docebo reviews, you’ll find that it is a leading elearning solution provider with many comprehensive features. Core capabilities include a course catalog, enrollment procedures, and certificates.
  4. iSpring Learn LMS. This system is a straightforward and easy-to-use platform for LMS hosting, according to several iSpring Learn LMS reviews. Its features include completion tracking, training metrics, and Smart Groups.
  5. LearnUpon. A web-based LMS that helps educational institutions and businesses keep track of learning and knowledge building. Numerous LearnUpon reviews praise the platform for its comprehensive features including gamification and automated certifications.

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.

12. Competency-Based Education

The emerging trend of using CBE curricula in the higher education sector offers a new value proposition for many institutions. By using a syllabus that specifically targets competencies, students need to master all courses or programs to advance from one unit to another. It offers a wide range of benefits, such as improved completion rates and easier access to the programs, for nontraditional learners.

In a recent survey by the American Institutes for Research, 51% of institutions have reported adopting CBE while 23% have reported being interested in CBE, with 15% expressing no interest. Moreover, about 11% of institutions are found to be offering at least one full CBE program. In combination, there were 588 programs currently offered by these institutions, with 492 of these undergraduate programs and 96 graduate programs.

These numbers confirm an increase in the number of CBE programs offered in colleges and universities. It’s a popular vote for an approach to align student knowledge and skills, design programs based on employer needs, and personalize courses based on the student’s learning pace.

Competency-Based Education Trend Highlights

  • Studies reveal an increase in the number of CBE programs.
  • In 2019, about 51% of institutions are already using CBE curriculum. (Postsecondary CBE, 2019)

13. MicroMasters Programs

A MicroMasters program is a graduate-level course that top universities offer exclusively via online portals. In essence, these programs are equal to master’s degree programs and geared toward specific studies and career topics. A wide range of colleges and universities have already started offering these programs, including the University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, Georgia Tech, MIT, and the University System of Maryland.

Taking up a MicroMasters degree typically costs between $600 to $1,500. These courses are offered fully online either as self-paced or instructor-led. And since MicroMasters programs are offered by the top universities, the programs are recognized by some of the top companies in the world.

In 2018, the total number of students who registered in MicroMasters programs at edX surged to 1.7 million, and the number of programs offered rose from 1 to 46 in the same year.

MicroMasters Programs Trend Highlights

  • Top universities now offer MicroMasters program for students who wish to take their educational attainment to the master’s degree level.
  • University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, Georgia Tech, and MIT offer students MicroMasters programs.

14. Salary of College Professors

According to, the average salary of college professors in the US is $152,327 (, 2021). 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 university professors.

It’s for these reasons that the highest-paid professors are mostly found in prestigious private universities like Columbia, Stanford, Princeton, and Harvard (AAUP, 2020). These professors are commanding continuous career and educational growth in the academic field.

Source: American Association of University Professors Faculty Compensation Survey

College Profession Salary Trend Highlights

  • Most of the highest-paid professors are teaching at prestigious private universities.
  • As of January 2021, the average salary of college professors is $152,327. (, 2021)

15. 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 (NCES, 2018).

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

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

16. Higher Education by Country

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

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.

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

17. College and University Governance

The year 2019 in the higher education sector has been filled with headlines of presidential departures. In one instance, 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 in 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.

Sorce: American Council on Education

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 decreased.
  • In a single week in June 2019, four university presidents left their respective posts.

18. College Closures and Mergers

The number of higher education institutions shutting down continues to trend upwards. Despite the underlined importance of higher education attainment, there are several factors that keep threatening the financial health of smaller institutions. In New England and the Midwest, a number of colleges and universities have already shut their doors in the previous year. Pre-pandemic studies have predicted that about 15 more private colleges were to close down in 2020 but with the current state of COVID-19, this figure is said to be much higher.

In one Ernst & Young report, small colleges were found to be more vulnerable to critical, strategic challenges than institutions that had over 1,000 enrollments. Decline in enrollment, increased regulation, tight budgets, and lack of state funding are some of the factors contributing to closures of colleges and campuses all over the world.

As an effort to battle the risk of closures, policymakers look into establishing or strengthening the financial monitoring system of their institutions.

College Closures and Mergers Trend Highlights

  • Smaller colleges and universities continue to face the threat of closing down.
  • Experts predict that more institutions this year are bound to close or merge with bigger institutions.

19. 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 higher education give us a partial view of what the future has in store for those aspiring to further their education at this level. 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 provide more avenues for students and learners to advance their professions.

What’s more pressing is how education quality today stands to influence the future workforce. As it is, more corporations are already taking active measures to address employee skill mismatch. By working with educational institutions, corporations provide industry-specific courses to produce highly skilled graduates. This thoughtful matching of courses and industry needs ensures that graduates need not worry about landing jobs for what they spent hours studying for. This ensures that the new wave of employees is rightfully skilled for their jobs and prepares them for a tight job market that has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. And in case you need a hand in preparing new employees, you can read our guide to efficient employee onboarding.



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Nestor Gilbert

By Nestor Gilbert

Nestor Gilbert is a senior B2B and SaaS analyst and a core contributor at FinancesOnline for over 5 years. With his experience in software development and extensive knowledge of SaaS management, he writes mostly about emerging B2B technologies and their impact on the current business landscape. However, he also provides in-depth reviews on a wide range of software solutions to help businesses find suitable options for them. Through his work, he aims to help companies develop a more tech-forward approach to their operations and overcome their SaaS-related challenges.

Florian says:

Hey there!

Does this only apply to the US? Or worldwide?

Thanks in advance.

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