Posted by: Jonathan Bydlak | May 6, 2009

Some trends to think about

We talk a lot on this blog about the changes we’d like to see in the world of higher education. In particular, we frequently discuss our view that spiraling college costs stem in part from the availability of aid without accountability. Naturally, Discover Scholars is our attempt to remedy this problem.

Nonetheless, while we care about how higher education should change, we often gloss over the many ways in which it already is changing. During the last few months, Tamar Lewin of the New York Times has written multiple articles about the ongoing evolution of college education in America. We’d like to highlight a few of Mr. Lewin’s observations, because many of them represent attempts by colleges and students to economize in response to rising costs.

Consider just a few of these trends in higher education (our emphasis is in italics):

  1. Community colleges in 17 states are now offering bachelor’s degrees. (HT: Mark Perry)
  2. [N]owadays, Miami Dade College … offers bachelor’s degrees in teaching and nursing and public safety management, and will soon add engineering technology, film production and others.Ms. Coleman now recommends the college to family members. “It’s much cheaper, the teachers are good, you can do it in the evening while you work, and everyone’s very helpful,” she said.

  3. More colleges are offering students the option to graduate in 3 years.
  4. Here’s one way of cutting college costs: get a degree in three years, instead of four.

    This fall, Hartwick College, a small liberal arts college in Oneonta, N.Y., will offer students the option of doing just that, at a savings of more than $40,000.

  5. More American students are heading overseas for their full degree program.
  6. [U]niversities worldwide — many of them in Canada and England — are competing for the same pool of affluent, well-qualified students, and more American students are heading overseas not just for a semester abroad, but for their full degree program.

    For American students, a university like St. Andrews offers international experience and prestige, at a cost well below the tuition at a top private university in the United States.

What do each of these trends have in common? The answer should be relatively obvious based on our italicizing: all represent responses by colleges and students to deal with the increasing cost of education. While there are definitely many reasons to be worried about decreasing college affordability, it’s also somewhat comforting to know that market participants are already developing solutions. And fortunately, these trends are likely to continue, even if they are just the tip of the iceberg for how higher education could look.

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  1. […] in Financial Aid and Tuition We’ve been writing recently about secular trends that are impacting higher education. The following analysis further explores some of the data that underlie the rise in tuition prices […]

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