The Future Of Higher Education In America – The pain of the COVID crisis has been consuming our lives for more than a year. In addition to the shocking death toll, we can all witness the shock of the COVID epidemic in the post-secondary education and training system. In addition to fundamentally changing how we live, work, and learn, it will cause long-term economic harm to some students and America’s higher education institutions.
But what about post-secondary education? In my opinion, COVID is just the beginning. As the epidemic wanes, it will usher in demographic, economic and political changes that are already accelerating.
- 1 The Future Of Higher Education In America
- 2 How Education And Training Affect The Economy
- 3 Tom Lindsay On The Future Of Higher Education In America; Upstream On The Devil And Father Amorth
The Future Of Higher Education In America
Much of what has been said about the future of postsecondary education and its role in the economy begins with two facts.
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First, since the 1980s, post-secondary education and training have become the best path to economic and social success. The short story is this: In the 1970s, two-thirds of jobs required nothing more than a high school diploma. Today, more than two-thirds of jobs require at least some level of advanced education or training.
The second fact is more worrying. Because of its new position in American economic life, higher education has also become the cornerstone of an educational system that is a major cause of intergenerational racial and class privilege.
The glass is 70% empty or 30% full, depending on how you look at it. Our research shows that a child from a low-income family who scores high on preschool tests has a 31 percent chance of graduating from a four-year college and finding a good job by age 25. This is good news. The bad news is that a child from a family in the highest income quartile with low test scores has a 71% chance of doing the same.
Simply put, today’s post-secondary education and training system has become a new cog, perhaps the largest, in the American machine of racial and class inequality. Postsecondary education and training replicate and reinforce inequalities inherited from the pre-K-12 system. It then projects this inequality onto labor markets, real estate markets, and local school districts, ensuring the intergenerational transmission of racial and class privilege.
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Existing evidence suggests that these two trends – the growing value of postsecondary education and its role in the reproduction of racial and class privilege – will continue and intensify in the coming years. With these two facts in mind, here is how I see the main policy proposals for demography, technological development and higher education:
The first relatively stable card in the higher education system is that the economic recovery between now and 2030 will only increase the demand for secondary education. Nationally, we estimate that in 2030, approximately 70% of jobs will require higher education. Good jobs will continue to be concentrated among workers with post-secondary education.
Another relatively predictable trend is declining college enrollment among traditional-age students. As the college-age population declines, enrollment and graduation rates also decline, especially at non-selective universities. An increase in the number of two-parent families leads to an increase in the number of people enrolled in selective colleges, while the number of people enrolled in non-selective colleges decreases.
The impact of technological change on employment is unpredictable. In retrospect, technology has not slowed job growth in America. For example, in the 1980s, when new computer-based technology took hold, approximately 100 million jobs were available. Before the last recession, there were more than 150 million jobs in America.
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In most cases, technology does not destroy jobs because it changes the tasks and activities within the job. On average, 28% of the tasks
All professions are exposed to the threat of automation. Overall, our projections show that technology-related job losses will be between 8 and 12%. In general, technology is good news for those with a post-secondary education and bad news for those without a high school diploma. Meanwhile, the American workforce continues to grow at a rapid pace, and this trend will accelerate in the coming decades. The growing decrease in the available workforce can change the power relations between workers and employers.
In my opinion, all of these demographic, economic, technological and political changes are relatively predictable. The wild cards at the federal and state levels are free community college and potentially federal infrastructure jobs programs that would create millions of jobs, at least in the short term.
It is unclear to what extent the responsibility extends to higher education itself. Technology has been a key element in the transformation of our economy since the 1980s, increasing productivity and responsibility. Higher education was one of the few sectors where this had not yet happened. But network systems based on performance standards will inevitably appear in higher education.
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The shift towards transparency and economic responsibility is also gradually transferred from the diploma level to the training level. In nearly every high school course, we achieve transparency and accountability regarding graduation, employment and earnings. We can also adopt employment and income regulatory standards to expand state support for certificate and short-term training programs and even for some noncredit programs.
This change is driven by the transparency of labor market outcomes and the proportion of qualifications at the program level. Public higher education systems are much easier to reorganize across institutions at the program level, as they contain several institutions. Independent private colleges are difficult to retool: They mostly offer a relatively expensive cafeteria model for postsecondary education. For this reason, their ability to rebuild with external programs is limited, especially in some institutions.
With these trends in mind, I envision the post-secondary education and training system of the future: one that will be less fragmented, more consumer-friendly, and better serve our local economy.
To get there, we must break down barriers between middle school, high school, post-secondary and education systems, education, and the job market. These structural changes include career guidance, career choice in high schools, high school internships and work-based learning, and ideally, education in the post-secondary education and training system should begin with an internship suitable for the limited area.
Tom Lindsay On The Future Of Higher Education In America; Upstream On The Devil And Father Amorth
At the same time, we must ensure that these new programs that break down institutional barriers do not become new forms of surveillance of less prestigious and profitable industries along the lines of race, class, and gender. Institutional and educational monitoring has already gone too far in post-secondary education.
Our education and personal training system is increasingly linked to the economy. Further closing the gap between education, training and work is critical to the recovery from the Covid crisis and the future of our higher education system and our economy.
. CEW is an independent, nonprofit research and policy institute affiliated with the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy that studies the relationship between education, professional skills, and workforce needs.
We thank Martin Van Der Werf, Hilary Strahota, and Emma Wenzinger for editorial feedback; Jonna Gilerman for graphic design; and Frank Zhang for figure design.
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